The Facebook Special Ad Category: Understanding for Mortgage Advertising

loan officer learning about the new Facebook special ad categories

There’s no denying the power of social media marketing. 

Did you know that Facebook alone boasts more than 1.5 billion daily users? That’s an incredibly large advertising platform that could help you grow your local presence, increase your lead conversions, and improve your reputation as a thought leader in the mortgage industry.

However, before you unveil a new campaign on the platform, it’s important to be up-to-date on all of its fine print and regulations. One of these is the Facebook Special Ad category.

Unveiled on August 26, this new feature will affect the way you approach your ad strategy. Today, we’re taking a closer look at what it includes and the implications it can have on your advertising efforts moving forward.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get into it.

An Introduction to the Facebook Special Ad Category

You’ve undoubtedly spent a significant amount of time optimizing your Facebook ad campaign.

You’ve made sure that all of your promotional materials cater to specific buyer interests and the individual loan programs you offer. You’ve worked on your content creation strategy, post scheduling techniques, brand positioning and more. Now, those efforts are paying off as you enjoy a more steady lead flow, which you capture and manage with your mortgage CRM solution. 

Yet, just like any technology, this one is rapidly changing. 

This August, Facebook implemented a new requirement that requires certain advertisers in specific groups to verify whether or not their ads fit into a “Special Ad category.” The three groups affected include advertisers offering:

  • Credit opportunities
  • Employment opportunities
  • Housing opportunities (or related services)

Take a look at that third bullet. This means that any business professional using Facebook to create and run ads for property listings, mortgages, home insurance, or any other related service is now categorized as falling under the Facebook Special Ad category. When you go to create a new campaign creation flow, you’ll find this category in the Audience section of your campaign.

If you’re a mortgage professional, you’re required to check the box to demonstrate that your ad falls into the Special Ad category. After you do so, you’ll notice the differences right away.

New Limitations to Understand

As discussed, one of the most pivotal elements of your Facebook ad strategy is audience targeting. Rather than sending out generic messages to a general customer base, it’s wise to create custom ads that cater to the specific buyer group that’s the most poised to respond to the loan program you’re advertising. 

While you can still perform audience targeting as a mortgage professional, Facebook has imposed new limitations that will affect the extent to which you can do so. The social media giant’s reasoning behind this move is that some targeting strategies unknowingly show bias against people who possess certain characteristics. Thus, these new guidelines are designed to be more in-line with Facebook’s Discriminatory Practices Policy.

How does this affect your targeting approach? Let’s take a look.

Changes to Targeting Strategy

According to Facebook, advertisements that fall into its Special Ad category cannot be as specifically targeted as before. The key areas that this change affects include:

Saved Audiences

In the past, you could create audiences based on shared common characteristics, then save them to your account. Then, when you ran a new campaign that catered to the same crowd, you could choose this specific group again. Now, this option is greyed out and unavailable for selection.

Geographic Locations

Under the new regulations, you can still target your mortgage ads by geographic location. The only difference? You can’t get as specific as narrowing by postal code. In addition, any geographic location you select will include that locale, as well as all areas in a 15-mile radius.


All of your designated target audiences must include all genders. You cannot narrow by certain ones. 

Age Ranges

You cannot set custom age ranges anymore. Rather, all ads have to cater to Facebook’s entire age range of 18 through 65+.

Other Specific Targeting Categories

You’ll notice that many of the sub-categories you once used to narrow your target audience are now unavailable under the new rollout. For instance, you can’t set specific incomes or educational levels. 

Consequences of Skipping the Step

What happens if you just don’t click on the box to disclose that you’re a part of the Special Ad category? After all, Facebook doesn’t require a response at that juncture. 

While it can be tempting to skip this step, it’s absolutely imperative not to.

If you knowingly proceed with your Facebook Ad campaign without checking the box (and thereby limiting your audience targeting capabilities), you might get away with the underhanded move for a short while. Yet, Facebook’s ad review measures are increasingly high-tech and sophisticated and you’ll soon be found out, which can lead to devastating consequences from a pulled ad campaign to a blocked account, which can tarnish your brand reputation in an instant. 

Instead of skirting around the issue, it’s best to address it head-on and learn ways to work around it. That said, how can you make sure your ads are still as visible and effective as possible as you abide by the new Facebook Special Ad category policy?

Optimizing Your Facebook Ads Amid This Change

While these new rules might limit your campaign approach, they don’t have to derail it. In fact, this can be the impetus necessary to help your efforts move in a better direction. 

For instance, say you previously ran all of your Facebook ads centered on the specific loan programs that your office offered. Those ads led viewers to Facebook Lead Forms, which helped you fill your pipeline. You can still take a similar approach, though your overall strategy will change.

For example, although you cannot narrow your audience by specific geography, income level, or educational level as you set up your campaign, you can still create strategic ad copy that appeals to those certain viewers. This means that instead of selecting an audience that fits into these categories:

  • Age range: 21-35
  • Income level: $35,000 to $50,000
  • Location: Salt Lake City

You’ll simply write and design your add to attract those buyers. This will require you to get creative with the verbiage and graphics you use in your ad campaigns. Now, instead of simply advertising “Low mortgage rates for homebuyers”, you’ll get more specific with content, creating an appeal along the lines of “Are you a first-time homebuyer in St. Louis? We offer excellent rates for college students and young professionals. Contact our office today!”

This way, anyone who does not fall in those categories will likely scroll right past the ad, while the audience members that it’s designed to attract will take special notice. This is a smart and simple way to work around the Facebook Special Ad category without sacrificing your approach to audience segmentation. This way, you can help ensure that any leads you receive as a result of an ad click are optimized and relevant, leading to more qualified web traffic.

In addition, there are also ways to shift your ad content away from loan-specific messages and into a more educational/newsworthy category. When you make this shift, the ads you’re running are no longer considered “Special Ad category” ads and you can continue with your specific targeting measures. However, this often requires changing your entire campaign and in most cases, simply tweaking your content is the most effective route to take.

The Role of the Facebook Learning Process

While the new change might take some time to get used to, if you optimize your ads correctly moving forward, you shouldn’t notice too much of a change.


Facebook leverages a unique learning process that allows it to “learn” which users are engaging with your content the most. Over time, it becomes smart enough to only display your ads to those users who are the most similar to this group.

In other words, if you crafted the above campaign to discourage clicks from mature, repeat homebuyers with incomes greater than $50,000, then once the Facebook learning phase is complete, that audience will be less likely to see your ads.

Using This Facebook Change as an Opportunity for Growth

The bottom line? The new Facebook Special Ad category is not meant to ruin your existing campaign efforts or make your marketing approach more difficult. Rather, it’s designed to help you work as smartly and strategically as possible.

Though the changes might take a while to get used to, navigating them is easier with the right team of digital marketing professionals on your side.

That’s where we come in.

We’re marketing experts specializing in the mortgage industry, and we’re here to help you work through these updates with ease. Contact us today to learn more about how these restrictions affect your ads. We’ll show you how we can help your team create campaigns that improve visibility, enhance conversions and result in the ROI you deserve.

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