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Advertising Sex Toys On Social Media & in Search — is it even possible?

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

It’s understandable that Social Media and Search Engines are somewhat squeamish about advertising and promotions around the adult category. In particular for Sex Toys, but as a digital marketer working for a media agency, I constantly but up against the challenge (and not just in this category) of ‘what can we do for the client’ whilst also a) not breaching the rules of a platform and in this case being respectful of the audience.

Let’s give this some background shall we…

Facebook (& Instagram), Twitter, Pinterest, Google & Bing — among others — all have basically the same rules for the adult advertising category. You can promote products for safe sex eg. condoms for protective sex, but you cannot promote products for enhancement of sex or for sexual pleasure eg. condoms for sexual pleasure. And obviously all ads must be aimed at over 18s only.

It’s this second bit that automatically rules out the sex toys for most platforms, but all those names also make explicit mention of this too — though Google do say they may run text ads under certain circumstances.

Are Sex Toys Banned from Social Media Ads?

Yes. For a number of years the big players have made a point of rejecting ads and clamping down several times.

There are several examples of ads being blocked repeatedly by those attempting to advertise sex toys such as dildos, fleshlights or other adult toys.

Adult Toys Banned from Facebook Ads

Here are the policies that make a difference: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google & Bing.

Interestingly in recent times, Bing in particular have become more nuanced in the approach they have taken, they allow approved advertisers to place ads in certain ways (quite quickly too) and other advertisers can advertise but they are vetted. Google is also more open to adult advertising but it’s careful when and how it’s accepted.


What are the workarounds for Adult Category Advertising Online?

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Advertising on Social Media can be done for adult categories, you just have to be a little clever about it if you want to climb to success.

The reality is that you may find you path blocked at 80% of the things I say may work below, not everything will work in every case, but it’s the 80/20 rule — and that 20% could be the difference between a few sales and a fortune in sales. Plus, not all of these are my own successful stories of workarounds.

nb. take the below ideas as inspiration to build your own workaround, share them with others in the industry, share this post, comment on it with your own ideas and success. We know sex toys will remain banned for a while yet, but these workarounds are for now what we have to work with.

Firstly, Do NOT Use a Picture of the Product!

Seriously, it’s banned almost everywhere — and even if you do post it (not in an advert) it will hit a ‘adult / graphic filter’ and need unblocking, instantly making people think … err ‘whats this porn?’ — you have instantly made your post NSFW and the commute to work.

Second, Don’t Mention It In The Title!

It’s pretty clear that you can’t mention that your product is a vibrator or anything like that in your page title, the text of the advert, on the image you use or anything like that.

You can’t mention that the product is for sexual pleasure or to enhance your sex life, or anything of that sort — at least not in text of the advert or in the image or anything like that.

So what are the workarounds you are saying…

My top tip is to get to grips with being creative.

Lioness, used videos to read what their user feedback was about their vibrator and managed to get it on facebook advertising platforms (mainly Instagram) where it went huge!

Lioness was crowdfunding at the time and needed a way to get eye and clicks on their page, to get investment / pledges. It worked a treat.

Beyond video, think about using images that are fun and interesting, not just of your packaging (there is nothing more boring than a picture of your box! It does NOT sell your product at all I assure you, it doesn’t matter if you cover it in feathers or roses…) but that will engage people — perhaps find a way of engaging users with a piece of content that is tangential to your product, its often easier to find images for these type of content than directly for sex toys.

My next tip, is to remember that Sex Toys are NORMAL — they are not NAUGHTY. Calling something naughty creates a stigma, it always has, thats why people won’t go into a adult shop for fear of thinking ‘oh who is going to see me’ or they think ‘i wonder if that online shop delivers in a plain box or with their logo on it’ — its all stigma… Sex is Normal, Sex Toys are Normal. Stop thinking of it as Naughty, Stop treating it as Naughty. And most importantly Stop using the ‘naughty’ language to describe your sex toys.

My final tip, avoid personalising your ads. In particular Facebook has a dislike for ads which are focused on individuals and pushing products or services on to them. Telling them something will do something for them, or that they need something is likely to be seen in a bad way if you get reviewed and if on of your ads gets reviewed you may find they all do — and any that have been OK before may now not be. Do not use language such as ‘you need’ or ‘you could’ or ‘this could be your’ or ‘the best thing you’ it simply doesn’t help.


Away from social media here are a few tips to help you advertise in the adult category:

There are some top places I would advertise if you are looking for cheap clicks or the ‘right eyes’ — first up exoclick advertising platform has a number of adult sites listed and is fairly cheap. There is of course Reddit which has a hugely active adult category and really cheap advertising- it will take some tuning in but its that cheap that its worth it. Next up, go Native and Organic, use naked social media and also blog … build your own net worth and traction — also use other bloggers and reach out — if you’ve a product reach out and build a relationship.

Finally, don’t forget that Google and Bing do allow ads, you just have to be wary of what you say — follow their rules to the T or you will get banned, your whole account.

Do you have any tips for getting around the adult categories advertising filters? leave a comment.