Facebook is admirably clear on their advertising guidelines. Lots of (IMO) sane and common-sensical Dos and Don’ts aimed at protecting the user experience.

  • They don’t want users creeped out by ad creative displaying uncanny access to user data
  • They don’t want advertisers misusing pictures of semi-nude models just to grab your attention, and
  • Ads should not be unduly shocking
  • Basic truth in advertising guidelines have to be followed
  • And so on.

But it would be impossible not to expect some gray areas, here and there. How shocking is too shocking, after all? And how attractive or skimpily dressed can a model in an image be before she is inappropriate for use in a Facebook ad?

Also, the ultimate appropriateness or acceptability of an ad is determined by a human Facebook employee. It’s a judgement call and it’s not unheard of for very similar ads to receive different judgments.

None of this would matter if there weren’t advantages to be gained by possibly pushing the boundaries. And for most guidelines, there simply aren’t. Even the implied nudity restraint is really best left well enough alone.

But there IS one restraint worth testing: “Non-Existent Functionality”

And by that term, Facebook means you can’t make your image look like a “add to cart” button. Or imply that the still image is really a video by presenting a “play” button or link in the image. Don’t make your image look like something it’s not.

So, with that in mind, take a look at these two ads:

Facebook PPC Ads

Does anyone doubt that either of these ads wouldn’t be improved IF the images actually were video that could be launched straight from the ad?

And yet, videos aren’t more than one click away. Click on the ad, get to the Fan page, and there be videos ready for your viewing pleasure.

So how might you make that work? Well, take a look at these mock-ups:

PPC Facebook AdsNow, maybe you’d have to try out a more translucent play button. Or maybe you’d have to make the video appear within a laptop screen, or something to make it look a bit less like a blatant violation of the policy.

But I think it would be well worth the testing. Because if this technique doubles response, wouldn’t you want to fight a bit harder to be able to use it?

And here’s the thing: Facebook wants your ads to succeed as much as you do. It’s in their interest for your ads to prove relevant and attractive to their users and profitable to you.

So as long as the case can be made that the play button imagery isn’t misrepresenting the advertised product, then I think Facebook would be willing to listen or make amendments of exceptions to their guideline on this.

Ultimately, if the product your “selling” is short form video or audio storytelling, shouldn’t you be allowed to picture that? And wouldn’t picturing that improve response rate?

I’d think so. But I KNOW it’s worth testing to find out.