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Facebook's 20% Rule Explained

There has been some confusion surrounding Facebook’s “20% rule”, which is a guideline that checks on the amount of text allowed on an ad image. Although many advertisers expressed their frustrations about the limitations that come with this rule, Facebook dismissed claims that it was planning on scrapping it altogether. So what is the “20% rule” and how can it impact your ads from running on Facebook & Instagram? Read on!

7 min read

About Facebook’s 20% Rule

Let’s go back to the beginning. When Facebook first announced the introduction of the 20% rule, it explained that Facebook advertisers were allowed to cover their ads’ images with no more than 20% text. With the help of a tool, users were able to see how much of the space they could take up with text. If the text took up more than the 20% limit, then the ad would simply go inactive and wouldn’t be allowed to run.

Last year, however, Facebook Product Marketing Manager, Afsheen Ali, took the time to offer some extra information about the 20% rule and dismiss some of the rumours that were going around at the time, with some claiming that this rule would be scrapped altogether due to the amount of frustration expressed by advertisers around the world.

“Our research has shown that people demonstrate a preference for ads with less text. Previously, if 20% of an ad image’s area was text, it was not approved to run on Facebook, Instagram or the Audience Network. We’ve heard from some advertisers that this can be confusing, as it’s not always clear that an ad does not meet the policy requirements until after creative has been submitted. We are shifting to a new solution to improve this experience which allows advertisers more flexibility while still allowing us to maintain an enjoyable experience for people.”

So, in what way did Facebook change the guidelines for the 20% rule? Well, nowadays, if your ad image contains more than 20% text, it will no longer get flatly rejected. It will, however, experience a limit in its possible reach to your audiences, depending on the rating that your ad receives from Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool. These same rules apply to Instagram ads as well.

Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool

In short, if there is some text that you want to include on your ad’s image, but you’re not sure about how its delivery will be impacted, you can check out Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool here. It’s super easy to use and will give you an instant result.

Upload the image with overlay text on it and see the Image Text Rating that Facebook gives you for it.  Here are the possible ratings that your ad can receive:

With this rating, advertisers can immediately understand what the chances are that their ad’s reach will be restricted. So we decided to use this tool and test out 4 versions of a quickly created ad image:

As you can see, the ad at the top will run normally, whereas the others will experience some restrictions when trying to reach their audience as there’s either too much image text and/or the text is too large. If you haven’t tried it, we recommend that you play around with the Text Overlay Tool so that you can start to understand which kind of ad images will get a low rating and which ones will run smoothly without any issues. Once you’re familiar with this process, you’ll be ready to deliver some high-quality ads that won’t experience any delivery issues.

Importance of Text on Facebook Ad Images

Despite all this talk about minimising the amount and size of text in your image ads, it’s still crucial to remember that image text is still a highly important component of an ad. In order to catch the eye of Facebook users, visually appealing and colourful images are often leveraged by advertisers on the platform.

With the aim of building on the initial interest shown by users towards an attractive-looking image, lots of Facebook advertisers will add a Call to Action to their add photo, including trigger words such as “free”, “limited offer”, “special offer”, “now”, “today” etc. Essentially, this type of text has more chance of being read than the actual post text that accompanies the ad image.

As long as advertisers stay within the limits of text use and don’t add any irrelevant or excessive copy, then the impact of just a few words can indeed play a strong role in persuading a customer to take action.

However, some argue that minimising text as much as possible and even completely excluding ad image text is the way forward. Although many will disagree, it’s certainly an interesting angle to consider. Some advertisers believe that although ads with some overlaid text may look nice, such text will immediately expose them as an advert, leading some users to quickly move on, rather than enjoy the imagery used.

One of Facebook’s golden tips to advertisers on its platform has always been to ensure that an ad image doesn’t look ‘too out of place’ between all the other content on users’ Newsfeed. Giving an ad a natural feel can at times convince a viewer to spend more time looking at the ad, which may lead to an increase in user engagement, and in turn a higher conversion rate.

It is important to note, though, that there is no right or wrong way to do this. As long as you abide by Facebook’s 20% rule, then you will have every chance of creating a strong performing ad that your audience will remember. It all depends on the quality of the ad you have published.

Rules & Exceptions

It’s good to keep in mind that the following items do count as text on your image:

  • Numbers
  • Text-based logos (regardless of size)
  • Watermarks

And here’s a list of exceptions which do not count in the 20% rule:

  • Infographics
  • Book and album covers
  • Product images (image must show the entire product)
  • Posters for movies, music festivals, sporting events and entertainment shows
  • Legal text
  • Application screenshots
  • Text-based business calligraphy

Three Image Text Tips

Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind when considering the amount of text going into your ad's image.

Use Powerful Images

Whether it’s online or in person, we’ve all come across a picture that really stood out and caught our eye. Sometimes, an image can be worth a thousand words, powerful enough on its own to convey its story to viewers. It’s the images that are bright, colourful, impressive, unique and compelling that will make viewers stop for a moment in order to take a closer look. So ensuring that your photo is compelling to those scanning through their News Feed is of crucial importance.

In fact, when you post your image ad on Facebook, the image is definitely going to be the first thing that viewers see. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when we consider that previously conducted research has successfully proved that we have a tendency to first notice images and headlines on a page first, then read the words in bold immediately after that before reading the block text that accompanies it last.

So if you want to increase the chances of viewers taking a close look at your image ad and maybe even engaging with it or making a conversion, make sure your image is up to scratch!

Strong Copy

If there’s a couple of things you want your target audience to know about, but you don’t want to cover your image in text, there’s always the copy that goes above the actual image ad! This may seem a bit obvious, but use approximately 3/4 lines of text above your image to include a strong caption which will offer viewers more information and possibly persuade them to take action. If you haven’t included a CTA on the image itself, consider adding one in your caption!

You’ll have more space and flexibility to briefly tell the story you want to tell, although don’t forget about the power of images… They can be worth more than a thousand words, so don’t overdo it!

Avoid Excessive Text

If you must include text in your image, consider trying user fewer words and/or reducing the font size of your text. Do keep in mind, though, that making your text font too small can also make it difficult to read for your audience.

What’s also important is that most of the text you use in your ad should be in the body text, rather than directly on the ad’s image. That will give your ad a cleaner look and make it more appealing for your audience to view. Try to also avoid spreading your text all over the image, keep it limited to certain sections of the ad image.

Got any questions related to Facebook’s 20% rule? Interested in launching your next social ad campaign with some expert advice from a Facebook Marketing Partner? Don’t hesitate about contacting us, we’re here to help! Enjoy our free trial without having to provide any payment details!

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