When we first started talking about actually launching a men’s lingerie brand, we had the idea that we might get some negative comments from people, some frightened ‘haters’ might pop up and cast their gloom on our happy little business, but we naively had absolutely no idea, and were totally unprepared for, where the real trouble would lie.
Back in March we switched on our first few pages using a Wix website, and at the same time we started our Facebook and Instagram pages and began to get the word out that there was a new brand of beautiful quality British lingerie designed specifically to celebrate a male body shape, not to hide it or disguise it.
We knew that there would be people out there who were just waiting for this to appear - people who kind of knew it was what they were looking for, yet couldn’t find. People like Jules really - he was certain he wasn’t the only man around who liked his briefs a little briefer and a whole lot more sensational.
Around the same time I was serendipitously the winner of a place on a course being run by Sally, the powerhouse of start-ups, the owner and founder of Manners London, a niche women’s clothing brand which has gone from 0 - AMAZING through Sally’s determination and drive. The course was to help tiny businesses to understand how the right social media advertising could help to build brand awareness and ultimately, sales.
Through the 6 week evening course we learned how to create and curate ads on Facebook, how to use the Business Manager, Ads Manager, how to install Pixels and how to understand Facebook Analytics - all the things that you need to get your head around in order to be able to present your new products to an audience who will, with any luck, be interested in what you have to show them.
We were so excited! The perfect brand for the times! We are about equality, honesty, following your dreams, ethical practice, supporting people who have been marginalised, sharing that material really does have no gender, feeling happy, having fun! We uploaded our logo and some sparkly glitter lettering, we worded our ad carefully, set our modest budget and waited - and it didn’t take long.
We tried again.
Even our blank logo is not allowed to be shown. We violate community guidelines for sexual content. We link back to a website that is not acceptable to them. We hoped that we could chat to a person and explain that we are an underwear brand and that it’s pretty hard to show our products without showing a bottom or a bulge, but you can’t get a human to speak to. No matter how hard you try. And we tried! We spent months trying to tweak and adapt different elements of the ad settings so that we would be compliant with the rules, and we did have a glorious three days where one ad got through and we found loads of Mootiful people in that short time, but you see, you don’t get told exactly what it is that you have done to violate the rules, so it’s a trial and error process when you are locked out. You have to guess what it might be which is harder than you would think when there are other lingerie brand ads peppered all over FB with women sucking their fingers and staring into the camera draped over a chaise. There is no recourse. No appeal. No forum. No mediator.
We thought we could try Instagram instead, perhaps the people there are less worried about men in stockings, or a peachy bum cheek - but, or course! Facebook own Instagram so the rules are all the same and there they were, waiting for us with the REJECTED response.
There is a blatant disapproval of what we are doing and a misunderstanding that there must be an element of sexual deviancy if a man chooses our underwear, whereas it’s completely normalised, encouraged even, for a woman to do so. This gets to us in different ways; I am pissed off that it’s apparently only OK to ‘objectify’ a woman, and Jules is put out that it’s apparently not OK to ‘objectify’ a man.
But deeper than this immediate rejection of our ads campaign came the truth, we hired a specialist via Zoom to go through the entire process of appeal with us, and she discovered after a couple of weeks wait, that Jules’ account was now so deeply blacklisted as a result of us trying to run Moot ads, that he will now never be allowed to advertise anything ever again under his name, even if he were to give up creating underwear and start making coffee cups. He is entirely banned from having a Facebook Ads Manager account ever. For daring to sell knickers.
We were told that there is a way around this - we can start a whole new personal account, create a new person. Grow a few ‘friends’, use a VPN to scramble the address, open a new Ads Manager account and start again. Try to get around the deep ban. But that’s not Moot. We are not about pretending, hiding or cheating. If we are too radical for Facebook Ads, so be it.
Yes, it’s frustrating. We know we have an amazing product but we can’t show it to the people who are waiting for it. We are still way too small for big budget ads in glossy magazines. The two consecutive Google ads bans that we also couldn’t understand only lasted a few months, and happy days, we are allowed back on now, but it was truly puzzling when you see some of the products they do list, enough to make Ru Paul blush - but, ultimately, you are here. Congratulations! You found us! You weren’t supposed to, but you did! We will keep going. We believe in ourselves and we believe that the world can cope with men wearing a different style of pants.
It’s not dangerous. We are building a community, not violating one.