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Understand Google's advertising policies, including ad approval status and account suspension
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Remarketing Lists disabled for targetting Religious Belief?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Google has just disabled my company's entire Remarketing program because we sell "religious" products. This is an absurd interpretation and enforcement of an odd and misguided rule.


Some background information: our company ( has been manufacturing and selling clerical apparel and supplies for church services since 1892. We have been using Google to display ads to people who have already visited our site (remarketing) since late 2012. If a user visits our "clergy shirts" page, they will see ads for clergy shirts. If they visit our "candles" page, they will see ads for candles. We pay google ~$10k a year for these ads and bring in ~$40k - $80k in web revenue from people who click on the ads. We have never received a complaint from a single customer about being targeted with these ads.


Out of nowhere, we received an email from Google telling us that our lists had been disabled because: "Sites or apps providing information, products, or services for or targeted to religious groups may not create userlists. Examples may include places of worship, events, clothing or retail locations which are marketed toward specific religious groups."


First of all, why not? We are not targeting anyone based on their religion, we are targeting based off the fact that they were shopping for our products. We sell products to almost every different denomination of Christianity along with products to the Jewish (candles) and we do work for Muslims as well. We also sell our products to tv/movie and theatrical productions that are not using them for any real religious services. The idea that we cannot market our products to customers that have already expressed an interest in them (by visiting our site) because this somehow discriminatory is nonsense. This rule, and enforcement is 100% discriminatory against us.


What is wrong with selling religious products? Is Google saying that a cross or choir robe is considered the same as a pornographic movie or sex toy? What is objectionable about marketing our products to people who are interested in them?


And where is the line drawn? I asked the Google rep (who was not helpful at all) if companies marketing Christmas decorations would be disabled as well. He said they would not because Christmas is not considered a Christian holiday. What? What kind of nonsense policies and justification for them is Google cooking up? I asked him if companies selling menorahs will be allowed to market them because Google no longer considers Hanukah a Jewish holiday? He dodged the question and tried to change the subject.


Google - what the hell is going on?!?! 

2 Expert replyverified_user

Remarketing Lists disabled for targetting Religious Belief?

[ Edited ]
Rising Star
# 2
Rising Star

First, I can empathize with the sudden loss of a remarketing list. It's not fun, especially when the ROAS is awesome.

I think you  misunderstand what has happened.  It's still okay for you to sell these items.  You can still create search campaigns, video campaigns, and display campaigns. The only thing you can't do now is use a remarketing list for an audience.

While I understand you don't specifically target based on religion, it's easy for the user to infer that's what is happening to them. And that's what drives these decisions. It's user based potential inference, not advertiser intention. It has the potential to make some users uncomfortable, or question how a unrelated website knows to serve it products based on their religious preference. Even when it might not be applicable to every situation, Google will "err on the side of caution" so to speak.  That's the main thing here, Google does not want to create situations that make their users and their publisher partner users uncomfortable.

In my 12 years of doing this, I've learned it's futile to try to bring up other sites/products in respect to policy decisions. You just have to accept that it's not personal, and done in the best interest of the users. Google wants to keep its users happy, which in turn keeps its shareholders happy. 

I think the best thing you can do is calm down and adapt. Advertising on Google is a privilege, not a right.  There are other remarketing platforms out there that should allow you to build a list.  I'd look into criteo, adroll, and perfect audience to start.

Remarketing Lists disabled for targetting Religious Belief?

Top Contributor
# 3
Top Contributor

Hi @Daniel F;

Well...the issue is that Google's privacy Policy is very strict. Any ads that might imply a personal belief, religion, medical condition, or financial  status (e.g bankrupcy) is not allowed. 

I do understand your argument about holiday gift. That said, purchasing religious garments is a stronger signal of a personal belief than sending  gifts for the  holidays, which is a common practice among  friend and colleagues from different religions.

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
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Remarketing Lists disabled for targetting Religious Belief?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 4
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Hi Daniel. I feel your pain as well. I also had my remarketing campaigns stopped for the same reason. Our company sells Islamic-themed artwork and now we can't remarket to them via Google. 

This really is a policy that doesn't make sense. Everyone knows that remarketing is a big part of one's advertising spend and is key to making certain campaigns successful or not. In my case it's even more important because home decor tends to have a longer time to purchase than other products. Remarketing is essential for us.

Why would religion be excluded but not other personal matters.

Are hemp product sellers prohibited from remarketing? How about lingerie companies? Suppliers of LGBT products and services? Are politicians banned for retargeting? That's a deeply personal issue for many. Are lawyers who provide divorce services banned from retargeting? How about those offering career-change services. I'm sure many people wouldn't want others to know about that. How about doll and toy collectors. I'm sure many adults would feel very comfortable with people knowing about that via a remarketing campaign. 

All of these seem a lot more personal than someone shopping for religious-themed clothing, candles or artwork. 

Unless Google draws the line on anything that may be considered personal this does seem quite discriminatory towards companies that provide religious-based products and services. 

I understand how there may be a weird case where this may be hurtful but really, how often would that be? 1/100,000,00? It doesn't make sense to have such vague and crippling restrictions to prevent a very unlikely situation.

Re: Remarketing Lists disabled for targetting Religious Belief?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 5
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Yeah, google has been so strict to personalized ads or interest-based advertising. And it stopped all the remarketing list for any Religion or belief. Below is what google said about that:

Religious belief in personalized advertising
Personal religious beliefs

***Examples: places of worship, religious guidance, religious education or universities, RELIGIOUS PRODUCTS***

Troubleshooter: Religious belief in personalized advertising

Read the policy above to learn what we don't allow. Ensure that your ads, site, or app comply with Personalized advertising policies. Note that even if ads are not targeted using sensitive categories, some types of ad content are still prohibited.

**Remove that content from your site or app. If your site or app has content that we don't allow, remove all content that doesn’t comply with this policy. You'll then need to request a review before moving on to the next step of checking your audience lists."

You can submit to ---- REVIEW MY SITE OR APP --- in google.

Remove that content from your ad.
If your ad violates this policy, edit it to make it comply.
Once you edit and save your ad, it's sent for review. Most ads are reviewed within 1 business day, though some can take longer if they need a more complex review. If we find that you've removed the unacceptable content from your ad and its destination, we can approve your ad to start running.

***Disassociate or remove ad groups targeting audience or remarketing lists. After we review the site or app, the associated lists will be enabled. Ensure that the ads using these lists comply with Personalized advertising policies. If the ads do not comply with Personalized advertising policies, please remove the ad groups or targeting that uses the audience or remarketing lists.

""If you aren't able to fix these violations or choose not to, please remove your ad to help prevent your account from becoming suspended in the future for having too many disapproved ads.""

Remarketing Lists disabled for targetting Religious Belief?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 6
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

It really is a bit too much. Is Google worried that Muhammad from Morocco doesn't want the rest of his colleagues in the IT department to know that he is Muslim because an Islamic-artwork ad showed up on his computer? “You know Muhammad … I had a feeling you were Muslim and this ad proves it!”

Is it to make sure that Dr Singh with the turban is not revealed to be a Sikh or to protect people from knowing that Ari Cohen in HR is Jewish or that Aminah with the hijab in Accounts Receivable is a Muslim?

These are really odd decisions that Google has taken. 

Anyway … I just transferred my remarketing ad spend elsewhere and in doing so was surprised to see how far along other ad platforms have become. A blessing in disguise it seems. Anyone who has seen this happen to them should just search for remarketing platforms. It doesn't seem like anyone deems this to be as sensitive as Google does and they can provide you with much of the same ROI.