Why was my Facebook ad declined, rejected or not approved? We spend a lot of time answering this question online in Facebook groups and in messages from business owners who are tearing out their hair. Unfortunately it comes down to this: Your Facebook ad was declined because you probably don’t understand the Terms of Service and various policies you need to adhere to. Whoops. Poor misunderstood Facebook.


Look, don’t stress, how many people have read the Terms of Service before launching into Facebook advertising?  Very few. So here is everything you need to know to stay off Zuckerberg’s naughty list.

So what does Facebook think I am doing wrong?

If you can’t be bothered to read all the way through this epic (and rather well thought out blog post, if we do say so) then only read this section. If your ads are declined, it’s likely that Facebook believes you are:

  • Using too much text in your image

  • Violating policy in your ad copy

  • A repeat offender who now has a poor ad account history (repeated policy violations)

  • Linking to an untrusted domain 

  • Using imagery that violates policy - including those on your website landing page (whatever page you have linked to from your ad)

  • Linking to content that violates policy - that’s right you can’t just write ad copy, your website can’t violate policy either

  • Linking to irrelevant content

  • Promoting prohibited content

People become pretty stressed when it comes to being notified about their policy violations - and fair enough it’s frustrating at best and a real problem at worst. But don’t worry this doesn’t mean that it’s accurate or true (but it might be….) It may mean the algorithm has picked up something it doesn’t like (a flag, but not a real violation) and we need to ask a real human to intervene and double check. It’s an easy job from inside Ad Manager, but not so much if you’re boosting posts.

So yes there are a tonne of rules but never fear, let’s break down the most likely mistakes you are making!

  1. Confirm you aren’t using prohibited content


We often hear from people who are determined that their industry or keywords MUST be prohibited from advertising on Facebook because they have had so many ad declines. However the prohibited list is short & sweet with no real surprises.

So take a quick moment & double check you aren’t on the prohibited list….then take a deep breath because that means it’s probably not Facebook causing the problem:

  • Anything illegal or adult in nature

  • Some dating sites/gambling sites/lottery promotion (FB approval required)

  • Some health topics unless targeted appropriately (ie family planning, contraception are ok if targeted appropriately, weight loss not so much)

  • Alcohol advertising (age related and region specific)

  • Tobacco, drugs, weapons, and pharmaceuticals - but herbal & dietary supplements as well as some pharmacies are ok

  • Before/after body images promoting weight loss

  • Payday advance/loan services

  • Multi Level Marketing 

  • Nudity

2. Check the copy (content) of your Facebook Ad

We can hand on heart say that 90% of enquiries we receive regarding declined Facebook ads fall into this space. This is also a really good reason why you should be running ads from inside Ad Manager and not boosted posts. An ad campaign allows you to tweak and make small changes and re-submit ads easily. You don’t have to get it right first time, and Ad Manager makes learning where the line is nice and easy.

So what’s wrong with your ad copy? Facebook promotes user experience above all else.  Essentially Facebook wants your ads to attract attention in a positive way that doesn’t make anyone feel like their personal information has handed to you on a plate…because, of course it hasn’t.  

Here are some simple examples of where you might be going wrong when it comes to ad copy.

Are you struggling with your finances?We help people protect their financial future
Meet local Christians just like you!Auckland’s most popular Christian coffee group
Do you feel tired all the time?Check out our four tips to beat tiredness!

Facebook does not want you to imply that you have knowledge of your targeted audience and it does not allow you to imply or assert any personal attribute - basically avoid directing addressing ethnicity, religion, beliefs, age, sexual/gender orientation, disability, any medical conditions, or financial status.  This does not mean these keywords or topics are prohibited - it’s about the context of your copy.

Check out the Christian example above - see how we can mention religion without asserting that we KNOW the person reading the copy is Christian? And yes that’s a real headline from a real approved Facebook ad.

Remember that some of this stuff is subjective… if you’re struggling to determine if your copy is a problem, flick us a message on Facebook (but only if you’re prepared to hear that you ARE violating TOS).

3. Check your Facebook Ad Creative (image or video)

We’re going to assume you understand that that Facebook doesn’t like images with text - there is a low threshold (and some lifehacks to get around it) but let’s park that one. And we’re also going to assume you understand the problems with nudity (perceived and otherwise), before and after photos and other prohibited items we mentioned above.

4. Double check your Facebook Ad Creative

Let’s say you share a link to your latest fantastic blog post, which happens to be a video. You use a featured image on your blog - and it’s a still from your video that includes a little of the video functionality such as a play button, stop button or your video progress bar. No problem, until you try to boost your post… and it’s declined.

Why? You’re insinuating that the image is a video.

Also just a heads up that as it’s a boosted post it may be a pain in the ass to delete the post and repost with an updated feature image  - which is why a Traffic Ad created in Ad Manager would be better - you can simply swap your image out and re-submit.  With a boosted post you’re stuck.

5. Check your destination URL/website relevancy & content

Yes we mentioned it above but it pays to have a second go at this because it’s something most casual Facebook advertisers don’t realise AND it’s a two-parter!

Landing Page Relevancy

If your landing page (and by that we mean ANY page you are linking to in your ad) is not relevant to your ad copy, or does not exist (your site is down, blog isn’t live yet) the ad may be declined.

If your landing page does not contain much text make sure you have sorted your SEO otherwise Facebook may consider your landing to be irrelevant to it’s users. This is a good example of why we shouldn’t look at our digital marketing tasks in isolation, there are always dependencies!

Landing Page Content

The Facebook TOS also cover your landing page - so you can’t point a perfect Facebook ad to prohibited content and get away with it.

In the wellness space, pages and content are often flagged for nudity because any image showing skin can be picked up as prohibited - this can be a hurdle in the women’s health space, particularly for midwives, pregnancy resources, breastfeeding experts and other family planning related industries. Part of planning your website imagery and branding should include landing pages for ads that may be less image heavy to avoid running into problems regarding nudity.

In the financial & insurance industry, any mention of money may be flagged (prohibited content - cash loans) however a manual review (and submitting an electronic declaration that you aren’t offering cash loans) will often resolve this issue in less than a day.

Another reason to use Ad Manager - any industry specific declarations that Facebook would like you to make before approving your ads appear inside Ad Manager and not for boosted posts.

Other website related reasons?

Your website was down when your ad was reviewed, or you created an ad for a scheduled blog that isn’t live yet or your domain is brand spanking new and Facebook doesn’t know whether to trust you yet. Easy fixes in Ad Manager and again not so much for a boosted post.

6. Check out our real life examples below

Look even though we feel like we have a really good handle on Facebook’s TOS and Policies, we also stumble across lesser known (or lesser experienced) policy violations on occasion too.

What was the problem?

In August one of our clients supplied a video as creative for a new Facebook campaign and the thumbnail image included a very subtle momentary image of the triangle play symbol. The campaign was declined on the basis that we were insinuating a functionality that didn’t exist. Dead right - if you thought you could hit play on that symbol you’d be wrong, it WAS implying functionality that did not exist.

How did we fix it?

The good news is that it was a two second fix to trim that thumbnail out of the video and we simply swapped out the video in the already created (but declined) campaign. Which was then approved within 15 minutes.


What about accidental trademark infringement?

We worked with a client who had been a contestant on Survivor NZ. She had been struggling to run any ads, couldn’t understand why all of her ads were being declined AND she had two ad accounts disabled due as a result of all of her declined ads. 

She was tearing her hair out and feeling as though she was being targeted for no real reason and taking it personally - which is a really common them when it comes to declined Facebook ads.  I promise Facebook doesn’t hate your guts.

What was the problem?

The client was generated ads directly from her Facebook page (not within Ad Manager) and helpfully the images that Facebook populated for her contained her Survivor NZ bandana. The bandana features…you guessed it, the Survivor branding.   Which is a copyright infringement.

Often when people feel like they are being personally penalised by Facebook they make the mistake of re-submitting or re-creating the same ads over and over, with the same policy violation (because they don’t understand what they are doing wrong).

All this leads to is a disabled Ad Account. And not only that but Facebook won’t allow you to create new Ad Accounts with the same payment method… so it’s not a super quick fix!

How did we fix it?

We opened a new Ad Account for the client, making sure she had a new payment method loaded, and then created an ad that did not violate Facebook TOS.   It pays to note that this new ad was also declined (that history hanging over the client’s head) - but we as an agency requested a manual review and it was approved within 3 hours with no further issues in the account in the last 6 months.

No, Facebook just hates me and you’ll never convince me otherwise!

We promise Facebook doesn’t hate you or your industry. Remember, you can request a manual review on any declined ad, at any time BUT Facebook aren’t playing around… if you request a review for an ad that is clearly violating a Facebook policy, expect a terse manual decline and a link to the TOS for you to read more fully with no further help or guidance regarding the specific policy you’re in violation of.

So don’t get angry, get informed!


We want small business owners to feel confident that they CAN run their own digital marketing. So we’re beginning to move away from exclusively managing Facebook Ad Campaigns for our clients - we see so many of you wanting to learn more and outsourcing to a marketing agency doesn’t achieve that goal for you. For the same price as monthly management, you could be retaining this knowledge inside your business with me, Rachel, holding your hand and cheering you on.

So if you want to feel more confident navigating the world of Facebook and you want to get shit done in your business, book a training session by hitting the button or get in touch regarding a longer term plan for you & your business.

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