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August 20, 2019   |   3 min read

Facebook HEC Updates Take Effect

You may know by now that Facebook is making major changes to its Ads Manager platform in efforts to prevent discrimination. Over the past year, Facebook has removed certain targeting segments and options from its platform, but most recently they announced additional changes for ads serving the housing, employment, and/or credit industries (HEC). These changes will include four major updates that will impact U.S.-based advertisers and advertisers targeting the U.S. with HEC ads:

  1. An updated advertising policy for housing, employment, and credit ads.
  2. A new requirement where advertisers must confirm the content of their ads fall under the new Special Ad Category.
  3. Once the Special Ad Category is selected, advertisers running ads that offer housing, employment, and/or credit opportunities in the U.S. will be restricted to a much smaller set of targeting options.
    • Advertisers will no longer have the ability to target by age, gender, or ZIP code.
    • The list of interest targeting options will be substantially smaller. In addition, advertisers may only target interests for inclusion—excluding interests from targeting will not be permitted.
    • When targeting by location, Facebook will require a minimum 15-mile geographic radius.
    • Advertisers will no longer have access to Lookalike Audiences. Rather, they can create a Special Ad Audience, which doesn’t consider gender, age, ZIP codes, or other similar categories.
  4. Facebook is building a new way for people to search for and view all housing ads in the U.S. targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether they are in the target audience.


Ready or not, these changes are happening…and soon. Starting August 26, 2019, Facebook will begin enforcing Special Ad Category updates.  

How you can prepare

  • If you haven’t already, make sure you know whether the ads you run will be categorized under the enforced housing, employment, and/or credit descriptions. Note: Keep in mind that Facebook reviews on an individual ad basis and also considers the landing page you’re driving to.
  • Review all of your existing campaigns. Are you segmenting audiences by age, gender, or ZIP code? If so, make changes accordingly. Also, if you’re using Lookalike Audiences, you’ll want to recreate them using the Special Ad Category to avoid disruption of your ads. For reference, Facebook provided step-by-step instructions on how to create new campaigns in a Special Ad Category and how to create a Special Ad Audience.
  • For existing campaigns where you’re using interest targeting, check to make sure those interests are still available. Remember, Facebook will not allow you to exclude interests once these changes take effect.

What we've learned so far

As soon as we caught wind of these major updates, we, like so many other marketers, were wondering how we could get ahead of these changes. Once Facebook began rolling out the Special Ad Category updates, we started testing—we ran ads with the new HEC targeting against ads without the HEC targeting. So far, we haven’t seen a drastic difference in ad performance. Some of our ads using the HEC targeting drove more conversions than ads without, and vice versa. However, one thing we noticed is the ads with HEC targeting aren’t driving as many quality conversions, specifically in terms of age. Given that age is one of the targeting options Facebook will no longer allow for HEC ads, this isn’t a huge surprise. Rather, it’s something we’ll continue to pay close attention to and test in order to improve.

Advertisers, it's time to take action.

Don’t wait…these changes are happening whether you’re prepared or not. If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always here to help.

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