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Running Meta ads on the election, politics, and social issues

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The Context

With the general election looming, many charities have been asking how it might impact them.

In theory, increased competition on Meta caused by political parties entering ad auctions could drive up costs (both higher CPCs and CPMs). A more expensive platform would, by extension, result in CPAs increasing. 

It’s worth noting though, this won’t impact Paid Search, given the nature of the platform only targeting specific searches vs. targeting audiences.

Moreover, with more ‘noise’ on Meta vying for people’s attention, this could (again, in theory) reduce ad engagement and conversion rates. You could also argue, uncertainty about the future could mean people might be hesitant to donate to charities at this stage – and potentially large donors could even be donating to political parties instead of charities. 

If you’re interested, you can actually see what ads political parties (or any organisations, for that matter) are running, including their estimated spend and targeting. You can visit the Meta Ads Library: https://www.facebook.com/ads/library. It’s a great tool for reviewing competition generally, and we’re actually in the process of developing scripts to pull this data into our reporting through an API.

In reality though, it’s difficult to exactly measure the impact. Even if you can see what ads are running.

 

So why are we writing this blog?

As the blog title suggests, there are pretty clear restrictions and guidelines for running political ads on Meta. What charities might not be aware of, however, is that this also applies to ads about ‘social issues’. These are defined by Meta as:

sensitive topics that are heavily debated, may influence the outcome of an election or result in / relate to existing or proposed legislation […] These ads can come from a range of advertisers. They include activists, brands, non-profit groups, and political organisations.

Ads about social issues, election and politics seek to influence public opinion through discussion, debate or advocacy for or against important topics, such as health and civil and social rights.”

That criteria extends to any ads that aim to call on the government or specific MPs to enact change aligned with their cause, often through petitions. We have also found many charities still require the extra verification, even if ads are not directly related to politics. This particularly impacts homelessness, environmental, humanitarian, and animal welfare charities.

This isn’t a blanket policy though – the focus is on the content of the ad and, as such, certain ads do or don’t require authorisations and disclaimers.

 

So what do you have to do?

In short, in order to run ads about social issues, elections, and politics, the page you’re running the ads for needs to have a ‘disclaimer’ created – and then that page needs to be linked to the ad account you’re running ads from.

The aim of a disclaimer is to help increase transparency on the platform. All ads about social issues, elections, or politics must be clearly labelled with a ‘Paid for by’ disclaimer from the advertiser, communicating the organisation or person behind the ad. This information is linked in the ad itself via an ‘About this ad’ icon, which gets appended. More info about what a disclaimer is can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/198009284345835?id=288762101909005.

Disclaimers were first introduced in the US in May 2018. This was following controversy around the 2016 US election, where it was discovered ads had been bought and run on Facebook by a Russian Influence Operation, designed to sway the election results. Disclaimers were introduced in the UK later in October 2019, although this was pushed back (eventually in March 2019), owing to concerns around the reliability of their identity checks.

 

What does a disclaimer on Meta look like?

Firstly, you will see a link appended to the ad which says ‘Paid for by [name of organisation]’:

It will then open up a menu of options in Meta, with a link to see ‘Who paid for this ad?’:

Within this, you will be able to find key information about the organisation: 

 

How do you set up a disclaimer in Meta? 

As you can imagine, there are quite a few steps involved to get verified and approved to run ads on social issues, elections, or politics. Meta has clear instructions on how to do this, so I won’t go into all the details below, but will outline the basic steps and link to the relevant instructions.

 

1)

Firstly, a page admin will need to have their identity verified on Meta. 

This doesn’t actually take very long, and is normally approved within 24 hours. The key thing to note is you will need to provide a photo of some form of ID, e.g. driving licence or passport.

Meta may ‘periodically’ ask you to reconfirm your identity in the United Kingdom, but this normally isn’t within 1 year.

There are a few options to confirm your identity, although I have found ‘Option 2’ to be the easiest.

All details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/2992964394067299?id=288762101909005

 

2)

Once finished, you will then need to create the disclaimer for your organisation’s page.

This is probably the trickiest part, with a couple of layers (mobile and email) of verification needed. Key information you’ll otherwise need to provide is your organisation’s name, a phone number, email address, and website.

 

3)

Then, you’ll need to link your disclaimer to an ad account you want to run the ads from.

All details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/488070228549681?id=288762101909005

 

4)

The last step is to set up your campaign, but make sure to select the ‘special ad categories’ option.

You’ll notice there are other options for credit, housing, and employment – but the category to select is of course ‘social issues, elections or politics’.

If your identity has been confirmed and your page disclaimer set up, you will see all authorisation options approved to run ads:

 

FAQs

There are a few considerations to note and questions that frequently come up, so I’ve detailed the most common ones below:

 

Can only page admins create ads about social issues, elections, and politics then?

No. Once you have created the disclaimer for your page, anyone with access to ‘create ads’ for your page can continue to do so – provided they have also verified their ID (in step 1). Similarly, any edits to ads will need to be done by someone who’s verified.

 

 

I’m not sure if my ads fall under ‘social issues, election and politics’. Should I select the ad category or not?

If you’re not sure, I’d suggest trying without selecting the special ad category first. You can always turn on the special ad category if your ads do get flagged for this. Just be aware that your ads will need to go into review again if updating the category.

 

 

Do I always need to choose a special ad category if my ads have previously been disapproved? 

No. Again it’s about the content of the ad. That being said, if your ads have always been flagged (and your charity’s cause is highly aligned with bringing about change) then it might be more time efficient to do so from the start.

 

 

What should I do if my Meta ads get disapproved for being issue, electoral or political, but they belong to this ad category?

If you believe your ad was incorrectly rejected, you can request a manual review. If your ad rejection is successfully overturned, this will not count as an ad violation. More information about the ad review process here.

It’s worth noting that if you are verified to run ads about social issues, elections, and politics, and they are frequently being rejected – it might be worth selecting the category anyway to prevent frequent issues.

 

 

Will running a charity campaign under a special ad category impact the performance?

Choosing the ‘social issues, elections or politics’ special ad category shouldn’t drastically impact performance in itself, as it shouldn’t affect your ranking going into an auction. However, it can limit placements where your ads can run. Also, users have the option to request seeing less ads about social issues, election and politics, which could mean you don’t reach certain users.

 

Will running a charity campaign under a special ad category limit my options with targeting?

According to Meta, only the credit, employment or housing ad category comes with limitations to targeting options e.g. not being able to target based on age, gender, postcodes, as well as certain interests. 

It’s worth noting however, you can only run ads for social issues, elections and politics in the country in which your identity has been verified. That means if you are verified in the UK, you can only runs these ads in the UK and not outside. 

 

 

What can you do if you’re an international charity wanting to run ads about social issues, election and politics?

This becomes tricky. You would need an advertiser with their ID verified in each country you’re wanting to target, to then set-up a campaign each individually targeting that country.

 

 

If I’m running ads for a homeless charity, should I select the ‘housing’ specific ad category?

As mentioned above, there are additional special ad categories for credit, housing and employment. If running ads for a homelessness charity, the correct category would still be ‘social issues, election and politics’. The housing element refers more to property listing, insurance and mortgages. 

 

 

What kinds of charities are likely to use Meta’s special ad categories? 

It really depends on the content of the ad itself, whether it falls under Meta’s description of ads about social issues. As previously mentioned in the blog, we have found this most likely to affect homelessness, environmental, humanitarian and animal welfare charities in particular.

 

 

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