Banned Ads: Restricted Ad Types for Search and Social Media

We all know paid advertising is an effective and efficient way to reach our online audiences. A lesser-known fact is that digital advertising is not available to everyone. Some types of advertising are banned based on government ad regulations, and other ads are banned on specific platforms. Here are some of the latest changes in online advertising.

Government advertising regulations

You’ll commonly run into government ad regulations when it comes to online advertising.

US advertising regulations

The United States government regulates the advertising industry to govern false or misleading ads as well as abusive practices. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), many of the same rules that apply to other forms of advertising (tv, print) also apply to online internet advertising. A simplified example would be when advertising a contest. You can’t ask people to pay to enter sweepstakes. You also can’t collect their sign-up information and sell it.

For detailed rules and regulations about advertising and marketing on the internet in the U.S., check the FTC’s website.


Another common term you’ll hear about right now is advertising and disclosure restrictions related to the GDPR, a European Union based measure that stands for General Data Protection Regulation, these rules apply to anyone interacting with EU residents. The general idea is that residents must be made aware of the information they disclose, give consent for this disclosure, and can withdraw consent or opt out at any time. The information involved is described as personal data and may include things like email addresses and demographic information. For marketers, this has the potential to affect advertising like newsletter signups and how web analytics is used in targeting.

As the GDPR regulations began full deployment on May 25th, 2018 there are still many questions surrounding what is and is not allowed. The official GDPR website has an FAQ that may be helpful, and additional training can be found online such as Linked Learning’s GDPR for Marketers.

Platform-specific advertising updates

In addition to national and international laws, online advertising is restricted by many platforms. While there is a general ban for items that depict illegal and age-restricted activities such as animal abuse and pornography, you might be surprised at some of the more recently restricted ad categories.

Bing Ads bans cryptocurrency

Bing Ads recently chose to ban cryptocurrency-related advertising, stating on May 16th that, “we have made the decision to disallow advertising for the cryptocurrency, cryptocurrency related products, and un-regulated binary options.” The company explained the reasoning behind this move, noting that these products are not regulated – a fact which could lead to predatory behavior and increased risk to users.

Cannabis advertising varies state by state

In this rapidly-changing industry, you may find yourself with new client inquiries about how to market recreational or medicinal cannabis products. No matter what your personal opinion on this product is, it’s clear that times this industry is evolving. While most restrictions on recreational products like alcohol and cigarettes are long-standing, cannabis restrictions are not set. Your safest bet is to check frequently as these laws vary state by state in addition to national regulations.

Google bans bail bonds

A topic that many people don’t want to talk about until it’s necessary, bail bondsmen can provide a service to many in times of emergency. Google banned ads that promote bail bonds services in May this year, citing concerns from studies that show for-profit bail bond providers unfairly profit from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, at highly vulnerable times.

Facebook targeting political ads

While not an outright ban, Facebook is tightening its standards on political advertising. Augmenting a policy announced last October, political ads can only be run from verified accounts. In April this policy was updated to label these ads as “political” and disclose who the ad was “paid for by.” Beyond political pages, pages with large numbers of followers will now also need to be verified, to try and limit advertising by fake accounts.

These ad regulations provide just a few of the restrictions you may encounter when planning an online ad strategy for your agency or brand. Don’t let this scare you away from some great opportunities for brand visibility but do be aware that not all ad campaigns are created equal. Tailor your strategy to your specific niche needs and use the resources that are available.

We hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading.

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Kate Hagan – Digital Marketing Strategist

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