Words to Avoid in Ad Campaigns

5 May 2022
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Why bother about being rough or toxic

By saying toxic here, we mean using provocative copy, creatives, and approaches that are aimed at triggering an emotion-driven purchase and may undermine users’ perception of themselves or their surroundings in a negative way. Simply put, using pain points that refer to people’s look, health, religion, financial situation, etc. are no good if you follow any kind of marketing ethics (or plan on building a long-lasting relationship with Facebook, for what it’s worth).

If you haven’t been under a rock for the past couple of years, there is a noticeable trend for politeness, inclusivity, sensitivity, and other tolerant-ish trends floating abound the Internet. We have seen in social media with their increasingly stringent policies and regulations towards content or advertising that is allowed. This means that affiliate marketers need to at least be aware of these restrictions, whether you wish to be compliant or not.

We have compiled an approximate list of stop words or filters that are better to avoid in your campaigns if you decide to keep it nice.

Stop words by traffic source

Facebook

First off, don’t say Facebook. The company makes sure that whatever you advertise on the platform, users know that FB has nothing to do with it.

In 2021, Meta has released a list of topics that are better to avoid in any content you post on its platforms or in targeting categories. Basically, they cover religion, sex, gender identity, etc. plus some additions:

  • Health causes (e.g., “Lung cancer awareness”, “World Diabetes Day”, “Chemotherapy”)
  • Sexual orientation (e.g., “same-sex marriage” and “LGBT culture”)
  • Religious practices and groups (e.g., “Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays”)
  • Political beliefs, social issues, causes, organizations, and figures

Using direct quotations of age, religion, location, etc. in ad copy is also a red flag in FB’s eyes. That news approach with texts that go like “Too many cars crash in Cleveland. Take out a new insurance policy right now” will not be permitted.

Swearwords are never a good idea if you run your ads on a strictly-regulated source that poses as a pro-family platform. Using &% # * to mask profanities does not help.

Aside from the usual cuss words, sex, and violence that we can expect to be banned, Facebook does not like when ads speak directly to the audience using words like you, yours, to/for you and such. These are not prohibited per se, but your campaigns may go south if you use such expressions too much, as it seems like you are trying to manipulate the audience by drawing their attention.

Campaigns that offer users to get rich real quick are not welcome, too. Words like earn, rich, scheme, win and similar will draw Meta moderators to your campaigns like a magnet.

Instagram

As another Meta’s child, Instagram also supports all family and community friendly policies, abhors sensitive and violent content, and prohibits rude expressions. But there’s one more thing, it’s called a shadowban. You won’t get banned for real, but your content will be hidden from the major part of users, including your current subscribers (if any). These are some #hashtags that are not welcome on Instagram (check out this fuller version before you launch a campaign):

A

#alone

#assday

#ass

#antivax

B

#beautyblogger

#bikinibody

#boho

#brain

C

#costumes

#curvygirls

D

#date

#dating

#desk

#dm

E

#elevator

#eggplant

G

#graffitiigers

H

#hardworkpaysoff

#happythanksgiving

#humpday

I

#iphonegraphy

#italiano

K

#kansas

#killingit

#kissing

L

#loseweight

M

#master

#models

#mustfollow

#mirrorphoto

N

#nasty

#newyearsday

P

#petite

#pornfood

#pushups

S

#saltwater

#shit

#shower

#single

#singlelife

#skype

#snap

#snapchat

#snowstorm

#sopretty

#stranger

#streetphoto

#sunbathing

#swole

T

#tag4like

#tanlines

#teens

#thought

U

#undies

V

#valentinesday

W

#workflow

Google

Google follows the traditional no-violence guidelines and such. So, you will be better off if you don’t mention explosives, guns, tobacco, and drugs in any context.

Another restricted or prohibited slice of keys — derogatory expressions. This means mentioning anything related to hate groups, Nazi, violence based on race/age/religion/sex/etc.

Any expressions that make others feel intimidated, harassed, or bullied are, of course, off limits. This is why advertisers cannot target specific minorities or people with disorders, for instance.

We all know that shocking content and wow headlines draw A LOT of attention. You could use a third-rate picture on an old offer, and it will still convert. However, don’t overstretch yourself: graphic violence, sexual topics, too much profanity (even when it’s with ***) mean a definite ban.

YouTube

YouTube has many categories of prohibited or censored content, these include:

These words may appear in titles, video description, or on thumbnails. Title is the most sensitive of these, using a banned keyword there will get your content flagged pretty quickly. Testers report about 3K keywords that are better to avoid, swearwords included. Here are some that are less obvious:

  • abortion
  • abuse
  • AIDS
  • Al Qaeda
  • Adolf Hitler
  • alcohol
  • cannabis
  • cleavage
  • coronavirus
  • dirty
  • ebony
  • gallon
  • HDTV
  • heritage
  • Jews
  • metoo
  • misconduct
  • murder
  • Osama Bin Laden
  • premium 
  • referral
  • rehabilitation
  • romance
  • shoplifter
  • tattoo
  • treatment
  • trigger

Interesting thing, some harsher words like f-ck, sl-t, -sshole, etc. can be used in the videos as long as they don’t appear in titles and thumbnails and are not used repeatedly (allowed in the first 30 seconds of a video).

When it comes to profanity, it’s also possible to shield your content by muting or abbreviating these words.

TikTok

The mighty TT is a PG-13 app, so one would assume that you can’t use swearwords, violence, nudity, etc. More or less so. However, swearing is not officially banned, and TikTok has no moderation team. This means, that it’s not a good idea to use cuss words in titles and hashtags, as they are easily traceable, but you will probably get away with swearing in the videos.

Some other topics to avoid include: types of alcohol (wine, beer, spirits, etc.), tobacco products (cigars, tobacco, e-cigarettes), drugs (CBD, recreational supplements), weapons (guns, explosives, knives, swords), gambling (casinos, betting, bingo, lotteries), sexual or political content, animal trade (organs, horns, ivory, bone, skin, fur, wool, leather, or teeth), and professional services (accounting, immigration, taxation, funerals).

Conclusion

If for any reason you feel an urge to swear, show something violent or disturbing in your creatives to get the audience’s attention — don’t. You will draw people in for sure, but it won’t last long and you will soon need a new account. Some other prohibited topics are more like a blurred borderline than an outright ban, so you can give them a (cautious) shot if you feel like it. Nevertheless, always pay attention to sources’ ad guidelines to stay out of trouble.

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