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  • Writer's pictureDamian Blades Media

Advice - Is Facebook Advertising Safe?

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Capture from BBC VT
Capture from BBC VT

Watching the BBC news tonight, you would have been faced with a very damning report on how Facebook are advertising self-harm images on Instagram. In this feature they showed M&S were placed in line with these images. As a business and a marketer, I could only imagine seeing this would be a shock!? Not only is the story a terrible one but to think your business could be viewed as promoting this is not what you want.

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As a business owner should you pull your marketing budget from Facebook? Straight answer is no. That was simple, lets carry on... and go into detail. To understand what happened here and why you should keep your marketing budget going you need to understand how Facebook advertises. When you use Facebook for free you agree access to your information that will help Facebook sell advertising credentials to advertisers like us. Facebook breaks down your personal details, interests, hobbies and what you view on the net and creates an “ideal user”.

Through research we know our ideal user has an age range of 30-45, mainly male, business owner and is an active digital user. Facebook searches through its data banks for this ideal user and with a bit of cash their way, we get in front of those people. As they scroll through Facebook and Instagram, they see the ad we’ve created to get their business. We have full control to create the advert, choose our audience and edit where/when it is placed. As an advertiser we can include and exclude certain criteria.

So why didn’t M&S choose to exclude self-harm and anything else nasty that might hurt their business? There is a long list of options but that’s not one of them. Facebook advertising platforms try and match you with the right users and give you the option to exclude criteria which might waste your ad spend. If Facebook opened the doors to every option they have on a user, you would probably never launch a campaign as you would spend all your time excluding options.

From the outside looking in, M&S have chosen a vulnerable audience to earn money from, however the truth here has been covered over. The researcher who filmed/captured this content was probably researching M&S prior. As part of M&S’s advertising campaign they have chosen to re-market to anyone who has viewed their website or searched for them recently. Facebook and Instagram have advertising space which appears every 3rd or 4th post with an opportunity to promote M&S as it is in their budget to the ideal user. It is not Instagram or Facebooks fault the user has chosen to search these topics or use a hashtag related to this. They were just the ideal user based on 90% of the data they chose to share. If you went and searched the same content you would be advertised too, by a whole different set of businesses which you have an interest in. Do you think that holiday you recently looked at, now staring you in the face from your Facebook feed was accidentally placed there? No, you put it there based on what you searched for.

As a business owner you need to understand that all pages are generated the same, with advertising space that is activated based on a user’s marketing preferences. Facebook endeavour to ban or remove harmful content from its networks, with 2billion active users it does take its time. If a user goes against Facebook’s policy and still actively searches and manages to find this content, then your business may appear in this advertising space but only to this user. Every person who visits that content will get a different ads experience. Your business is not sponsoring this content.

Hopefully this has made you feel safer about how your business is being advertised across the Facebook network. As an advertiser we will ensure your business, products and services are only targeted at the right user. If you feel your adverts could be missing their target, then contact our team at or 01202 287088

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