January 12, 2022

Meta Removes Sensitive Ad Targeting Options

By: Shelby Dias

As you scroll through Facebook or Instagram, it may feel like advertisers know everything about you. You may see an ad targeting your age, your interests, or even the groceries you bought last week. Personalized ads can help you reach exact segments of your audience who are ready to do business with you. But, how personal is too personal?

We’ve probably all experienced seeing an ad that was eerily spot-on in its targeting. Starting next week, Meta will remove some of its detailed ad targeting options on all its platforms because they are related to sensitive topics like health, religion, and political beliefs.

Updated Ad Targeting Goes Into Effect Jan. 19

Meta announced in December of last year that they would be removing sensitive audience targeting options beginning January 19, 2022. The company stated, “We want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”

While the changes go into effect next week, existing campaigns with the removed targeting options will still be delivered through March 17, 2022.

Defining Sensitive Ad Targeting Options

Meta describes the topics people may perceive as sensitive to be: causes, organizations, or public figures relating to the user’s health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation.

The company provided these specific examples of targeting that will no longer be available:

  • Health Causes: such as “Lung cancer awareness,” “World Diabetes Day,” or “Chemotherapy”
  • Sexual Orientation: such as “same-sex marriage” or “LGBT Culture”
  • Religious Practices & Groups: such as “Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays”
  • Political Beliefs: as well as social issues, causes, organizations, and figures

Ad Targeting Options Still Available to Your Business

With this update, you can no longer create ads based on audience behavior specifically on Meta platforms. For example, the causes they support or sexual orientation they specify in their profile. 

However, you can still target customer audiences based on their physical characteristics or how they engage with your brand. You can use several broad and/or detailed targeting options to hone in on a specific audience for your digital marketing.

Age & Gender

These broad demographic targets are still important tools for choosing the right audience for your ads. Broad targeting relies on Meta’s ad delivery system to find the best people to show your Instagram or Facebook ad to. It can also help you discover potential customers you may not have reached otherwise.


Choose your audience based on country, region, or city. You can target people within a radius of your business location or in your designated service area.

Engagement Custom Audiences

You can reach people who have liked your Facebook Business page or followed your Instagram account. This audience also includes people who interacted with your event, watched your videos in their News Feed, etc. These users have shown interest in or engaged with your brand previously.

Website Custom Audiences

This audience segment includes people who have already engaged with your website or purchased your products. You need to connect the Facebook Pixel to your website in order to use this option.

Customer List Custom Audiences

If you’ve collected data from your existing customers like email addresses, phone numbers, etc., it can be uploaded for targeting or to create a lookalike audience. You must have consent from your customers to use their data.

Lookalike Audiences

This is a way for you to reach people with similar characteristics as your existing customers. You can build a lookalike audience based on your existing audience of people who liked your page, visited your website, joined your email list, etc. Your existing audience source needs to be at least 1,000 people. 

Get Help Navigating Your Facebook Ads

Digital marketing is an ever-changing landscape. It’s a lot to keep tabs on — especially if you are busy managing your day-to-day business responsibilities. If you’d like to explore Facebook ads or Google ads, our digital team is ready to help. Get in touch and see exactly what we can do for your business.

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