Facebook’s changing image rules: how many words is an image worth?

Advertisers take note: Facebook has recently changed its image/text policy. It’s no longer about whether ads are ‘approved’ or ‘disapproved’. The new policy is a bit more complex as the 20% text rule has ceased to exist. Instead, advertisers can use as much text on images as they like, though the word count will impact the advert’s reach and the CPC. In other words, images with no text should get the best reach and the lowest CPC, images with lots of text will get very little reach and the highest CPC. In fact, images overfilled with text might not reach any users at all. So it seems an image is worth a lot more than words.

What’s not OK?

There are officially four categories of advertisement that classify the amount of text on images:
OK (little or no text, our estimate: <5%)
Low (fair amount of text, our estimate: <20%)
Medium (text heavy, our estimate: <30%)
High (our estimate: >40%, these ads probably won’t reach any people at all)
If your image is not ‘OK’, you’ll be notified after uploading it and before placing an order.
Facebook image text categories
According to Facebook, there are going to be some exceptions to the rule. The new text policy won’t be applied to:

  • Movie posters
  • Book covers
  • Album covers
  • Product images (where an entire product can be seen and not just a zoomed-in image of the product)
  • Posters (for concerts/music festivals, comedy shows or sporting events)
  • Text-based businesses – calligraphy, cartoon/comic strips, etc.
  • App & game screenshots
  • Legal text
  • Infographics

This is good news for those who would otherwise be limited by the former 20% text rule, however, it’s unclear how accurate Facebook will be at identifying the above exceptions.
During the days of the 20% text rule, the grid tool would tell creatives how much text could be used. This tool is no longer there to help. There are no set percentages for each category (at least not officially – the percentages mentioned above are our estimates). Furthermore, there are other elements that will almost certainly count as ‘text’. These are:

  • logos (all text-based logos)
  • watermarks
  • numbers

All factors worth considering when planning your ads.

Less is not more: less is everything

Unless it’s one of the above exceptions advertisers should avoid using text on images where possible. Be aware that if you do use an exception you will likely have to contact Facebook’s support team in case your image won’t fit the OK category.
The changes will no doubt encourage marketers to replace the usual – often ‘cold’ – stock imagery with more authentic images that tell a story. There might be instances when putting some text on the image is unavoidable, but before you do, don’t forget to use all the text fields that are at your disposal: 1) engaging post copy, 2) attention-grabbing title, and 3) proper link description, before you consider placing text directly on the image itself.

Can commercial chaos make for better user experience?

Though straightforward, the 20% text rule was limiting. It may take a little time to get used to the new rules, but ultimately Facebook has demonstrated once more that by improving the quality of the ad it places user experience at the forefront. The increased reach (and lower CPC) for text-free ads is simply another initiative that will support high quality and informative copy supported by authentic and visually appealing imagery – something that all good marketers should be doing already.