Facebook Advertising Guidelines: Targeting

Facebook Advertising Guidelines Targeting

This is part of a series of blog posts covering Facebook Advertising Guidelines.

I’m going to take a guess and assume you’ve never read the Facebook Advertising Guidelines. Most advertisers haven’t.

Facebook has actually created an easier to understand section within the Help Center; but again, it’s often ignored. In my attempt to lead a horse to water, I am essentially summarizing these two resources in this series of blog posts.

The rules associated with targeting Facebook ads are much easier to understand than those associated with imagery and language. It’s your lucky day. Let’s get at it…

If you are promoting something based on a sensitive topic like alcohol, dating or approved adult products, your ad could very well get denied based on targeting.

This is important to understand since it’s so easily missed. The first things you’ll look at when correcting your ad will be imagery and copy; targeting tends to be an afterthought.


You can’t target ads associated with alcoholic beverages to underaged users. This should be obvious. But if you advertising internationally, this can be a bit of a headache.

You need to understand your target markets. The minimum age of users you can target is different, depending on the country:

  • 25: India and Sweden
  • 24: Turkey
  • 21: Cameroon, Micronesia, Palau, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and the United States
  • 20: Japan, Iceland, Thailand and Paraguay
  • 19: Canada, Korea, and Nicaragua
  • 18: Any other country (note exclusions and provisions in Ad Guidelines)

Exceptions: You can’t target these ads at users of any age in Afghanistan, Brunei, Bangladesh, Egypt, Gambia, Kuwait, Libya, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Russia or any other market where these ads are prohibited.


Want to promote your dating service? Well, be careful. Here are a few requirements…

  1. “Relationship” targeting must be set to “Single” or “Not Specified.”
  2. “Sex” targeting must be set to either “Men” or “Women.”
  3. “Age” targeting must be set to a minimum of 18 years.
  4. “Interested In” targeting must be set to either “Men” or “Women.”

These rules make sense. Facebook wants ads to be as relevant as possible. Users, though they often don’t admit it, also want this.

If a user is married, they won’t (typically) want to see dating ads. A single man interested in women wouldn’t want to see a dating ad targeted at men interested in men or women interested in men. And for obvious reasons, Facebook (and parents of the world) don’t want these ads targeted at minors.

So if users do not specify “sex” or “interested in,” it’s all too likely that they will be targeted incorrectly. As a result, Facebook eliminates them from this targeting.

Adult Products

I’m not sure how Facebook defines these, but there are apparently “approved” adult products on Facebook. I’ve never seen them, but I guess that has something to do with the way I use Facebook. It shouldn’t be a surprise that any ads promoting approved adult products can’t be targeted at minors.

Use Relevant Targeting

Whether or not Facebook actually denies your ad, it’s always a good idea to use relevant targeting. You want Facebook surfacing your ad to people most likely to be interested in your product. You don’t, and you’re throwing money away.

Have your ads been rejected for other targeting violations not listed here? Let me know below!

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  • Rolf

    Hi Jon,
    Thank you for your post. We recently discovered that all of our targeted posts are gone. We have a website and target all our posts in the language of our fans. For example we type a german post and target it to our german fans. Since yesterday all these posts are gone except the ones in our own language. Do you perhaps know why?

  • http://www.facebook.com/paras.evomantra Paras Singh

    Facebook has come up with lot of changes recently so I doubt some of these guidelines may have change now.
    @ Evomantra

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  • http://twitter.com/JaneFrankland Jane Frankland

    A great resource. Thanks for compiling Jon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/247mktg Steve Cameron

    There are other areas which are not approved. I have a client who sells airsoft weapons. These are completely legal and despite the recent furore surrounding the sale of firearms – are classed as recreational/sporting goods.

    Google have to approve the ads manually – every single time! It can be quite frustrating – but, thankfully I have a great relationship with my Google “angels” and it takes a quick phone call.

    facebook, on the other hand simply disapprove any ad, or sponsored story (the stories themselves seem to be fine) without any apparent review. I’ve discussed this with fb and their response is firm – no way.

    And yet because I have visited other sites in the sector I am being targeted by ads which offer the same all the time. fb assure me that these ads will be disapproved at some point – but my client has trouble accepting my version of events…. and, frankly, I don’t blame him.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Good point, Steve, and that is largely consistent with some of the other forbidden visuals. No unnecessary skin, no shocking imagery. Facebook wants this to be a social place, so weapons or violent imagery would not be something they’d want dominating the sidebar.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Bob Coyle

      anything you can do build airsoft on FB?

      • Steve Cameron

        Interestingly since I wrote this reply the policy guidelines have changed over at Google and airsoft is no longer approved in any way on Adwords either… if you have ads currently running on Adwords for airsoft, make some contingency plans as their days are numbered there too.
        Frustratingly, there are inconsistencies – and the one which is brought up most often is KMart – who sell firearms – and can advertise. However, Google’s argument is the KMart sell lots of other things and weapons make up a small part of their inventory. However, they will not be able to actually advertise the product directly. But the same will not be true of airsoft companies who, for example, might wish to advertise camouflage jackets… because a large part of their inventory is weapons, then they will be flat banned.

        Just how much of your inventory has to be disallowed articles is unclear 5%, 10% less than 50% – maybe it varies depending upon your spend (or am I being paranoid??)

        • Bob Coyle

          My product, Collectable Firearms, are banned from advertising. Yet there are thousands of responsible hunters, gun owners and collectors on FB who are interested in the editions.

          • Steve Cameron

            It’s called a knee jerk reaction I think.

            It’s also the easy way out – controversial?? OK blanket ban them. It’s easier than policing the dodgy suppliers.

            The only good thing is that it SHOULD apply to all your competitors – although that is not often the case….

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