If 2020 didn’t have enough unforeseen changes to your business, Google just rolled out another one. And this is a big one to pay attention to for financial marketers — we sure did, here at Kasasa.
On October 19th, Google enacted a new HEC (Housing, Employment, and Credit) policy across all of its advertising platforms, including Google Ads. Keep reading for a quick summary of the new policy and the actions we took in response.
Why is Google making changes?
As Google’s official statement explains, the intent behind these changes is to make sure ads are inclusive — providing fair access to housing, employment, and credit for all users.
In their own words…
“In an effort to improve inclusivity for users disproportionately affected by societal biases...advertisers promoting housing, employment, or credit products or services will no longer be able to target audiences based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code. Any existing campaigns featuring housing, employment, or credit products or services that target the newly restricted audiences will no longer be eligible to serve.”
Why exactly happened? And why should we care?
The policy states that campaigns advertising any form of credit cannot use ZIP code targeting. This is important for Kasasa because that’s the standard method of geographic targeting in most campaigns we run.
The good news is, we can still geotarget ads. Moving forward, any campaign that advertises loans or credit cards must use city, county, or radius targeting. No more serving ads by ZIP code.
So just loans and credit cards then? Not exactly.
As with any new regulation (no matter how noble the aim), there have already been a few hiccups along the way.
Right now, Google is attempting to apply this policy automatically across their 4 million advertiser accounts. But there are a lot of advertisers who don’t clearly fit into a rigid black-and-white policy. Sometimes you need a little more context to make sense of the gray areas.
In Kasasa’s case, the Google algorithm decided that our checking account products fall under the credit category. As a result, all Kasasa campaigns using ZIP code targeting were flagged as potential violators of this policy.
Of course, we didn’t believe they were in violation policy. That’s why we took the time to provide Google with that added context.
What did we do about it?
Again, checking account campaigns should not be affected by this policy. It’s a belief that was supported by Google’s own FAQ. In fact, you’ll see within the FAQS, it specifically mentions that checking accounts are not restricted.
In short, we were sure our campaigns were incorrectly flagged by the algorithm.
For the past several weeks, we’ve worked with our Google account representative to get our ads manually reviewed by the Google Policy Team.
On 10/23, the Policy Team let us know that they agreed with our argument, and they approved our checking account campaigns to use ZIP code targeting.
While we waited on that feedback from Google, we also kept a close eye on our account. Even though the policy was officially enacted on 10/19 — and Google didn’t manually review our ads until 10/23 — we saw no impact to our campaigns during that week.
We’ll continue monitoring impressions and spend to make sure our campaigns aren’t adversely affected.
What are the next steps?
Now that Google agrees our existing Kasasa campaigns are fine to use ZIP code targeting, there are still a few implementation issues to iron out.
The biggest is whether all new campaigns moving forward will require this same manual review approval process. We’re still in close contact with our Google account representative to guarantee new campaigns are approved in time for their scheduled launch — and we’ll stay in close contact for as long as it takes.
This situation is still very fluid for now — and it may be for the next few months — however, as Google's algorithm learns to recognize the nuances of different financial products, the process will naturally streamline and course correct over time.
What about loan or credit campaigns?
Google Ads campaigns for Kasasa Loans, credit cards, or any other loan/credit product will need to switch to city-level, county-level, or radius targeting (or a combination of the three).
Of course, if you’re running campaigns for those products, there’s no need to stress. Your Client Marketing Consultant or other Kasasa representative will reach out to you for a revised list of geo-targets to replace any ZIP codes if necessary.