Social Media

Facebook’s ad-blocking for health products and services could have a gender bias, research suggests

Some ads related to periods, menopause, and fertility were rejected by the platform, according to the companies surveyed.
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Center for Intimacy Justice

· 3 min read

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Today, the Center for Intimacy Justice (CIJ) released a report on how Meta’s ad-blocking practices have impacted health products and services specifically for women and nonbinary individuals, after a study of 60 businesses in the space.

  • After partnering with pelvic-floor physical-therapy startup Origin to survey 42 of these companies that offer those products and services, all of which said they’ve attempted to advertise on Facebook, CIJ found 50% of those businesses had had their entire accounts suspended, at least temporarily, by the platform.
  • Violating Facebook’s adult products and services ad policy is the reason Facebook gives most often for declining these ads, the nonprofit’s founder and CEO Jackie Rotman told Marketing Brew.
  • According to Facebook’s guidelines, ads can’t promote the “sale or use of adult products or services” or focus on sexual pleasure.
  • But the report points to many suggestive ads for men’s sexual-health products that have been approved to run on Facebook (including ads for Hims and Manscaped), contrasting them with far less suggestive ones for women’s and ​​nonbinary individuals’ health products that were rejected.

Why it matters: Facebook is the “single biggest driver of business” for many of these companies, Rotman, who has written about inequality in advertising for The NYT, told us.

For example: Coral, a sexual-wellness company founded by a queer woman, had been advertising on Facebook since 2019—but was banned from running app-install campaigns on Facebook in June 2021 “despite direct competitors being able to advertise and with very explicit content,” Coral senior marketing manager Amy Neumann told us. “It has severely impacted our growth trajectory,” she said.

Marketing Brew reached out to Meta about the findings of the report and Coral’s experience. “We welcome ads for sexual-wellness products but we prohibit nudity and have specific rules about how these products can be marketed on our platform. We have provided detail to advertisers about what kinds of products and descriptions we allow in ads,” said Devon Kearns, a spokesperson for Meta, in response.

Sound familiar? When sex-tech company Dame pointed out similar gender bias in how the MTA enforced its advertising guidelines after its ads were rejected, the MTA banned essentially all ads for sexually oriented products. Rotman doesn’t want the same results here. “We don’t want Facebook to stop allowing [ads for] ED or other men’s health brands. We simply want to level the playing fields,” she told us.—PB

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