Facebook Amends the 20% Text Rule
April 20th, 2016
Social media marketers have been vexed by Facebook’s 20% Ad rule for some time now. For those who are unfamiliar with Facebook’s rule, it states that an ad or boosted post may not include more than 20% text in the image to “ensure people only see high quality content.” This rule was intended to push advertisers to create more visually stimulating content and safeguard the quality of the user’s experience.
It seems pretty straight forward and effective, but in reality it is inconsistent and poorly enforced. All ads go through an automated system, which is essentially a grid-based overlay detection tool. If the text takes up more than 6 blocks of the grid, it is rejected. However, the detection tool does not consider the placement of the text, which is just as important as the size. Humans review a small percentage of the ads, which makes the approval process even more unpredictable.
Finally, this rule has been amended, and will transition into a new, more flexible system. Now, instead of having a direct “approved or rejected” approach, all ads will fit into four distinct categories: OK, Low, Medium, and High. Ads with text classification OK have little to no text, such as an image with a company logo and not much else. These are the ads that Facebook favors and rewards with reach. Images classified as “Low” may have a bit more text, and a somewhat restricted reach. As you may have concluded, ads with medium text will have a limited reach, and ads with high amounts of text could potentially not even be displayed.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed:
“To help advertisers achieve their business goals while providing people with an enjoyable experience on Facebook, we’ve had a policy limiting excessive text (more than 20%) on images in ads. We’re always looking for ways to improve the experience for people and advertisers, which is why we’re testing a new solution that will allow ads with text to run, but based on the amount of text in an ad’s image, the ad won’t reach as many people. We will continue to monitor how this test impacts advertisers as well as people and will iterate to ensure we are creating the best possible experience.”
It is unclear whether this change will have a positive or negative effect on social marketers. On one hand, Facebook advertisers and businesses have more freedom and flexibility when it comes to adding text to their images. However, this new rule is also much more vague. We know that Facebook still prioritizes ads without text, and will certainly penalize those that are text-heavy. Although you have more wiggle room in creating ads, it may not do you much good, since your viewership could be restricted, and in extreme cases, nonexistent.
The new rule is currently in the beta phase and only being tested in select regions, but Facebook will quietly transition all regions to the amended process over time.
Written by: Madison Kiernan, Social Media Specialist