The best billboards demand your attention with bold fonts, in-your-face messages, and bright, eye-catching graphics. The best Facebook ads take the exact opposite approach.
If you want to reach and engage with potential customers on Facebook, you need to create ads that blend as seamlessly as possible into the rest of the content on their newsfeeds. This means focusing on simple, high-quality images, straightforward messages, and most importantly: minimal text.
Facebook knows that the best performing ads include images with little to no text, which is why they created the 20% rule. This rule states that in order to run an image-based ad on Facebook, your image(s) must contain less than 20% text.
For a complete guide to creating Facebook ads, check out our article here.
It's important to note that the 20% rule only applies to text that covers images attached to your ad. It does not include text on your ad outside of images, like the description copy or call-to-action button.
There are a few exceptions to the 20% rule, including images of book covers, album covers, event posters, video games, and some product images that contain text (e.g., a cereal box). Text-based logos are not an exception to the 20% rule, and will be counted as text when Facebook reviews your images.
So, why exactly does the Facebook 20% rule exist? It all comes down to what users want to see and engage with in their newsfeeds. Ads with less overlay text actually perform significantly better than images crowded with text, so the rule actually creates a better experience for both users and advertisers.
Facebook Text Overlay Tool
When Facebook reviews your ad images, they examine how much of your images are covered by text. While you're creating an ad, it can be tricky to evaluate the exact percentage of text covering your image -- fortunately, Facebook provides a tool you can use to check before you even submit your ad for review. You can access that tool right here.
1. Ad With Acceptable Text Overlay
Your best approach when creating a Facebook ad is to use little to no text.
In this example of an ideal ad image, there's only a small text-based logo and no other copy.
An ad with a simple image like this will blend more easily into users' newsfeeds and is much more likely to gain exposure and engagement among your target audience.
2. Ad With Minimal Text Overlay
In the next example, there's an extra line of text.
This image technically passes the 20% rule, but the extra line of text means you risk your ad being seen by fewer people.
Instead of adding copy to your image, try adding it directly into the body copy of your ad.
3. Ad With Excessive Text Overlay
This final example is exactly what Facebook does not want to see:
This ad contains too much text over the image. The information displayed here could easily be incorporated into the body copy of your ad, creating a much cleaner look in users' newsfeeds.
While it's tempting to throw important information onto your images like this, you risk having your ad rejected by Facebook or alienating users who are turned off by the busy copy.
Here's a simple rule to remember: the best way to capture users' attention on Facebook is to use an eye-catching image with no text. The 20% rule isn't just an arbitrary standard -- it helps advertisers reach their target audiences more effectively, and prevents users' newsfeeds from becoming overwhelmed with disruptive advertisements.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.