Facebook routinely blocks ads promoting women’s health products, particularly those that treat symptoms of menopause, CNBC reported on Saturday.
The company has blocked most of the ads Seattle startup Pulse has tried to post on the social networking site over the last 18 months, according to the report. Other companies like Pulse that offer vaginal lubrication and related products have also found their ads blocked by Facebook, CNBC reported.
Their experience is in sharp contrast with companies that offer products that treat erectile dysfunction or other men’s health issues, according to the report. Those companies are generally able to run their ads on Facebook without hindrance, according to the report.
“We were quite stunned at the response from Facebook and also Instagram,” Pulse CEO Amy Buckalter told Business Insider. “We were shut down or rejected,” she continued, “with very little direction on what to change or how to change.”
Facebook’s advertising policies restrict ads that promote adult products and content due to the fact that people with widely varying cultural sensitivities use its services, company spokeswoman Devon Kearns said in a statement sent to Business Insider.
But, Kearns added, “We continue to review these specific ads and are looking to clarify our policy in this area.”
Pulse offers lubricants and a device that warms them before dispensing them hands-free. The company began trying to advertise its products on Facebook soon after it launched them in 2017, Buckalter said. It immediately ran into problems with its ads being blocked by Facebook, she said.
At first, the company blocked some but not all of its ads, she said. Over time, it blocked more and more of them and now has “completely shut us down,” she said. Pulse has tried to run a variety of advertisements with little success. After receiving a succession of vague automated responses, Buckalter reached out to someone “high up” at the company to explain her companies products and try to get her ads approved. But even that didn’t help, she said.
Facebook’s block on Pulse’s ads has harmed its business, Buckalter said. Although Pulse has run ads on Google, Amazon, and YouTube, the best way to reach its target customers — women over 40 who are entering menopause — is on the social network, she said. Without being able to reach those consumers, Pulse business hasn’t grown as fast as it should have, Buckalter said. As a result, it hasn’t been able to attract venture-capital investors, she said.
“I’m limited, I’m stifled because I can’t acquire my customers fast enough,” Buckalter said.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook has faced accusations of gender bias in its ad business. In September, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communications Workers of America filed a complaint against Facebook with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that the company had illegally allowed advertisers to target job ads only at men.
A contemporaneous report in ProPublica detailed how Uber and 14 other companies were advertising jobs on Facebook to people of just one gender.
You can read the full CNBC report here.
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