Facebook Advertising Rules and Common Sense Not Always in Alignment

November 21, 2013

I had an interesting situation come up recently with a Facebook post on the Graphics Unleashed Facebook page. I have embedded a copy of the post below for those of you reading on the Web page. E-mail readers can either view it on the Web page or directly on Facebook.

Some fans of our page automatically saw the post, though not all fans see every post as Facebook tries to determine which people will be interested in any given post. If a page wants more people to see a given post, they can “promote” it for a small cost. I decided to promote this post so that more people could learn about the free font we were offering.

The post was promoted for a short period of time and then Facebook halted it. They provided a short message on Facebook itself and they also sent me an e-mail. The relevant paragraph from that e-mail is quoted below.

“Your ad wasn’t approved because it uses too much text in its image, which violates Facebook’s ad guidelines. Ads that show in the Feed are not allowed to include more than 20% text. You’ll still be charged for any impressions or clicks your ad received before it was disapproved.”

Now before I go into the discussion that ensued, look at the graphic below so you can see exactly what is being described.

Bubble Gum Rock Free Font

Does the graphic include more than 20% text? Absolutely. So in the strictest reading of the rules, it violates the Facebook ad guidelines. Yet the graphic is an example of the free font discussed in the post. A font is a collection of text characters, so how does Facebook want it to be represented so that it follows their guidelines?

I questioned Facebook about how there was little common sense in their decision as the image is representative of the font being promoted. In their second response (the first was just boilerplate mumbo jumbo), a real person responded with the quote below.

“Text policy for images in News Feed has been introduced to ensure better experience for our users. We want ads to improve user engagement, not work against it. Ads enhance the user experience when they feature high-quality, relevant content that seamlessly integrates into News Feed. We believe the best images are those of real people, real situations, and real objects with very limited or no text. Banner ads and flashy content don t fit into our integrated News Feed experience.”

Did I just read that right? An image of a real person would be a better choice for a post about fonts? I responded to that person and again asked them to actually look at the post and how the graphic used was representative of the font being promoted. I asked them how a font was supposed to be promoted if we are not allowed to show a sample of the font itself. Another full day passed before I got the response quoted below.

“Thanks for your response. Your ad was rejected because it violates the text policy for images that may appear in News Feed. However, since you’re advertising for fonts, your ad has been approved.”

Hooray, there is a little bit of common sense after all! I definitely understand the need for having rules and I fully understand why the 20% rule exists for text. I just hope that whoever makes these rules invokes some common sense when they approve or disapprove of ads.

As designers, we also have to consider the rules both written and unwritten when we create ads for all possible mediums. An example that immediately comes to mind is the Chevrolet Nova being named without doing a lot of research. When it didn’t sell well in Latin America, the answer was quite simple. “Nova” was being read as “No va” in Spanish and that translates as “No go”. Who wants to buy a car that doesn’t go? Dig a little deeper to avoid something like this in your designs, but stand up for your design if you feel the rules are being unfairly applied.

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1 Comment

  1. Shawn

    Almost funny, they want ads to be all about pictures of kitties and babies?

    The ad has to “say” something too..

    They knocked out one of mine last week for the same reason, but not before it was up for 2 days (which was all I needed it for, as we were promoting an event for Saturday).


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Foster D. Coburn III built his first Web site in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013. He has used the Divi theme exclusively since 2015. Earlier in his career he was the author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences.

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