Oh FFS, Meta Is Hallucinating Return Policies Now

Meta Shop goes off the rails and changes the return policies of a merchant without the brand’s knowledge or permission. Their solution: The nuclear option.

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Oh FFS, Meta Is Hallucinating Return Policies Now

Meta Shop goes off the rails and changes the return policies of a merchant without the brand’s knowledge or permission. Their solution: The nuclear option.

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META • Putting ‘Fake’ Return Policies on Products

Meta’s obsession with AI has turned up some positives. Better results from broad audiences, faster appeals, that sort of thing.

But lately it seems that more often than not, Meta’s AI gets a little drunk on its own power, and decides that it knows better than you.

  • What, you didn’t want that product photo cropped? Too bad.

  • You don’t think that body copy and headline combination speaks like your brand? Too bad.

Until now, AI’s unwanted insertions into your marketing have been just a mild pain in the butt. But now, at least for one marketer, Meta is changing things far deeper than just a misplaced headline.

Matt Snow is the the co-founder of Boredwalk, a company that specializes in gifts. They sell t-shirts, which of course they accept returns on, and some printed products which they do not. Those return policies are clearly stated on their Shopify store, which they’ve connected to Meta to run ads.

“One of our CS people slacked me and said, you know, a customer placed an order for this item that we don't typically accept returns on and she wants to do a return.”

Indeed, a screenshot of the ad in question shows text reading “This product can be returned within 30 days of delivery.” It was placed on a product which is not returnable.

As far as Matt could tell, Meta’s AI sort of hallucinated on his product pages.

“It seems to have just taken the very first sentence of the page where it says ‘We accept returns and exchanges for most items within 30 days of delivery,’ and it's just like, okay, so clearly they accept returns and exchange on everything within 30 days, full stop.“


Since Meta’s mass layoffs last year, it’s been harder to find a human being to help. Matt’s company did spend enough to warrant a rep, though he says she was pretty green and just following a script. Plus, she left, and was replaced by a rolling series of other reps, equally green.

Nevertheless, he collected some screenshots and sent an email to the last two reps he’d had dealings with.

MATT: I'll be lucky if I get a response to this email (A) ever or (B) within eight weeks. That's usually about the average reply timeline that I'm looking at when I contact anyone directly via email at Meta.

TOD: Have you been able to find a workaround?

MATT: Yes, I went into the Shopify backend and I changed our return shipping window from 30 days to zero days and now it just says does not accept returns.

TOD: But does that not apply then to all of your products in Shopify, even the ones that you do accept returns on?

MATT: That is correct, at least as far as Instagram and Facebook Shop is concerned.

TOD: Is it worth it? To be running on Meta if this is what's going on? Like, are they driving that much revenue?

MATT: For us right now, yes. But the clock is ticking on how much longer that's going to be the case because the acquisition costs are going up, the efficiency is going down. The problem is that diverting that marketing budget to another channel and having similar success is very, very unlikely. We can't just move it over to Google. Google is very much about demand capture as opposed to demand generation. Our products are very demand generation leaning. Most people don't know they exist until we put them in front of their faces.

We reached out to Meta to see how widespread this issue is, and did not hear back by deadline.

But — word of warning, perhaps, if you sell products through Shopify’s connection to Meta Shop, it might be worth double-checking to make sure your ads aren’t making up return policies too.

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TIKTOK • Call-to-Arms Backfires; Bill Moves Ahead

TikTok asked for help, and it got it — but that help may have come with a big cost.

This week, American legislators advanced a bipartisan bill that would force TikTok to leave its Chinese ownership behind, or face a national ban. The bill also would let future presidents ban any other app they want, if they’re owned or run by an adversary of the U.S.

Yesterday, TikTok started popping notifications up on its American users’ screens telling them to call their representatives. And in the app itself, a button that when tapped would place a call to the lawmaker from the users’ jurisdiction.

And call, they did.

Congressional offices got a barrage of calls demanding lawmakers vote against the bill. Some offices got as many as 50 calls, according to Semafor.

Some users filmed themselves enthusiastically joining the app's call to arms.

"If you ban TikTok, I will kill myself," one caller said, according to Politico's Olivia Beavers.

Axios reported that some lawmakers' offices turned off their phones during the flood of calls.

TikTok says the ban would “damage millions of businesses… and destroy the livelihoods of countless content creators."

Honestly, it’s been a little confusing to watch this whole will-they-ban or won’t-they-ban thing.

In case you’re playing along at home:

  • Former president Trump started the fight as an executive order…

  • Which current president Biden cancelled….

  • Then Biden said he supported a ban…

  • But then the White House opened an account on the app and started using it…

  • Now, yesterday, Trump said actually he’s cool with TikTok being owned by the Chinese and the real problem is the American owned Meta, which he called “the enemy of the people.”

So yeah, the messaging from both sides is a little scattered.

As for the phone campaign, one representative’s assistant told Axios that TikTok's strategy was "backfiring, as members are livid about all the calls and misinformation."

And now, just a day after the calls started pouring in, a committee has voted to advance the bill. That committee is made up of 50 lawmakers from both parties — the vote was unanimous.

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CREATIVE • “Bad Ads” Are Getting More Frequent

A new report from Forrester says "bad ads" are on the rise, and they're making it tougher for the good ones to get through.

These troublesome ads range from scams to those loaded with malware, and their proliferation is attributed to the advent of generative AI and a surplus of ad space.

According to the report, there are five main types of bad ads, each posing different levels of risk to consumers and marketers alike. The most harmful are those designed to scam users or infect devices with malware, while the least harmful may simply be miscategorized or fail to load correctly.

But what’s of interest to marketers, I think, is that these bad ads are becoming the norm, rather than the exception.

Why the growth?

For one, AI is being deployed at scale to generate deceptive ads.

And layoffs and churn has caused a reduction of people in marketing roles, who traditionally served as gatekeepers to prevent such ads from seeing the light of day.

Forrester suggests that creating a price floor could be one strategy to combat the issue, as it would deter low-quality ad creators unwilling to invest in distribution.

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CREATIVE • Campaigns Fail to Represent Women

Even if the ads out there aren’t all bad, per se, one new study from CreativeX on this International Women’s Day says they’re not doing a good job of showing different types of people.

The study looked at more than 32,000 ads globally, and found that the ad creative still skews away from depicting dark-skinned and older women. These groups remain underrepresented, receiving only a fraction of screen time and ad spending.

CreativeX’s CEO points out a significant "gap between intent and action" within the industry. Although there's talk of change, the numbers tell a different story. She said there’s been an unusually cautious approach by advertisers, opting for a "zone of neutrality" to avoid backlash.

The report found that, yes, many campaigns do feature women in non-traditional roles, but when you look at the spend behind those campaigns, it’s tiny — not even 4% of spend on ads featuring women showed them in non-traditional roles like management and leadership.

LinkedIn data from 2021 found that women held 60% of all North American marketing jobs, and 52% of CMO roles.

Google Ads is now capping the number of country-level exclusions you can add to your campaigns. The new limit is 120 countries.

This, of course, made some media buyers nervous that this was the start of Google just straight-up removing the ability to fine tune targeting in that way — like Performance Max largely is — but a Google spokesperson said they’re not planning to pull it entirely.

Instead, Google's Ads Liaison said they’d prefer it if you just used positive targeting for the few countries you want to include, rather than negative targeting for those you want to exclude.

It is a little strange to me that they’re capping it this way. They’re not wrong, of course. There are 195 countries in the world. It’s faster to just go with positive than a huge list of negatives. But maybe that’s just the workflow of some marketers. Maybe that’s the way they do it on other platforms, and it’s simpler to copy-and-paste.

But regardless, Google has already put that cap in place and if, for some reason, you hit that 120-country limit, you will not be able to exclude any more.

BUGS • Google Business Profile Platform Buggy

Yesterday, a number of bugs on the Google Business Profiles platform showed up.

Those tools are:

So you might notice error messages, or a frozen screen past a step-by-step screen.

Google says it’s aware of the problem and a fix is underway.

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