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Why Am I Not Seeing My Ads?

Every good ad campaign, no matter the platform or placement, should begin with a thorough consultation in which you and your agency set measurable goals, outline your target audience and establish a clear budget. But once completed, physical ads are approved and launched, you can be left with additional questions. No matter what the placement, be it Facebook, broadcast television, display networks, Google AdWords or others, advertising professionals hear the common question: “Why am I not seeing my ads?”  Barring some error in ad placement, there are a number of reasons why you might not be seeing your ads once they’ve been launched. Here are some common reasons why you might not see your ads “in the wild.”


Every ad campaign worth running should have a specific, defined and refined audience target. This keeps you, the client, from spending money on impressions, clicks and interactions that aren’t likely to result in your desired action (video view, form submission, offer claim or other action). With the maturity of platforms and depth of targeting offered today, advertisers are able to pinpoint their target audience based on demographic, behavioral and historical info. Facebook alone has nearly 100 top-level data points that advertisers can base their targeting on, many of which contain dozens of variables found within each category. Talk about hyper targeting!

Given the complexity of these targeting possibilities, it’s not likely that advertisers are targeting an audience exactly like you, so it would make sense you would not personally be served your Facebook ads in your timeline, or even see your commercial spot during your nightly Hulu binge sessions. Targeting, time, place and intent all play a part in who sees what ads, and when and where they see them.

Behavioral Variables

Do you ever feel like you’re being followed by ads on the internet? Do you wonder why you see Facebook ads for the shoes you viewed on Amazon or the local plumber whose site you visited after searching for recommendations on Google? These are retargeting ads, ads served to users as a result of a specific action taken. This can include a click on a related ad, a visit to a specific site page, an interaction with a piece of social content and more. These kinds of retargeting ads are just one example of variable-based advertising. As a client, you should always be aware of the advertising tactics your ad partner will be utilizing, but it goes without saying that if you are not performing these actions, you would not be “eligible” to see these ads.

Suppression and Exclusion Lists

Since many digital advertising campaigns are charged by the impression (the number of people who see your ad) or click, it is important for advertisers to be good stewards of the client’s ad budget. To help with this potential problem, advertisers can outline both who should and should NOT see your ads, through complex and comprehensive ad targeting. For example, a home lender may not want to serve ads to users who have purchased a home in the last six months.

On platforms like Google AdWords, advertisers can block ads from displaying in specific geographic areas. They can also utilize “negative keywords” to make sure ads don’t display for certain searches. Even more specifically, certain IP addresses can be blocked from being served ads as well. Similarly, for some campaigns, advertisers are able to exempt entire workplaces (such as a company’s office and all other remote offices) or even competitors from seeing your ads. If you and your advertising partner decide at the onset of a campaign that you should exclude users with certain qualities, you may not see your ads.

Time and Place

When and where (physically) you show your audience your ads is just as important as to whom you show them. Online ads can be built to only be served to users when they’re within a certain physical area. Additionally, ads can be served based on the time of day, sometimes with different messaging and creative served for those different times. As a result, if you’re not in a certain place at a certain time, you may not see your ads.

Also worth noting are some time-based budgetary constraints. With many digital advertising platforms, advertisers can set maximum daily budgets (think Facebook and Google AdWords) to help control spend. If your ad receives a high rate of interaction in the morning, enough to hit the daily allotted budget, it would make sense that your ad would not be displayed after hitting that limit. So if you’re “Googling” yourself in the afternoon to take a look at your ads running through AdWords, you might come up empty handed… but hopefully your SEO endeavors have that covered, right?

Technical Difficulties

Did you know there are rules regarding what you can and can’t say, based on industry, for Google AdWords ads? Did you know Facebook can limit your impressions based on the images and copy you use in your ad creative? If your advertising partner hasn’t thought all of these things through, you, or anyone else, might not see your ads. Outside of these parameters, sometimes ad platforms can be temperamental. Ads get flagged for “violating” terms of use or guidelines. Platforms fail. Settings get “un-set.” There are dozens of problems per platform that can potentially go awry with an ad campaign, and this is why it’s so important to choose a competent advertising partner.

With all these potential pitfalls in mind, advertisers certainly don’t want clients to stop asking why they aren’t seeing their ads in all instances. In fact, a curious and involved client is always preferable to an apathetic one. Our hope is that after becoming more familiar with all of these potential factors, everyone can walk away with a better idea of who is seeing what, when, where and why.