Special Ad Audiences Going Away for Facebook Targeting

If you run Facebook ads under a Special Ad Category, you should know that Facebook Special Ad Audiences are going away.

In this post, let’s shed light on what they are, the timeline for their removal, and what you can do instead.

Let’s go…

What Are They?

Special Ad Audiences are only relevant to those running ads promoting a Special Ad Category. Special Ad Categories are sensitive topics that require adjusted rules. You would declare a Special Ad Category while creating the campaign.

Facebook Special Ad Categories

If you run ads for housing, credit, employment, social issues, electiopns, or politics, you need to declare that. Once you do, your options will change to prevent you from violating certain rules. If you fail to declare a Special Ad Category in order to get around these restrictions, expect to get ads rejected and potentially your ad account shut down.

So, once you declare a Special Ad Category, you can create a Special Ad Audience for targeting.

Special Ad Audience

Special Ad Audiences are a lot like Lookalike Audiences (you can’t use Lookalike Audiences when promoting a Special Ad Category) in that they allow you to create an audience of people similar to those in a source audience of people who are close to you.

Facebook Special Ad Audiences

The difference is that a Special Ad Audience is adjusted to comply with the restrictions related to the Special Ad Category. It won’t use information like age and gender or certain demographics, behaviours, or interests.

Deprecation Timeline

Of course, Special Ad Audiences are going away due to Meta’s settlement agreement with HUD. While this specifically impacts housing, Facebook will be removing Special Ad Audiences for all Special Ad Categories.

Following is the timeline from Meta regarding the deprecation of Special Ad Audiences:

  1. August 25, 2022: you will no longer be able to create new special ad audiences.
  2. September 13, 2022: special ad audiences will no longer be available for use in new ad creation via the API.
  3. October 12, 2022: Special ad audiences will no longer be available for use in new ad creation across Ads Manager and the API. After this date, affected ad sets may be paused for delivery. To resume delivery of the paused ad sets you will need to update them to remove Special Ad Audiences.

Like most changes, this appears to be a rollout considering I’m still able to create Special Ad Audiences through Ads Manager for now.

According to this timelin, you’ll no longer be able to use Special Ad Audiences in new ads via the API on September 13 and Ads Manager on October 12. That said, if you have ad sets running now targeting Special Ad Audiences, they’ll continue to run until October 12. After that point, they’ll pause.

What Should You Do Instead?

Whether you pivot now or wait until Special Ad Audiences are taken away, start preparing now. What should you do?

Facebook isn’t particularly helpful on this point. Their advice is “exploring broader targeting options.”

I don’t run ads promoting Special Ad Categories, so I can’t speak on their effectiveness — or the loss incurred when they go away. But, I have heard from some using Special Ad Audiences who have seen success with them.

The problem, of course, is that your options are limited. While Facebook’s recommendations of exploring broader targeting options feels insufficient, I struggle to provide much more advice here. You can’t use Lookalike Audiences. You can continue to explore the interests and behaviors that are available when using Special Ad Categories. You can go entirely broad without interests and behaviors. But, that’s pretty much it.

The one question I have is whether you will always be running ads under a Special Ad Category or only in specific situations. An example I’ve heard of is related to a car dealership. The dealership business itself isn’t a Special Ad Category, but the credit portion is. They could conceivably run more targeted ads when credit isn’t part of the experience.

Like always, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach here. You should experiment and find what works for you. If you have a sizeable budget, you can experiment with multiple approaches at once. If you have a limited budget, focus on one approach at a time.

I don’t expect this to be a significant loss. Special Ad Audiences were quite broad already and required the algorithm to help isolate an effective audience within it. That will continue to be the case when you go broad.

Your Turn

Do you run ads promoting Special Ad Categories? What will you do instead of using Special Ad Audiences?

Let me know in the comments below!

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