You may recall I have discussed Facebook advertising on a past posting. At that time I was attempting to advertise my book, Dead Letter. Unfortunately, Facebook (hereinafter referred to as FB) rejected all versions of the ad I wanted to run because there is the back view of a naked middle-aged lady on the cover of this book. I hasten to note that there is little intent to exploit the sexuality of the image. It is merely a tasteful representation of a very poignant moment in the story and once that is understood, just about everyone I have talked with approves of the cover. Even after I covered up the lady, FB still would not place the ad because it promoted watching the book’s trailer which contained the uncensored image of the book’s cover.
So now comes my newest book, Anchor. While there is another lady on the cover, she is dead but fully clothed. With Anchor, I figure I will finally see if it is true about all that I hear regarding how successful FB advertising can be, not to mention how economical it is too. So I dive in once more. Out of the half dozen or so ads I have placed over the past week, only one survived the FB henchmen. They nixed all but one ad!! Why? Because, in their words…
“Ads may not include images with text that covers more than 20% of the image’s area. In part, this is because using images with minimal text makes your content more engaging and helps to ensure that people only see high-quality content on Facebook and Instagram. This guideline applies to all ads, including video thumbnails.”
In other words, you may advertise on FB using their 1-inch-high by 2-inch-wide format (or Instagram’s 1-inch square), but you can use only 20% max of that space to input text. The usual approach with an ad this small is to use only one, two, maybe three words at the most because there isn’t enough room to say much more. But those few words need to appear as large as possible. If you keep them to 20% or less of the ad’s space, they will be very small. FB’s message also says, if you really think about it, words are evil and meaningless in good advertising. Being a writer (of words!) who attempts to use words to convey images and cause reaction (hey, ain’t that what advertising does?) it is almost offensive that FB thinks verbiage is worthless, appears unsightly and only pictures can motivate a consumer.
Having spent a good part of my career designing print advertising, I took this albeit ridiculous policy as a challenge. After my first volley of ads were rejected I made the following adjustments: first, I actually removed the image of the book cover from the ad—unbelievable! With no room to say anything, I resorted to the phrase, ‘Uh-Oh!” hoping this, along with the image of my drowned lady, would be enough to provoke curiosity and motivate people to click on the ad. That takes them directly to the book’s sales page on amazon where they can read (!) about the book.
FB, however, doesn’t leave you hanging without offering some help, at least as they see it. They offer you a grid into which you place your ad. Then you click on the sections of the grid in which there is any part of your text. FB keeps tabs on the percentage of the space the invaded sections amount to. This way you can get a look-see at exactly what 20% represents. For example, here is one of my ads that was rejected. The sections in which the text appears are shaded to graphically illustrate what percentage of space the words consume:
Pretty ridiculous, huh? So okay, I made the text smaller and moved it into two grids and now the same ad is compliant. Whoopee..
The problem is, text has always been a critical part of advertising. Ask anyone in the industry. I realize it can be misused or over used, but on an ad this size it’s just crazy to cage the words into 20% or less. FB says their policy keeps their advertising from looking spammy. Wow! That tells me they’re interested in how the ads appear, but are they as concerned about the image of their entire website? If you ask me, they would be a lot better off if they paid just as much, if not more, attention to how awkward the FB layout appears and how unfriendly it is to navigate…two items that take few words to fix.