How to Prevent Insensitive Facebook Ads

Vinny La Barbera
Written by

Vinny La Barbera

Do you keep seeing Facebook ads from profiles of friends or family members that have passed away? We have and it’s not a great feeling. Unfortunately this is becoming more common as more advertisers jump onto Facebook, but there is a way to prevent this.

In this article, we are going to educate you on why you get suggestions or sponsored stories from profiles of those that have passed and how you can help to prevent Facebook from showing these ads to you or your friends in the first place.

Insensitive Facebook Ads

How do Facebook Ads Work?

Before we jump in here we want to be very clear on something – we do not support Facebook, or any advertiser, that leverages fragile human sensitivities to generate revenue. There are plenty other ways to market effectively and run a successful business.

With that said, it is important to understand how these insensitive situations occur, specifically with Facebook ads, so that they can be prevented and avoided altogether. We have been exposed to poorly timed ads and know how terrible that feeling is, but at the same time we also understand how these are being served.

First, as much as we want to hate Facebook sometimes we have to give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that they are not intentionally trying to take advantage of their users’ most fragile life moments to generate revenue. Second, Facebook is free to use. The downside of this is that Facebook is always going to be looking to use data provided by its users to continue to support a free application….and please their shareholders. When paid advertising gets thrown into the mix you can almost bet that a percentage of users will be affected negatively in some way.

Understanding Facebook Ads

Facebook’s advertising platform works in a few different ways…

Promoted Posts. Using your business page, you can extend the reach of a status update by opting to promote that post. Promoted posts can be targeted to those that have liked your page and even to the friends of those that have liked your page as well. With many page owners reporting that their status updates reach less than 10% of their page’s fans, promoted posts are a great way to get more visibility for your updates.

Promoted Post Example

Ads. Through Facebook’s Ads Manager, an advertiser can run ads that feature a small image and a couple lines of text. These ads show on the right sidebar of Facebook to users based on the demographic info targeted by the advertiser. By paying for ads that show to people that only have certain information in their profile (e.g. age, relationship status, location, interests, etc) advertisers can limit their messages to their target audience only.

Facebook Ad Example

Sponsored Stories. Also known as social ads, sponsored stories attempt to make a more personal connection with users by allowing advertisers to leverage the most recent interactions that their fans have with their brand. Interactions include everything from check-ins to page post likes and give advertisers a good way of creating engagement through social influence.

Sponsored Story Example

Preventing Insensitive Ads

Facebook’s advertising options have been very effective for some companies.

However, all it takes is one situation where a user is exposed to a suggestion from a profile of someone that has passed. We have personally been exposed to these situations on multiple occasions, but what was even worse was when a suggestion was delivered as part of a post promotion we ran. Our most sincere condolences and apologies could not erase the emotional feelings that this situation surely caused.

Example of a poorly timed Facebook ad

With over 30 million accounts on Facebook belonging to those that have passed, it’s almost impossible to avoid these situations without completely stopping all Facebook advertising. For many businesses, Facebook ads are all that can be afforded to get the much needed exposure to grow in this challenging economy.

Fortunately there is some positive news and that is that these situations can be avoided without having to stop advertising. Here’s one simple step to help Facebook update its system to prevent advertisers and users from being placed in these uncomfortable situations. If you are friends with someone that has passed who still has an active Facebook profile, then please….

Complete this Memorialization Request

NOTE: The profile will remain active (with all content and comments intact), but will not show up in search results or suggestion boxes. The only people who will be able to see the profile will be those that are friends now.

Creating Positive Results from Advertising

Although we would prefer to never be on either side of an ad from a deceased person’s profile again, we do find a lot of value in advertising with Facebook. Hopefully users of free platforms can understand this and help to spread awareness and education instead of taking offense or blaming advertisers. Until companies can be proactive, instead of reactive, about these situations, then they must continue to find ways to grow their business.

If you feel strongly, either way, about these situations then please leave a comment below. We always like to listen to and understand all sides and opinions.

And if you are looking to learn more about advertising on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon or Reddit, then we would love to help you. Properly planned and executed paid marketing campaigns can deliver great results and help your business succeed in these tough times.

All you have to do is click the big orange button below to learn more.

Are you ready to speak with a paid advertising consultant to increase the reach of your messages?

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    November 13, 2012

    Very helpful on showing us where to memorialize a facebook page. I enjoyed the other tips you shared about the different types of sponsored posts, if you could go more into detail on that too, it would be great.

    November 13, 2012


    We are already working up a post on the different types of Facebook advertising options with details on how to best use each so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

    November 13, 2012

    Ok, great. I found your blog post through a sponsored facebook post, ironically.

    November 13, 2012

    Ah, they do work?! Kidding of course. We have found Facebook Ads to be very effective when used right. Glad they brought you to us. Thanks for reading and participating in the conversation.

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