During a recent marketing focus for my gym, I turned to Facebook advertising on the advice of a trusted friend and successful business owner.
“My biggest suggestion?” He offered one afternoon after I described my strategic growth plan. “Literally ten bucks a week on Facebook ads that target a five mile radius.”
Short money, specific audience. Piece of cake, right?
Rewind to late August of this year. I own CrossFit Lowell in Massachusetts, which houses my soft tissue treatment room. I was looking to tease the two businesses apart a bit, to encourage the general population and CrossFitters at other gyms to come in and see me for their injuries and pains. I recruited an athlete who could work a camera and another who needed some hamstring work for an impromptu photo shoot in my office, hoping to use some of the shots on my new website. There are two key points to bear in mind here: firstly, that it was August in Massachusetts, and secondly, that CrossFit gyms, including my own, don’t generally have air conditioning. In addition to the quick treatment, I was coaching that day, in humidity that rivaled the best New Orleans has to offer.
So, I was in a tank top.
Back to today – in an attempt to reach the niche market of people who are active but injured, I dipped into the vault to find a picture of myself working on an athlete for my targeted Facebook ad. I included a little blurb about my office and invited people to email me to schedule an appointment. This is the picture I used:
I posted on my business’ own page, set my boost budget, and went on to continue exploring other marketing opportunities.
Several minutes later, I got this message in my Facebook email center:
Look, I understand that Facebook can set whatever guidelines they want for promoted ads. I understand that it’s my job to adhere to them. But the fact that I’ve got bare arms and a little (in fact) slice of cleavage showing shouldn’t equate to… I don’t know – skin-volume shaming?
A quick scroll through my feed showed an ad where two women are sitting in an open foyer. One of them is wearing a skirt so short that her laptop covers the fabric, revealing her legs from about six inches above the knee to her ankles. The other is in a sleeveless top.
Another ad features women in a yoga studio in various poses, all of them wearing tank tops.
Still another ad shows a group of people holding up wine glasses in a toast. All three of the women in the ad are wearing either sleeveless tops or blouses with low-cut necklines.
So this begs the question – why was this photo flagged as inappropriate? Does it follow that every time I step out onto my street wearing a tank top, I “typically evoke a negative reaction” from people who see me? Three appeals later, and the ad was still not approved.
The most offensive part of this is that Facebook suggested I fix my post by “using content that focuses on your product or service rather than the model”. This tells me that my boosted post was either reviewed by a robot with a flesh-detecting algorithm or by a human being with no common sense. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to show effective soft tissue treatment without at least two people in the picture. Since I am the practitioner, I’m also the model. I’d like a concise explanation as to how this photo does not focus on my product or service.
I need to highlight, italicize, and underline the fact that I never seek to sexualize what I do as a manual therapist. We fight this tide regularly. To carry my professional liability insurance in Massachusetts, I am required to sign a document annually that guarantees I will not engage in or promote sexualized massage or human trafficking. The suggestion that I am attempting to focus potential customers on my skin rather than on my technique is repulsive and deeply insulting.
The more global issue is that I should be able to wear whatever I want to promote a business I own without being body-shamed for it or having my appearance sexualized for me. This rejection by Facebook, no matter how they attempt to sugar-coat the reason for their disapproval, is part of the much larger dress code debate happening nationwide. With all of the other misogynistic B.S. Facebook has invited in the past and taken a wholesale beating for, you’d think they’d exercise a little more caution when reviewing ads for which they are constantly fracking.
But, I’m a reasonable individual, so I’m submitting the following image for approval instead:
See? Far less distracting! Really helps you focus a lot more on my product or service, don’t you think?