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Facebook’s Creative Guidelines – And How They Challenge Marketers

As Facebook has risen to industry dominance, it’s increasingly become something of an advertising gold rush for marketers. According to Hubspot, in 2015, Facebook accounted for more than 9% of all digital ad spending – and more than 18% of all mobile ad spending. And, 92% of marketers use Facebook for advertising.

Simply put, Facebook advertising has taken off.

The growth of Facebook’s advertising system has meant a flurry of rapid changes to the platform’s functionality. For the most part, these changes have been incredibly innovative in helping marketers.

After all, Facebook is in the unique position of being both highly motivated to provide valuable ad offerings (ad revenue is the driving factor behind its doubled revenue in the fourth quarter of 2015), and highly capable of doing so. Due to the depth of insights it collects from its users, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Facebook has the potential to offer the most highly-targeted advertising packages ever.

But Facebook knows that its advertising offerings mustn’t interfere with the comfort of its users. Otherwise, it runs the risk of being creepy, or worse, just plain spammy. That’s where it’s creative guidelines come in.

Facebook’s guidelines are frequently updated, which means that marketers need to stay on their toes – especially since violating them can lead to ads getting rejected or even to accounts getting banned. Knowing Facebook’s creative guidelines is important.

In light of that, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you stay on the right side of the lines and create great content.

Character Limits

Facebook’s ad character limits vary across different placement options. Becoming familiar with how these limits affect your ad in different contexts can be helpful as you write your content.

Try writing your ad in the Facebook Ads manager so that you can preview how the text displays under different ad placements. Consider how fields will display on:


Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.14.57 AMAll fields, and the photo, will be displayed at full size.

Mobile News Feed

All fields except the newsfeed link description will be displayed at full size. The news feed link description cuts off even sooner if a call-to-action button is included.

Feature phone

Text and headline appear full size, but the photo is cropped to a square, and the newsfeed link description isn’t used.

Desktop Right Column

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.08.01 AM

The full headline is used, but text field character limits are shortened, and newsfeed link descriptions and call-to-actions are left out.


Text field is used below the photo with slightly reduced character limits. The headline and news feed link description are left out. Additionally, the image must be at least 600px by 600px.

Audience Network

Facebook will also show your ads in their expanded audience network, generally with shortened character limits.

While all of the different ad formats can seem overwhelming, it’s worth taking the time to learn how they’ll represent your content.

You may be tempted to create different ads for each placement. This can work, but it can introduce a significant challenge when it comes to budgeting and measuring the results of each ad. If you write your ad text to “degrade gracefully” (so that if it gets shortened, people will still get the gist), you can use it in a variety of different formats, and you’ll reduce the amount of ads you need to juggle.

Imagery and Text Tone

Because Facebook knows how important its users’ comfort is, it has fairly strict guidelines for the tone and imagery of ads. Keeping your ads within these guidelines will help them to get approved.

Remember, Facebook reviews all ads that are submitted, and if there is something they don’t like, they’ll tell you.

If your ad does get rejected, pay close attention to the feedback. Whatever the reason, you’re better off following their recommendation to the letter instead of trying to push something through that may fall into a grey area. We’ve seen ads approved at first, only to be rejected later when Facebook decided to become more stringent.

In the event that your ads are rejected, make sure that you delete them entirely and start fresh with new ones to submit for review.

All right, here we go: text and tone rules to stay inside of Facebook’s guidelines.

Limit the amount of text on your ad’s image.

Facebook used to reject ads based on a 20% image text rule, but as of March 2016, this rule no longer applies. Instead of the 5 by 5 grid that they used to superimpose on your image during ad creation, Facebook now provides a slightly vaguer guideline: image text levels are ranked by okay, low, medium, and high. While ads with high levels of image text won’t get rejected, Facebook will restrict their exposure to users, meaning that text-heavy ads won’t reach much of your intended audience.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to use as little image text as you can. When in doubt, use Facebook’s Image Text Check tool to see how your ad fares BEFORE you submit it for review.

Don’t assert or imply personal attributes.

Even though Facebook uses these to target relevant users, it knows that being too personal is creepy. Don’t imply anything about a person’s race, ethnic origin, religion, beliefs, or age in your ad.

To keep your tone impersonal, be careful how you use the words “you” and “your”. In fact, try to write around them. Instead of saying “Organize your life” (which might imply that a person is disorganized), say something like “We can organize anything”.

If you are advertising for a Christian prayer group, identify the group as Christian, not the person: “Join our local Christian prayer group”, not “Are you a Christian?”

Don’t imply physical or mental defects or attributes.

These include pain, sickness, or mental health. Facebook takes the tone of imagery very seriously. One of the most clear things you can plan for is to show people in recovery as opposed to in pain. So, if you’re advertising physical therapy, don’t show somebody experiencing back pain; show them performing an activity that suggests they’re recovering, like golfing or biking.

Don’t show the problem. Show the solution, and how you can help.

  • Make sure your ads are age appropriate.

If you’re advertising alcohol, or if your ads include images of alcohol, make sure to target your age to the legal drinking age.

If the age of the product you’re offering varies by state or country and you are advertising in multiple places, aim at the highest common denominator. As a general rule of thumb, ads that are aimed at 21+ get approved more quickly because there are less items for Facebook to review. On the flip side, ads including teenagers may take longer to get approved, and will face more scrutiny along the way.

Use proper grammar and avoid abbreviations

Don’t use things like “LOL”, emoticons, symbols, or multiple exclamation points. These end up looking spammy, anyway, and Facebook doesn’t like that.

Don’t use buttons on images that imply functionality that isn’t there.

Don’t put a play button on your ad; Facebook would rather that you choose an ad format that has video built in than use an image that links to a video on your site.

A button that says something like “Find Deals” and links to a page of the best deals on your site is probably okay, though.

Respect Facebook’s branding guidelines.

If you mention Facebook at all, make sure to spell it as one word, and to capitalize the “F”. Never alter the Facebook logo.

For more, check out Facebook’s official ad guidelines, or this list of 68 reasons your Facebook ad may have been rejected.

Pay Close Attention to Your Landing Page

Even if you’ve followed all of the guidelines for your ads themselves, you may still find your ads getting rejected because of content on your landing pages. Take the time to make sure that your landing page also adheres to Facebook’s guidelines. For example, if your ad doesn’t show people in pain, but your site does, your campaign may run into difficulties.

Also, make sure that the links on your page are working – especially, if you have one, your social media link to Facebook.

If you adhere to their guidelines, Facebook’s advertising options can be incredibly effective. As their advertising market continues to grow, remember to stay up-to-date on the latest changes and guidelines. If you can do this and create great content, you’ll be able to take advantage of their powerful targeting options to generate great ROI.

Have any stories of your own experiences with Facebook guidelines? Looking for more social media expertise? Get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.

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