Marketing a theater production with no access to Facebook or Instagram ads is no easy feat.
Unfortunately for this Toronto theater company, they’re having to do just that.
Daresay Productions’ upcoming play “Deputy Prime Minister Collimore” is a satirical one. It tells the fictional story of a second-in-command politician who becomes disillusioned after his country’s leader begins embracing an increasingly anti-democratic agenda. The stage play is wholly rooted in make-believe — a satire, says its producer — and yet Facebook has rejected Daresay’s advertisements due to their “political” nature.
“Simply put, they refused to run our campaign solely because our play involves politics, which sets a very unsettling precedent,” said Jennie Brodski, the play’s author and producer, in an email to the Star. Brodski is also a lawyer in Toronto.
She says the initial takeaway from her conversation with Facebook after the ad was rejected the first time was that it was too “political.” The ad by Daresay was a photo of the main character, with an overlay of text that read, “Deputy Prime Minister Collimore. A gripping new political drama about the cost of war, loyalty, and betrayal.”
She says she was instructed to edit the photo, which she did removing the word “political,” but she says Facebook continued to reject the ad, even after she resubmitted it several times. Brodski says Facebook refused to tell her why they kept rejecting the ad.
“This decision is final,” wrote a Facebook representative in a final email to Brodski.
“Please note we are not allowed to share the exact policy violation with you,” the email from Facebook continued. “This information could be used by bad actors, to circumvent the review system and our efforts to foster a positive and (safe) environment on Facebook.”
This decision is frustrating for Brodski, who engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth with Facebook representatives over this issue. She alleges it places the financial future of “Deputy Prime Minister Collimore” at risk.
“There’s nothing in their policy that explicitly forbids plays or artistic works about fictional politicians,” Brodski said in an interview.
“Your ad may have been rejected because it mentions politicians or is about sensitive social issues that could influence public opinion, how people vote and may impact the outcome of an election or pending legislation,” wrote a Facebook support representative in a series of exchanges with Brodski, which she shared with the Star.
Facebook says its ad review system relies primarily on automated tools to check ads for violations of its advertising policies.
According to its website, Facebook’s automated system reviews “specific components of an ad, such as images, video, text, and targeting information, as well as an ad’s associated landing page or other destinations, among other information.”
“They’re dominant in the area of targeted advertising,” Brodski said. “There isn’t another place for a small play like this to advertise.”
Brodski had budgeted to spend up to approximately $1,000 on ads across Facebook and Instagram if they’d been approved by Meta, the apps’ parent company.
She finds the ban on “Deputy Prime Minister Collimore” ads particularly chilling given the social media giant’s track record of unverified political ads.
“In the wake of Facebook’s past behavior, it’s perplexing to see Facebook ban a fully-verified stage play that met every one of its listed requirements,” she explained in an email.
“Specifically, a play that advocates the simple non-partisan message that ‘requesting transparency from those in power is a good idea.'”
“This is highly discretionary,” Brodski said.
The Star reached out to Facebook for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
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