How to Get Around Facebook’s 20-Percent Text Rule on Ad Images

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facebook ads image 20 percent rule 700x365 How to Get Around Facebooks 20 Percent Text Rule on Ad Images

First of all, Facebook’s 20% rule that applies to the amount of text that can appear within images of News Feed ads is stupid. It’s poorly enforced. It’s inconsistent. It’s ridiculous that it applies to link thumbnail images.

Did I mention that I hate it?

Lately, most of my ads are getting through. Not all of them. But most. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the case for most (as you’ll see from the comments under this status update):

One of Facebook’s issues is that they appear to approve most of these ads, but then later reject them. So if you’re looking to run an ad for a short time anyway (which has been the case for many of my ads that seem to slip through the cracks), you may skate by.

But I noticed something else recently that’s more than a bit annoying. The amount of text often doesn’t matter. It all depends on the placement of that text.

The Evil Grid

Recently, I started a campaign that initially consisted of two ads. Both were link shares that used thumbnails that measured 400×209 to make use of the new, awesomely big real estate in desktop News Feed.

Those ads used two different images. Here they are:

one on one fb ads coaching gray How to Get Around Facebooks 20 Percent Text Rule on Ad Images

one on one fb ads coaching orange original How to Get Around Facebooks 20 Percent Text Rule on Ad Images

The two ads are nearly identical, barring some color differences. But guess what? Facebook rejected one of the ads — the orange one.

The reason? The 20% rule.

First of all, it’s pretty ridiculous that one made it through and one didn’t. And that ad with the gray image is still running a week later.

But when Facebook rejected that orange image, I was directed to their Grid Tool.

Upon uploading my orange image into the Grid Tool, that image was then displayed with 25 boxes over it. I was instructed to select the boxes that contained text.

facebook grid overlay rejected 700x280 How to Get Around Facebooks 20 Percent Text Rule on Ad Images

I wasn’t sure if my logo qualified as text (or the “GO” button for that matter), but I assume it doesn’t. Even without the logo, the text I used spilled over into six boxes. Facebook claims that means my image was (at least) 24% text.

But I quickly realized the text could be moved to fit snuggly within those boxes. So I moved the text — the size and everything else remained exactly the same — and tried again.

facebook grid overlay accepted 700x280 How to Get Around Facebooks 20 Percent Text Rule on Ad Images

Note that a sliver of the “g” in “Coaching” spills over into one box. Even if I were to count that box as well as the “GO” box, it would mean that my ad is now 20% text exactly.

So I resubmitted my ad. What do you know? It was accepted.

Get Frustrated or Use the Grid Tool

When you think about it, there is no true way to measure the percentage of text in an image. Since letters aren’t blocks, there will always be white space in between.

This is why using a grid is so inexact. It doesn’t really measure 20% text at all. It just measures whether there is some text within 20% of the squares within an arbitrary grid.

So, yes, it’s an insanely stupid rule. But you have two choices here:

  1. Ignore the rule, cross your fingers and get frustrated when your ads get rejected; or
  2. Use the Grid Tool to make sure that your text is in the right place.

I recommend #2. Be conscious of the amount of text within your image. Before you submit your ad, make sure that text is placed properly when you use the Grid Tool.

Your Turn

How about you? What are your experiences with the 20% rule? Let me know in the comments below!3

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • Mark Adams

    Jon: I have had the same exact experiences. 20% doesn’t mean 20% it means 5 boxes. Fortunately I have found FB is much more lenient on placing text as part of the image as you suggest.

    Now if we could just get FB to not disapprove ads after they approve and start running them. Kills the CPC when you have to relaunch a new ad, not to mention frustrating…

    Anyway, good post. Thanks. It’s reassuring to know other people go through the same aggravations…

    Best.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Oh, I HATE it when I get an ad that is killing it, and then it gets stopped. I can never replicate the success.

  • Susan Wilcox

    Jon: Had the same experience on Saturday. I took exactly the same steps and had the same results. Nice to see the process confirmed — you never know if you actually corrected something or if the second time you just were lucky enough “to get through.”

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Exactly! No consistency.

  • Fábio Lima

    Great Post Jon. Yeah, the “Go” button counts too. And your logo counts in the sum of the 20% rule, too. I agree with you, it’s such a ridiculous rule. Take care!

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Thanks, Fabio!

      • Fábio Lima

        Thank YOU Jon for posting always great content! :)

      • Kelly Cockerell

        I haven’t had much luck with the Logos and buttons, they seem to always count them. I have even had them count the letters physically on a building in the background. Where do you guys go to argue with them?

  • webnavgal

    Keep waiting for them to change this requirement any day, too, as they did with the header spec. I have often had ads with text over 20% that don’t get pulled for a day or so. Great post, Jon.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this goes away. That said, I see the need for it — at least the spirit of the rule. Facebook doesn’t want a bunch of banner ads cluttering the site, and this is basically what would happen. But there has to be a clearer rule to apply here!

      • webnavgal

        Yes, agreed. We still need the spam ad patrol.

  • Ahmed Ismail

    Great information! You might want to direct your readers to https://www.facebook.com/help/468870969814641/ as it gives the lead in to the screen you send them to, which is the upload screen.

  • Michelle Pescosolido

    Also what is stupid is when you upload a video straight to Facebook and they disapprove the ad because the video display images out of the 10 you are offered shows your screen that has text in it. Doesn’t sit well for me when I am trying to do screen shot video tutorials.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I hear you, Michelle. Use Power Editor and upload a custom image for the video that you know will pass.

  • Lori Harris

    I had the same experience; only I moved my text around before submitting the ad. And… in my case, facebook counted the logo.

  • Alejandro

    This is great. Thanks!

  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Mate, I have had that same issue a few times in the past and then decided to do the same thing: I have created a 5×5 grid in Photoshop that I use to create my ads. No image rejected since then… But be careful: at times they could also consider call-to-action buttons and logos as part of the text!

  • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

    I have created a PSD for this very reason. I work with bands that post on FB regularly and we have to do this all the time. It is really hard to have album artwork there for a promoted post and get it in the 20% rule.

    And you are right, the inconsistency is enough to drive anyone crazy. I am hoping this changes very soon. But until then it will require me counting pixels.

  • Darrin Caldwell

    Jon,

    We just rely on the 20% Tool just to make sure that we keep our ad metrics clean. I don’t like having partially spent ads.

    A little bird did tell me that certain brands are getting a some leeway on the 20% rule. That is most likely why many of your ads are “sneaking by”.

    I think that like the whole no promotions in the timeline issue, this 20% rule will soon go by the way-side, especially with video ads looming on the horizon. What do you think?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I think the 20% rule could go away, but I also think that the spirit of the rule makes sense. They just need a better and more concrete way to say they don’t want ads that basically look like banner ads. That’s my assumption — that this 20% rule is the temporary solution.

      Video ads are on hold, so I wouldn’t expect those to happen any time soon.

      • Darrin Caldwell

        I heard they are coming sooner than later, especially within Instagram; but these things always take time.

      • Ro

        Jon, loving your content here, thank you! So what is the “spirit” of the rule? I frankly don’t get it. I had an ad rejected today. It’s funny, catchy, it’s a really great ad… partially BECAUSE the text is large and occupies a lot of real estate. It just says that studies show that 8/10 men prefer this (pretty fit woman) to futbol. The ad ran to my budget before they rejected it so its a non-issue but the male version is scheduled to hit Monday (8/10 women prefer him to chocolate). I’m SUPER curious to know what the 20% rule is meant to prevent. Any insight?

        • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

          I think the main thing is preventing the News Feed from looking like banner ads. It’s supposed to be the place for social interaction, and banner ads interrupt that.

  • Shonda Rogers

    Thanks, Jon – i came back and read your post after an ad that WAS rejected started running – with no notice…except the bill…so i agree that the system is inconsistent! Thanks for the tip on using the grid.

  • Christina Ragusin

    The thing that bothers me the most about it is the grid is 5 across. So, you can’t have centered text or it will spill over into three boxes. It should be 6 across, or have more, smaller boxes. My OCD hates pushing text over to the sides!!

  • Andrie Schoombee

    Hi Jon, in my experience, text that slightly goes over the lines doesn’t add those boxes to your count. This can also be seen with the screenshots at https://www.facebook.com/help/468870969814641 and http://fbrep.com/SMB/TextPolicy.pdf, where you can clearly see some text that goes over the lines, but are not counted as a “red” block.

    What really ground my gears a while ago, is that I also had 2 almost identical ads, one got through, the other rejected. In the rejection notification mail, there was a link where you could query the rejection, which I did, then a day later I got a mail saying that it was a mistake, “sorry”, and that the ad is now running. I mean, come on!! I understand it can be quite complex to write an algorithm to enforce this rule, but seriously.. IMO, they should give a bit more leeway in terms of the images they reject – instead of rejecting everything above 20% (erm 5 boxes), rather reject anything above 6 or 7 boxes, and those in between can be sorted out by a human. An ad with 6 blocks text instead of 5 really won’t spoil anyone’s newsfeed.

  • Ryan Burchinow

    Right on Jon! Thanks for the post and the confirmation about the 20% rule being enforced on Link images.

  • http://blog.digitalinsights.in/ Omkar Mishra

    It is a stupid rule..It even takes Brand’s name on the image printed as text and most of the time we turn up with more than 20% text..Waiting for it to be discontinued

  • corporateserf

    I actually fought (and one) for one of my previous clients. I pushed the ad through showing them the actual number of squares it occupied. After that, I moved the text where I wanted it to be on the ad with a version showing the grid (moved to accommodate MY layout). Same number of squares, just in a different position.

    I agree that this is a very arbitrary rule, but to their defense, it’s usually just a human trying to sort through a ton of ads and it gives them the opportunity to have a shorthand to speed the process. Much like the old days when screenplay readers flipped the pages to see if text exceeded the format, and no matter the content, they rejected it.

  • yowchuan

    Why not just let the public judge ad’s ‘aesthetic’? For instance, the higher the CTR of an ad, it should mean the ad is more effective, and should be given a higher exposure level.

    Ads with lousy copy writing or in FB’s case, more than 20% text, should be judged by the ads low CTR or high bounce rate, definitely not through some artificial filters made by some guys in Facebook who decided this should be made the law. I hope this nonsense is quickly repealed.

    Good luck to the Fontographer who tries to advertise his wares on Facebook!

  • Leo Monaghan

    I just argue with their “team” repeatedly (ie. up to 6-7 times) over every single ad. The more of a hassle/money/time waster this is for them, the more likely they are to drop the whole 20% rule altogether.

  • http://www.ravishukle.com/ Ravi Shukle

    Good point Jon, the squares were always going to be used as a guide it’s just a shame that it doesn’t accurately depict the exact amount of text we’ve used. One question isn’t your logo part of the 20% text?

  • deb ehnstrom

    I realized the same thing, Jon.They were shutting my ads down based on text layout, not for actually exceeding 20%. In one recent instance, I disputed their rejection. I called facebook out with their own rule and said, The rule is <20% not “ text must fit cleanly in five boxes." (my ad had much less than 20% text!) They replied with, "oops, our mistake" and let me restart. This isnt the most efficient way to get things done, obviously, so I have learned to group on the grid. Maybe we can all create 20% compliant ads with wacky layouts all over their grid and submit together in protest. When facebook reject our ads, we will flood their ad help email with our message to fix the problem already! ;)

  • Tails of Whoa

    This rule basically means I can’t advertise or promote any of my work as it has copyright written on it and they are cartoons which without the text just don’t work. Didn’t know about any of this until I tried to promote a post tonight for a Christmas card as I need to sell a few more to raise more money for the two charities I am helping this year. I am not really a business (I joined FB as a social not advertising media thing) so bit the bullet any way and spent £25 or tried to (spent £3 last year) but rejected because of course it also said Happy Christmas on the card. So with FB pushing and pushing boost post and advertise down my throat these past months I was pretty annoyed when I can’t even pay for my fans to get my posts! Well at least the charities will get the £20 I didn’t get to spend on FB promotion!

  • Shelly

    Facebook’s 20% rule deserves an award for the stupidest thing on the Internet. I’ve had super-high quality attractive ads rejected — it’s utterly arbitrary.

  • Kristen Kramer

    I am SO GLAD I found your post! Our ads kept getting approved and then rejected. Tightened up my spacing between the two lines and suddenly I was at 12% and not 24%. Ridiculous.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Nice! It is ridiculous, right? You had the same amount of text each time, but one is acceptable while the other isn’t.

  • Simone

    this is the most stupid thing ever done by FB: I work with events and they rejected a post with my event because of 20% of text on image… but DAMN… image is a FLYER OF THE EVENT so of course i have to write there some information… I CN’T GET IT

  • Simone

    this flyer :(

  • Helen Drew

    Can somebody please direct me to the section on FB where I can also complain about this stupid rule. It could easily be resolved if we had a grid with alot more boxes. I to am worried about shifting text up and getting it rejected.

  • Alice

    Does this ’20% text’ rule apply to ad images that are just the typeface logo?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Supposedly, yes.

  • http://takacstamas.dataglobe.eu/ Takács Tamás

    It’s not even 20% rule, it is a 5/25 rule… not the same! Facebook staff should go back to school for some math lessons! 20% would be fair, but not this 5/25 sh*t! Grrrr

  • http://www.footbridgemedia.com/ Jenna Kimbrough

    My ad has 16% text according to the almighty grid tool but Facebook is still rejecting the image.

  • Shelley

    The rule is stupid and arbitrary. Facebook is cutting off its nose to spite its “Face” with marketers. Makes no sense.

  • jordan bergeson

    There is another way to get around this. What I’ve found is that if you run on going ads to automatically promote your latest post, you get to fly under the radar for this requirement. I have successfully been breaking this rule for over a year now. The less you touch your campaigns, the less attention they pay you. I have 2 pages with a combined 80k followers and I’ve promoted some posts to 60K impressions that are in direct violation.

    I haven’t shared this with anyone because I didn’t want this loophole to be discovered and closed. Sadly one of my accounts switched to the new ad structure with 3 layers Campaigns, Ad sets, and ads. With that came another BIG change they failed to mention. The removal of the option to auto-promote your latest post. The tick box was replaced with “To make sure you’re only boosting your most important content, we no longer automatically promote new page posts.”

    After contacting facebook, they confirmed the feature has been removed stating:

    “Thanks for contacting our team about the functionality to “keep your ad up to date by automatically promoting your most recent post”. To help simplify our ads system and reduce confusion, we have removed this feature from our advertising system, and you can no longer have your ad auto-update to your latest Page post. Many advertisers found this feature to be difficult to use and unintuitive.
    To replace this feature, we recommend regularly “boosting” your posts directly from your Page for future posts. By boosting your posts, you will be able to decide the budget level for each of your posts individually. For more information on boosting your posts, please visit our Help Center:

    https://www.facebook.com/help/www/547448218658012

    The problem is, boosting individual posts for my pages is absolutely ridiculous, and makes managing our budget VERY difficult. Also, I now lose the ability to break the 20% rule by skipping the boost button and utilizing the ongoing campaigns that auto promote posts. Any thoughts or advice in relation to this change here?

  • Rami El Khoury

    they didn’t even think of Typographic Posters…

  • Brittany

    A friend told me this weekend Facebook was switching to 40% rule. True? Would make it better, but I too hate the evil grid.

  • http://agencemarketingmontreal.com/ Jason Mailley

    I tried a few new alternative messages that wouldn’t feel too commercial and more social, like what my audiences likes to share. Well, obviously, Facebook didn’t like it. It’s funny that the second ad, with more text, got approved.

  • Justin Kibbel

    Can someone explain how this ad gets past the 20% rule? It has to come down to $$$’s. Does FB look the other way if you spend a certain amount on an ad? (this site isn’t letting me attach an image, but the ad is basically this image – https://www.facebook.com/boyandbear/photos/a.111256540738.117674.103542455738/10152545496135739/?type=1)

  • Mike Giles

    Hi John, Have you had any consistency on your logo being excluded as part of this rule ? All our ads we currently build counting the logo as part of the 20% rule (usually using 1/25) if logos are considered as non-text we just scored another text block :) Would appreciate your feedback.

  • kelvin

    Hi i happen to google and saw your post about 20% rule. Is there any soulution for me to overcome it? I attached the image for your reference.
    Kelvin

  • Patrick Michaels

    Pop ups are just as stupid yet you have one on your site.

    • Rodninio

      Pop-ups maybe be ‘stupid’. Whatever you mean by that. But they work. Pop-ups have proven to be a great way to include calls to action. There’s no more efficient way to get email sign-ups for example

  • Don

    I had the same issue, but except the rejection, FB stole our money as well. Fuck it.

  • Nope

    I have no qualms spending my advertising budget elsewhere. Facebook can kiss my fat ass. Thanks for giving some clarity to this issue, when Facebook failed to explain it.

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