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How Facebook Ad Targeting Restrictions Affect Catholic Organizations

The entire landscape of digital advertising just changed for Catholic marketers.

What's Happening, and Why I Thought It Didn't Matter

On January 19, Facebook implemented new advertising targeting restrictions on a number of topics that "people may perceive as sensitive, such as health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion or sexual orientation."

They had warned of these changes a few months ago, and in their outline, gave the example of no longer being able to target on the phrase "Catholic Church," for example.

Frankly, I wasn't worried. When I first started advertising through Facebook, I quickly learned that using the "Catholic Church" target tag was ineffectual for ads. There is a wide discrepancy among the kinds of people who "like" the Catholic Church on Facebook, and more often than not, instead of following my call to action, I found that we got a ton of comments, all of which were "Amen." Which is great! I'm glad people are praying. That wasn't really the point of the advertisement though.

What we began to do instead was focus on highly-targeted, well, targeting. We honed in on things devout Catholics actually like: Newman list colleges, major Catholic speakers and organizations, the rosary and titles of Mary, Catholic news organizations, Catholic schools and job titles, etc.

In my naïveté, I assumed that Facebook wouldn't know that these were religiously-affiliated and therefore they wouldn't be removed.

I was wrong.

The New Reality

I logged in to do some nerdy testing on January 20, and much to my dismay, all of our previous targeting parameters were gone. Job titles, Catholic colleges, titles of Mary, even obscure Catholic organizations. All gone.