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Facebook Changes the Rules

Facebook Changes the Rules

Written by enCOMPASS Agency

Facebook advertisers have long been bound by a strict set of rules that prescribe the kinds of content that are and are not allowed in a Facebook ad. One of the most complained-about rules by far is the rule restricting the amount of text that can appear in ad images. Some version of this rule has been in effect since 2013, and has generally been a source of frustration for those who simply want to announce sales, discounts, or other promos in their Facebook ads.

In a significant development, Facebook has jettisoned this rule entirely. While this may come as a relief to many advertisers, it’s worth pausing for a moment to explore what this change really means going forward.

You Can Now Use Plenty of Text in Your Facebook Ad Images

To begin with, here’s a quick review. Up until very recently, if you created an image to use in your Facebook Ads campaign, no more than 20 percent of that image could be made up of text. In other words, advertisers could create images that provided some subtle CTA verbiage, but they couldn’t create images that were loaded from top-to-bottom with sales copy. The Facebook Ads platform even provided a text overlay tool to help advertisers ensure their compliance with this rule. (Of course, Facebook also screened ad content, and often rejected any ads that violated the 20 percent rule. Ads that weren’t outright rejected were often allowed to run only on a limited basis.)

Historically, the 20 percent rule was employed to make the Facebook newsfeed less “noisy,” especially back when it was composed primarily of text and images. Today’s newsfeed tends to be more dominated by video, which may be part of the reason why Facebook has relaxed its standard on ad text.

Now, advertisers are not bound by that 20 percent rule, which means that you can technically run a Facebook ad with extremely text-heavy imagery. With that said, it’s worth pointing out that the Facebook Ads manager still provides some direction that advises against using too much text; they’ve done away with the 20 percent rule, but they still provide a 20 percent suggestion.

What Does This Mean for Advertisers?

This raises a critical question: Just because you can use heavy text in your Facebook Ads images, does that mean you should?

Simply from an aesthetic perspective, a lot of Facebook’s original objections to text-heavy ads remain relevant. In a crowded newsfeed, ads that are dominated by dense verbiage may come across as overwhelming, or simply not very attractive. Certainly, text-heavy ad images tend to run afoul of some basic design principles, like the reality that the eye tends to gravitate toward empty space, and that a dense wall of text can be both off-putting and fatiguing to the reader.

Indeed, though advertisers have often complained about the restrictive nature of the 20 percent rule, many have grudgingly admitted that it has some merit: Ads that are loaded with text tend to look pretty spammy. With the 20 percent rule now a thing of the past, some advertisers have worried that an era of ugly ads looms.

So what does that mean for Facebook Ads campaigns going forward? Should advertisers take advantage of their new freedom, or continue as though the 20 percent rule were still in place? Our suggestion: Proceed strategically, not necessarily confining your ad text to 20 percent, but continuing to use prudence and moderation.

Specifically, ensure you’re testing your creative content, paying attention to what the data tells you, and adjusting your ad campaigns as needed. Some A/B testing may help you determine whether a text-heavy ad does or doesn’t work for your campaign. Of course, the efficacy of text-heavy ads may vary from advertiser to advertiser, and audience to audience.

Something else to keep in mind is that, while your text ratio is an important part of your ad campaign, it’s not the only important part. There are countless factors that help determine whether or not your ads are effective: Call to action, audience targeting, landing page design, and more.

Advertisers may wish to experiment with ads that are heavier on text, or lighter on text, than their norm, just to see what works and what doesn’t. As long as you’re testing and following the data, we think these experiments can be useful. And ultimately, we predict that most Facebook advertisers will settle on a fairly moderate approach; though the sunsetting of the 20 percent rule seems right now like a major disruption, it’s possible that, in the long run, not much will really change.

More Questions About Facebook Ads?

The enCOMPASS team will keep our clients informed about shake-ups to the Facebook rules and regulations. If you’re not a current client, but have any questions about running an effective campaign, we welcome you to reach out at any time.