H.E.C. Ads: Everything Advertisers Need to Know About Facebook's New Special Ad Categories

Lindsey Pizula

By: Lindsey Pizula

Senior Strategist

As of July 2019, Facebook is adjusting the way in which they manage housing, employment, and credit ads as they continue to focus on ways to protect users from unlawful discrimination. Any qualifying ads must be selected as a “Special Ad Category” campaign, which has its own conditions on targeting.

What Qualifies as an H.E.C. Ad

Ads that feature a housing, employment, or credit incentive in either the ad creative or the landing page that the ad leads to, will be flagged as H.E.C. content. For example, an automotive brand advertising financing offers on vehicles would fall into the credit category.

Audience Selection Tools For Special Ads Categories

  • H.E.C. ads will have a limited set of audience selection tools available: age, gender, zip code, HHI, and multicultural affinity targeting will be unavailable. Advertisers will only be able to choose from a much smaller set of targeting options; any detailed targeting segments describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will be unavailable.
  • To comply with Facebook’s advertising policies, Lookalike Audiences cannot be leveraged for Special Ads. However, to help advertisers reach people who may be interested in their ad, they can create a Special Ad Audience based off of a particular information source, such as a pixel or a Custom Audience. Special Ad Audiences are modeled the same way as Lookalike Audiences, but age, gender, location, HHI, and multicultural affinity will not be data inputs.

My Campaign Meets the H.E.C. Criteria, Now What?

Is it more important to reach the advertisers specific audience? Or is it more important for users to be exposed to a specific promotion? When possible, Unified recommends limiting the number of H.E.C.-qualifying campaigns so advertisers are not subjected to the more limited H.E.C. targeting options (though it is understood that there are certain scenarios where it’s unavoidable.) Here are some example scenarios and options advertisers can consider when dealing with H.E.C-related campaigns.

Scenario 1: A brand is running an ad that does not include an incentive offering in the creative or text, but drives to a landing page where an incentive is displayed.

Solution: Drive users to a different, but related page that does not display the incentive information. Another option is to redesign the page without the incentive information, but make it easy for users to find it for themselves.

Scenario 2: A brand is running an ad that does not include an incentive offering in the creative or text, and drives to a landing page that shows off multiple features of a product.

Solution: This does not qualify as an H.E.C. ad and no changes are necessary.

Scenario 3: A brand is running a Brand Awareness video that does not include an incentive offering, and does not link out to any pages.

Solution: This does not qualify as an H.E.C. ad and no changes are necessary.

Scenario 4: A brand is promoting a limited-time offer on one of their products, and their advertisement drives to the landing page where users can redeem the deal.

Solution: There is less flexibility in this scenario since the true purpose of the campaign is the promotion (and it is time sensitive), therefore this may be a time to identify the ad as H.E.C. and leverage the H.E.C. targeting available, such as “Special Ad Audiences.”

Scenario 5: A brand is promoting their product that is ONLY available in a certain zip code radius. Their ad drives to a webpage that gives the user information about the promotion.

Solution: Unified would recommend changing the webpage that this advertisement drives to so that it no longer qualifies as H.E.C. If the advertiser left the ad as is, the H.E.C. targeting options would not let them  target by zip code, and this is a non-negotiable for this promotion.


What are key dates of the H.E.C. ad requirements roll out?

  • July 1st: 1% rollout began to begin testing new user flows and to fix bugs
  • July 15th: API documentation became available on Facebook
  • August 26th: 100% availability of new flow in Ads Manager; this new setup will be enforced for all new and edited ads created via Ads Manager.
  • October: 100% availability of all surfaces and enforcement for all new and edited ads created via any surface
  • By end of year: Rollout of new functionality for Housing ads in Ad Library

Why are these new H.E.C. categories required?

Facebook has put these H.E.C. categories and requirements into place to protect users from unlawful discrimination.

Can you clarify exactly how each category is defined?

  • Credit Opportunity: Ads that promote or directly link to a credit opportunity, including but not limited to credit card offers, auto loans, personal or business loan services, mortgage loans and long-term financing. This also includes brand ads for credit cards, regardless of specific offer.
  • Employment Opportunity: Ads that promote or directly link to an employment opportunity, including but not limited to part- or full-time jobs, internships, or professional certification programs.
  • Housing Opportunity or Related Services: Ads that promote or directly link to a housing opportunity or related service, including but not limited to listings for the sale or rental of a home or apartment, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, mortgage loans, housing repairs and home equity or appraisal services.

I would rather not be limited on my targeting options versus sending users to a webpage with an incentive - is this option allowed?

Yes! If having a specific incentive in either your creative or landing page is not necessary, we absolutely recommend adjusting this so that your ad is no longer considered an H.E.C. ad, and therefore not subjected to using the limited targeting options.

Special Ad Audiences sound a lot like Lookalike Audiences, yet Facebook says Lookalike audiences aren’t allowed for Special Ads. What is the difference between the two?

These two audiences are similar in that they are both built from a pixel or a Custom Audience, only the Special Ad Audiences are adjusted to comply with the restrictions associated with the campaign’s chosen Special Ad Category and Facebook’s ad policies. The following options are different or unavailable for ads in certain special categories:

  • Locations: You can target your ads to people by geographic location (such as country, region, state, province, city or congressional district), but not by ZIP code. Specific locations require a minimum 15-mile radius around that targeted city, address or pin-drop.
  • Age: You cannot edit this option. Audiences must include ages 18 through 65+.
  • Gender: You cannot edit this option. Audiences must include all genders.
  • Detailed Targeting: Some demographic, behavior and interest options are unavailable. Excluding any detailed targeting selections is also unavailable.

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