If you were a resident of the birdwatching mecca of Christmas Island, a “booby” would mean one thing – a bird. The Booby is a seabird that hunts by diving into the water and catching sea life. However when the Christmas Island Tourism Association began running Facebook ads for the upcoming ‘Bird’n'Nature Week’ ads they were banned.
Facebook auto-censors ads that contain blacklisted words, some of which were in the initial post. The post ad showed a picture of a young Booby and had the text “Some gorgeous shots here of some juvenile boobies.” A Facebook representative told us the following about the ad:
Per our guidelines, these ads were automatically disapproved because they included “boobies” in the ad copy (we have tools to catch these types of words when ads are reviewed). In cases where these automatic disapprovals are actually policy compliant (in this case where it refers to a type of bird rather than human anatomy), we will reverse the decision if the advertiser appeals.
In an interview with TravelDailyNews, Linda Cash, Marketing Manager of the Christmas Island Tourism Association, stated “we have a limited marketing budget so our Facebook campaigns offer us a great opportunity to share the wonderful birdlife on our island. We presumed our original advert was blocked automatically so we appealed to Facebook directly who re-affirmed the campaign was banned due to the sexual language – particularly the use of the word ‘boobies’.”
While the ad was appealed and the suspension was upheld, it wasn’t for the reasons that Ms. Cash assumed. Clearly an advertiser can talk about an animal, however the context around the ad was “unacceptable” according to Facebook. In the end it wasn’t the “booby” that caused the second denial, but rather the “juvenile” term that was parlayed with it. The Facebook rep stated:
Though it was appealed, in this case the advertiser crossed the threshold we are comfortable with by using language such as “juvenile boobies”. Even if the subject is about birds they are using unacceptable language, and we are therefore not reactivating these ads (see Ad Guidelines Section III: Ads may not position products or services in a sexually suggestive manner).
We were further told that if they were to remove the word “juvenile” then the ad would be approved.
So, keep in mind not only offensive words, but the context involved next time you think you might be toeing the line with your Facebook ad campaigns.