Linux Server Wrangler (Middle-Weight Class) /w touch of DevOps. Ex-Projectionist, Geek, Android Abuser & Gravely Gay! ;) Opinions noted here are mine, all mine!

facebook-does-not-like-the-black-cock-inn

Two of my best friends left recently took over one of the oldest and well known pubs in the Caerphilly area (found just north of Cardiff, in Wales): The Black Cock Inn. I’ve been giving them a hand over the last six months, helping them to build their online presence with a new, modern, website, a Facebook page and now Twitter and Google+ accounts.

This is all in an effort to rebuild the business after the decline during the tenancy the previous owner and an effort to buck the general trend facing many pubs across the country. We’re all relatively young people, well versed in the ways of status updates, retweeting and ‘lol’. So for us the explosion in social media (and our versatility with it) makes this a perfect opportunity for us to try and reconnect with people in the area who have forgotten about the pub, but more importantly, also to try reach a new generation of potential customers.

And it is working. As of this morning, we have 425 likes on the Facebook page, and although the Twitter account is a few days old, we’re up to 14 followers.

Some the growth on Facebook was accomplished by advertising to promote the page. Between June 2nd and 6th this year – just after the pub re-opened under new management – I spent £20 to start building their presence as a tester. Making sure that it was targeted to within 10 miles of the pub and to only people above the age of 18 (erring on the cautious side of the law as we’re a pub, serving alcoholic beverages), we reached just over 19,500 people making almost 90,000 impressions. 79 likes, and almost 50 other actions; we were pleased.

Between July 2nd and 8th we tried again, although this time based around some posts and more specific advertising of events and offers. We made just over 115,000 impressions reaching at least 29,000 people in the area and received 130 likes and 227 total actions.

However, on this occasion trying to advertise with Facebook was more difficult – for some reason, some (but not all) of the ads were being rejected. The ‘reasons’ line in their reply e-mail was empty and there was no-one I could contact to find out what what was happening and why. However, if I just kept trying they would be eventually accepted and approved.

About two weeks ago, we noticed that Facebook finally made their ‘Offer’ section available for some Facebook pages: Enter in the offer, add a photo, limit, expiration and terms, and you can target a specific offer to those that have liked your page or the local area. A great way to further build our on-line presence and activity on the page and drive customers back to the pub. Facebook had other plans. See, you need to ‘pay’ for these, or more specifically you need pay them to promoted them on their site. They cannot just be created and given to the page freely, and this is where we are falling foul of their new ‘rules’.

You Are Profane, Vulgar or Offensive

When I popped into the Advertising section I saw that we were rejected; a visit to my Facebook folder in my e-mail account told me why:

The word choice in the body or title of your ad violates
our Ad guidelines. We do not allow the use of profane,
vulgar, or threatening language. Facebook does not accept
ads that insult, harass, or demean users. Anything language
that addresses age, gender, race, physical condition,
sexual preference of a user or generates high negative
feedback will not be allowed.

Before resubmitting your ad, please visit our Help Center
at the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/help/?page=245316378826196

This will provide additional information and examples that
are compliant with our advertising guidelines.

If your ad was disapproved but believe it should have been
approved, please contact us using the form at
https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/?id=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Of course, I felt it should have been approved. I’m not nieve and understand that both ‘Cock’ and ‘Black Cock’ can be an issue within our title. After rebuilding the website and a little bit of SEO, we’re now on the first page of Google’s listings for ‘black cock’ (7th at last check) and we’re number 1 for ‘blackcock’.

However, I believe (and still do) that the name in and of itself is not offensive. ‘Cock’ has multiple meanings, including:

  • the firing arm on a gun;
  • reference to a flow restriction device used in plumbing; and
  • the original German source of the world: the generic name for a male bird (to which The Black Cock Inn is named: A Black Rooster).

And so begins my battle for common sense:

You’re Still Using a Vulgar Word…

Follow is now the e-mail trail sent between myself and Facebook over the last 10 days to try and resolve this:

To: The Facebook Ads Team
From: Jonathan Wright
Subject: why was my advert not approved?
Date: November 26th, 2012

We have alot of issues trying to advertise with yourselves.
The pub which I am trying to advertise for is called 'The
Black Cock Inn'. It has been called this for the better
part of 50 years in the area and references a Cockerel or
Rooster (as can be seen in the logo on their facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/theblackcockinn) of which local
phraseology references a Mail Chicken as a 'Cock'.

It seams to be quite hit-and-miss as to who is approving
our advert as to whether or not it gets approved.

I don't believe the language is vulgar or is in itself
profane and therefore should be reconsidered. We have
advertised a number of times with yourselves and don't
believe we have ever had an issue or complaint regarding
the advertising.

I look forward to your response regarding this issue.

--
Jonathan Wright
To: Jonathan Wright
From: The Facebook Ads Team
Subject: Re: why was my advert not approved?
Date: November 27th, 2012

Hi Jonathan,

This ad has been disapproved for using language that is not
appropriate to run on Facebook.  We do not accept ads that
use profanity or other language that is insulting or
degrading.  If you’d like to submit your ad again, you’ll
need to remove any such language.

Thanks,

N.........
Platform Advertising
Facebook
To: The Facebook Ads Team
From: Jonathan Wright
Subject: Re: why was my advert not approved?
Date: November 27th, 2012

On 2012-11-27 10:30, The Facebook Ads Team wrote:
> Hi Jonathan, This ad has been disapproved for using
> language that is not appropriate to run on Facebook. We
> do not accept ads that use profanity or other language
> that is insulting or degrading. If you’d like to submit
> your ad again, you’ll need to remove any such language.

It is not profane language. I have submitted the advert
without "The Black Cock Inn" in it:

- - - - -
20% off Food this December (Monday to Thursday inclusive)

Terms:
Offer starts November 26th 2012; expires December 20th
2012. Can only be used against food purchases from our
Daily Menu (not Christmas Menu) made between Monday and
Thursday inclusive. Cannot be used in combination with any
other offer, and is not exchangeable for cash. Only one
voucher accepted per bill and must be presented before
payment. No photocopies will be accepted. This offer may
be cancelled at any time. Manager's decision is final.
- - - - -

This was still rejected as using profane language on the
bases of the name of the page is belongs to. This is the
name of the pub and (as previously noted) is over 50 years
old. The word 'cock' is not profane language in this
context, and in many contexts:

cock (noun.)
1. a. An adult male chicken; a rooster.
   b. An adult male of various other birds.
2. A weathervane shaped like a rooster; a weathercock.
3. A leader or chief.
4. A faucet or valve by which the flow of a liquid or gas
   can be regulated.
5. a. The hammer of a firearm.
   b. The position of the hammer of a firearm when ready
      for firing.

As you can see, there are many uses of this which are true,
correct and not vulgar in the English language.
Unfortunately, your systems are automatically blocking us
based on this single word and this is causing the problems.

I cannot change the name of the business, as that is the
genuine name, and I can provide evidence of this.

Please provide a solution to this issue so that we can
continue to use Facebook as a means to communicate with
our customers.

--
Jonathan Wright
To: Jonathan Wright
From: The Facebook Ads Team
Subject: Re: why was my advert not approved?
Date: November 28th, 2012

Hi Jonathan,

In that case, the ad should be approved this time. Do let
me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks,

N.........
Platform Advertising
Facebook
To: The Facebook Ads Team
From: Jonathan Wright
Subject: Re: why was my advert not approved?
Date: November 27th, 2012

On 2012-11-28 7:39, The Facebook Ads Team wrote:
Hi Jonathan, In that case, the ad should be approved this
time. Do let me know if you have any other questions.

I have just tried it now, and it was still rejected within
about 90 seconds.

http://www.facebook.com/theblackcockinn/posts/380358558715333

This is getting frustrating now - you're automated systems
are just straight up banning us in a crude and ineffective
mannor and this is preventing us from using your site (and
paying you) to build and grow our business in the local
area.

Today is also the last day that the promotion credit which
I received on creating our first offer runs out and as such
it will now be lost?

What are you able to do to prevent this issue from occurring
in the future and can you provide us with the coupon for
the advertising again?

--
Jonathan Wright
To: Jonathan Wright
From: The Facebook Ads Team
Subject: Re: why was my advert not approved?
Date: November 29th, 2012

Hi Jonathan,

The creative still shows "Black Cock Inn" and hence is
being rejected. Please make sure you are not using
offensive words in your creative even if it is the actual
name of your place.

Please re-create the ad and submit it again.

Thanks,

N.........
Platform Advertising
Facebook
To: The Facebook Ads Team
From: Jonathan Wright
Subject: Re: why was my advert not approved?
Date: November 29th, 2012

On 2012-11-29 3:32, The Facebook Ads Team wrote:
> The creative still shows "Black Cock Inn" and hence is
> being rejected. Please make sure you are not using
> offensive words in your creative even if it is the
> actual name of your place.

This not an offensive word.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_origin_of_the_word_'cock'

How can I not use the name of the pub in our Facebook page
and advert when I am trying to advertise the Pub? That's
like saying, here, have a discount at a pub in Caerphilly,
but I'm not allowed to tell you which one.

Considering that there are around 100 pubs within the
vicinity and we're trying to re-establish a pub which has
been left to languish in the region for the last 10 years
by the previous owner by using new and more modern methods
of reaching to local population, to simply say I'm not
allowed to use the name of the pub in advertising is
ridiculous and a grossly over simplification of the
English language. A terrible knee-jerk reaction.

Plus, given that we must get authorisation from yourselves
to change the name on our page to something different, I
don't see that being allowed either.

I have previously advertised on your site (in June, and
later, but with more difficulty in July). Were any
complains received then when we reached 19,500 and 28,000
people respectively? (note that due to Alcohol advertising
guidelines, I can only advertise to people ages 18 and over
and this is a hard limit, which I have always selected on
all occasions, so would never be shown to minors anyway.)

Also, this name is not unique. I believe there are currently
5 or 6 pubs in the UK (including ours) which have the name
"The Black Cock Inn", three of which are actively registered
with Companies House in the UK (which has it's own
guidelines on naming of companies that cover offensive use
of words and phrases):

http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk/d010534c3380b863797e1e28ab0dc958/compdetails
http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk/d010534c3380b863797e1e28ab0dc958/compdetails
http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk/d010534c3380b863797e1e28ab0dc958/compdetails

How can it be right that a company be registered with
official government bodies in the UK but you regard it as
offensive because of one word taken out of context?

--
Jonathan Wright

Unfortunately, the links to Companies House seam to be session-based, so will no longer work, but visit to Companies House and their WebCHeck system and search for ‘black cock’ will show you the results I link to here.

Plus, to date, I have yet to receive a response… One more try though:

To: The Facebook Ads Team
From: Jonathan Wright
Subject: Re: why was my advert not approved?
Date: December 5th, 2012

I am still waiting on a response to my previous submission
(included below) and more specifically, why, when Companies
House - a UK Government body managing the registration of,
and public data from, all companies based in England and
Wales - allows companies to be called "The Black Cock Inn"
and you do not.

Sections 53-55 and 1197-8 of the Companies Act 2006
specifically deals with names, and states that they cannot
include "sensitive" words and expressions, or words that
would constitute an offence and offensive names.

Plus, given that Company Number 07412409 of "THE BLACK COCK
INN (BROUGHTON-IN-FURNESS) LTD" was incorporated on October
19th, 2010, after the assention of this act, the name
therefore passes these rules: It must be clearly acceptable
in general society and therefore your assertion that it is
offensive I believe is invalid.

Please clarify this position. I expect a response in due
course.

--
Jonathan Wright

We can but hope for something in reply.

It’s frustrating to deal with a situation like this – we’ve advertised freely in local papers and in public. This is a pub with strong ties to the local community and history (through the 70’s was a favourite hang-out for the Welsh rugby team).

In the world of modern, partially automated advertising and through the fear of ‘offending’ someone, we are being censored. This is obviously not right, and maybe to give a little pressure by highlighting the problem we’re facing, I felt it would be nice to go public with this.

I understand and appreciate that some words and phrases shouldn’t be used, for example ‘fuck’ in any context shouldn’t be allowed. However, this is different and a blanket ban on the word and/or phrase is, for me, offensive as it reduces language  grammar and context to a simple formula which, for us at least, is returning a false positive.

A little bit of common sense would allow them to realise that in this case there is something wrong, and either put a white-list override for our page (or a note to be more lenient with us in these circumstances), or adjust their filter to make better decisions around the context on which the word is being used.

I only hope that for our case, and those that may follow, a little bit of pressure on them my help them come to the right decision in the end.


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