Facebook to Restrict Ad Targeting Following Discrimination Settlement

Facebook to Restrict Ad Targeting Following Discrimination Settlement

The repercussions of a March 2019 legal settlement between civil rights groups and Facebook are becoming clearer. For many advertisers, including auto dealers and anyone linking to credit or APR financing offers, this means major changes to the way Facebook marketing is done.

The settlement resulted from accusations of unlawful discrimination against minorities, women, and the elderly, specifically in the ad groups of credit, housing, and jobs. Those categories are where sweeping changes to ad creation are happening.

Some changes are already in place, while others won’t be mandatory until late August. All of the updates, though, are going to impact the way auto dealers market new and used inventory on Facebook in the future. 

What Has Already Happened?

As of today, Facebook says it has already done three things:

  1. Updated advertising policies to include non-discrimination resources from government agencies and civil rights groups.
  2. Required advertisers to review and certify compliance with those policies.
  3. Removed “thousands of categories available for targeting that relate to potentially sensitive personal attributes, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion.”

Those categories removed from targeting are specific only to ads related to credit, housing, or employment, so personal attributes aren’t being removed from the entire Facebook marketing platform.

The agencies in these industries that have a dedicated Facebook representative are now being contacted about the upcoming changes, which is how our team has gathered information about the specific deadlines coming up next month.

What Is Yet to Come?

Vitally important to both auto dealers that work with an agency and those that do their own marketing is the information about what changes are still coming.

How will these new restrictions on targeting options impact Facebook marketing for auto dealers moving forward?

The new regulations will require anyone promoting job or credit opportunities for their dealership to self-identify that they are using a Special Ad Category — even if their offers are detailed only on the page to which their ad links.

Here’s what that looks like currently:

Facebook Special Ad Category changes are coming in August 2019

Campaigns will need to be designated in the Special Ads Category whenever they (or the linked pages) contain any of the following in imagery or text: 

  • Any long-term loan with greater than 90 days repayment: Financing of housing purchases — mortgages, business or personal loans, student loans, product financing — auto, appliance, cell phone
  • Promotion of credit card offers: Includes ads that promote companies where the core business card is an offer for private label credit cards
  • Credit card or loan comparison services or aggregators
  • Job listing or offer: Paid full time employment, contract employment, internship, apprenticeship, paid training programs
  • Job boards, aggregation services, or job fairs
  • Training courses, programs, or seminars to gain a professional certification or degree
  • Promotion of specific company perks

For auto dealerships, this means (in theory) every campaign will be subject to Special Ad Category designation due to the prevalence of credit and financing keywords on vehicle description pages (VDPs), search results pages (SRPs), and even the footers of dealer websites.

9 Clouds is working on testing the new process to get more information on how service and branding campaigns will be impacted by these changes.

Any ads created with Special Ad Category targeting will see thousands of interest-based targeting options removed, along with:

  • Removed ability to target by age, gender, or zip code
  • Removed ability to exclude interests from targeting
  • A minimum 15-mile radius required for city/town targeting and/or pin drops
  • Removed access to Lookalike Audiences

Facebook says these changes will officially be in place for all advertisers by “late August,” which means some of your August ads will need to be edited or deactivated toward the end of the month, depending on how quickly you can adjust to the changes.

What Does This Mean for Auto Marketers? 

Ultimately, Facebook is making this choice to promote more responsible marketing, which is something 9 Clouds supports wholeheartedly.

However, we understand it’s going to prove challenging to continue at the same level of marketing with the newly limited abilities to target audiences.

Though we haven’t run tests yet, our first instinct is to rely more heavily on Custom Audiences — which further underpins the value of good customer relationship management (CRM) data for our auto clients. As we continue testing, we’ll certainly write about our results.


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Beyond Facebook marketing, this change will likely have a long-term impact on auto marketers. It’s possible we’ll also see similar changes with other tech platforms in the future.

How Can 9 Clouds Help?

So what do you do now?

If you do your own marketing, start testing the performance of the Special Ad Category compared to your existing targeting as soon as possible. If you have an agency running your ads, ask what they know about the changes.

We’ll continue researching the changes and provide updates both here on the blog and during our webinar on the changes. We’ll see you then!

Listen to our webinar on the changes