READ TIME: 3 minutes

You know Ramadan, of course. It’s the time of year when millions of Muslims around the world take time to reflect, fast, pray, and give. And, it’s happening right now.

But does Google know Ramadan? Well, sort of. Read on…

One of the most important religious obligations in Islam is Zakat — making contributions to people in need. During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims make a special contribution called Zakat al-Fitr in addition to other forms of required Zakat. It is a core religious practice, and nowadays many Muslims make Zakat donations to eligible organizations. 

This is where M+R comes in and so does Google (unfortunately!). 

You see, we work with a number of organizations who receive Zakat donations during Ramadan. And so, as usual for this time of year, we launched YouTube ads for our clients referencing Ramadan and Zakat, and targeting previous donors and site visitors. Like we do. 

Google rejected the ads because, as they tell it, “religious belief in personalized advertising” is not allowed on their platform when targeting a specific audience. We get it: this policy is intended to prevent hate speech.

Still, our ads team felt like something didn’t add up. Was the policy being fairly applied across different religions or … not? So, we did a little experiment. We duplicated the Zakat ads and replaced all Muslim faith references with Christian faith references. The ads that contained references to the Christian faith were approved within an hour.

It’s a bummer to be right, especially when being right means that a major advertising — and everything else — platform is enforcing policy inequitably. 

We asked Google for an explanation. They had none, but said, ah, yes, we’ll also reject the Christian ads going forward. So then we made additional Christian-focused ads and they were also approved.

See what we mean? And, what the hell?

Here’s the thing: Google claims they’re committed to “strengthening [their] commitment to racial equity and inclusion.” This feels like a chance to walk that talk but so far, nope. We’re still pressing. They’re still resisting. And that is not okay, not with us, not with our clients and not with the millions of Muslims who deserve fair treatment. 

Do better, Google. We’re waiting. 


Hunter Froehlich, Managing Media Director, M+R, has been working with non-profit organizations since he started his career. From women’s rights, international aid, to non-profit theatre, he’s seen it all. Offline, you can find him mixing a new cocktail or trying a new dessert recipe.

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