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Two Facebook/Instagram Ads Platform Changes With Big Impact this Q4

 In Paid Social, PPC

The FB/IG ads platform is constantly changing as Facebook reacts to new data, user behavior, regulatory pressure and more. Recently, Facebook has announced two very significant changes that will impact practically all advertisers in some way or another. This is already looking like a highly volatile Q4 for lots of reasons, and for FB/IG media buyers these platform changes will only further shakeup what is going to be a wild holiday season. Below, read about both platform changes and how we think they will impact the ecosystem.

Change #1: The 20% Rule for Text in Ad Creative is Gone

Most marketers have long known the rules about text in Facebook ads: if the image(s) have too much text, the ads won’t run. For years, designers and marketers developed creative in a way that minimized text in the images, and Facebook even had tools to check how much text was in your ad. This was a big part of how people designed paid social creative.

It appears at this point that the 20% rule is totally gone! Facebook’s announcement on this point was quiet but clear:

At Facebook, we are constantly improving and refining the best ways to improve the quality of ads on our platform. One of the ways is revisiting the effectiveness and impact of existing ad quality checks. As part of this review, we will no longer penalize ads with higher amounts of image text in auctions and delivery.As of September 7th, we began removing external material and sources that indicate we enforce high levels of text in images. Please note, Advertisers will still need to abide by our ad policies regarding the content of the text.

Advertisers are still encouraged to reduce the amount of text with images, as we have found that images with less than 20% text generally perform better.

Why did Facebook make this change? We don’t know for sure, presumably FB developed data suggesting that FB/IG platform use has evolved and text in ads no longer creates a poor user experience or less ads interactions.

What’s the impact for marketers? Well obviously, time to test ads with lots of text! We expect most advertisers to try out new creative based on this change that uses text-heavy creative to judge the impact.

In particular, we think this change may be most impactful for B2B marketers who have complicated messages to convey with creative and no tangible product to show. It may be less interesting for marketers where product imagery is key to the creative, such as in apparel, jewelry, or footwear.

Change #2: Facebook Removes 28 Day Attribution

While most people are happy about the change to text rules, this second change is quite bad for advertisers. Facebook is planning to totally remove 28 day attribution from the ads platform reporting, which has historically been the default attribution window. Here’s Facebook’s language:

Digital privacy initiatives affecting multiple browsers will soon limit the ability of businesses to measure people’s interactions across domains and devices. In support of these initiatives, Facebook is planning updates to attribution windows across our ads reporting surfaces. Starting October 12, Facebook will default your attribution window to 7-day click and phase out the 28-day window option.

Why did Facebook make this change? It’s clear enough that this move is Facebook responding to pressure on privacy and how browsers and competitors are planning to handle tracking cookies. Also in the conversation here is Facebook’s gradual move to using the Conversions API to track conversions rather than the FB Pixel cookies.

Clearly FB today feels vulnerable to changes in how browsers allow tracking cookies: Apple is already making moves to block FB’s tracking on Safari, and Google has no incentive to empower FB tracking and targeting through Chrome either.

What’s the impact for marketers? Any business that is using 28 day attribution as their main lens to view FB’s performance data will soon see performance changes and will be forced to reconsider how they measure and manage FB ads. Since 28 day attribution is the default, this will impact many advertisers.

In short, most people are going to see the performance reported for their FB ads worsen. For businesses with short sales cycles, the impact may be marginal. For those with long sales cycles, it might have a big impact.

Facebook claims that this will not have an impact on performance because the reporting window is different from the optimization/learning window, and Facebook was already only learning maximally from 7 day conversions anyway. Whether this is actually true remains to be seen, clearly FB would not push out a change like this without having some certainly it would not hurt performance too much. However less overall data clearly isn’t going to help performance for the FB ads platform which is so heavily dependent on machine learning.

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