Facebook explains how 20% text overlay policy for ads is enforced

Since Facebook changed its policy to limit text overlay in News Feed ads to no more than 20 percent of an image’s area, many advertisers have been scratching their heads over why some seemingly compliant ads are being rejected and why other text-heavy ads make it through.

We spoke to a member of Facebook’s policy team to get a better understanding of how this new rule is enforced and what the company is doing to improve consistency and clarity for advertisers, such as building a public-facing version of the tool it uses internally to review images.

The first thing to recognize is that Facebook uses a combination of manual and automated review to verify ads. All ads will go through the automated system, which includes a grid-based text overlay detection tool. Then only a percentage of ads will be reviewed by humans. This would explain why enforcement of the 20 percent rule is sometimes inconsistent.

Facebook says that text on actual products does not count toward the 20 percent since it is a natural part of the photo and not a text overlay. However, the automated systems might not be able to tell the difference between text on a product and text in a logo, which would count toward the 20 percent. Unless the ad was among the sample reviewed manually, it might get rejected. As with any automated system, there are occasionally false positives. We’ve seen examples where graphics that aren’t text seem to trigger Facebook’s system and prevent the ad from being approved.

To help advertisers ensure that their images comply, Facebook is developing an external version of the grid-based tool it uses to detect text overlay. On Friday, the company began testing this with managed clients working directly with Facebook. Eventually this tool could be rolled out to Power Editor so advertisers can use the same grid that the social network uses internally. Many people have developed their own grids to gauge whether their ads will comply, but some have found that these don’t always match up with how Facebook judges their images. When Facebook offers its own tool, advertisers will be able to know more immediately if their ads will be approved.

Here’s Facebook’s official word on the 20 percent rule, according to the Help Center, along with its examples of acceptable and unacceptable images:

  • For ads and sponsored stories that appear in News Feed, the amount of space the text in your image takes up may not exceed 20%. Examples of promoted content this applies to include promoted page posts, app install ads, offers or any other ad or sponsored story with placement in News Feed. For example, event ads use the event’s photo for its image, so your event’s photo should not have more than 20% text if you plan to promote it in people’s News Feeds.
  • This 20% text policy does not apply to pictures of products that include text on the actual product. Photos of products in real situations or photos of products with a background are acceptable. Images that are zoomed in on logos or images with text overlay are not allowed. We will also not allow images that are clearly edited to include text on the product as a loophole to policy.
  • Remember, this limit only applies to ads and sponsored stories that appear in News Feed. Unpromoted photos you post from your page can have any amount of text.