Facebook’s News Feed ads are changing

Facebook will soon tweak the creative restrictions to ads in its mobile News Feed. The changes will shrink the amount of text and the image size, which marketers say should improve ad copy overall but would be burdensome.

Facebook ads placed in mobile will only show three lines of text, compared to the seven that could previously be viewed. Facebook users can click to show more. Photos and videos will have a 4:5 aspect ratio, at most, compared to the previous 2:3. These upcoming changes were first revealed by Susan Wenograd, vp of marketing strategy at agency Aimclear, and confirmed by digital marketer David Herrmann. The new restrictions will start to be applied Aug. 19, Wenograd said.

These moves come as Facebook ads become more expensive, especially in the News Feed, and more advertisers join Facebook. The company recently touted its new milestone of supporting 7 million active advertisers. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg stressed at Cannes that the success of the company is based on growing its small business accounts, not just ad dollars from big brands. The hope for these changes is that all advertisers will be forced to make more engaging Facebook ads, marketers said.

“Copy is now more vital, not the afterthought for once,” Herrmann said.

Jack Appleby, director of creative strategy at agency Midnight Oil, said he also is interested to watch how Facebook advertising handles the “significantly” shorter copy length.

“The standard pithy one-liner plus feature-approach plus [call-to-action] won’t comfortably fit in three lines. Social copywriters will have to make a prioritization choice. I bet [direct-to-consumer] brands will double-down on feature marketing, while bigger brands will stick with feel-good copy down the lifestyle line,” Appleby said.

Andrea Cruz, digital marketing manager at Boston-based Ko Marketing, said it will be interesting to evaluate if one paragraph, bullets or one sentence performs best in the News Feed.

Wenograd said she wasn’t bothered by the truncation of copy text and was curious to see if users would be likely to click and expand the text. It’s unclear if clicking on the text will be tracked within the “Clicks (All)” total on Facebook advertisers’ dashboard and, therefore, if advertisers can then remarket to the users based on that action. Post engagement currently includes reacting to, commenting on or sharing the ad along with viewing a photo or video or clicking on a link.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The changing of image size will be more of a burden on any Facebook advertiser, especially those with a large number of different ads running. The creative will be automatically cropped to the new 4:5 aspect ratio.

“On a typical image, this doesn’t seem like a huge thing because most images have the focal point toward the middle anyhow. What might start to seem less than optimal are the videos where brands use the black bars on the top and bottom to put text and [call-to-action] because now it’s being compressed into a smaller space,” Wenograd said.

A frustration of other marketers is that they were not made aware of these changes until they were shown Wenograd’s tweet thread. Cruz said she wasn’t concerned with the burden of adhering to the changes, but that marketers like herself would have to review what they are currently running and what’s already in the design.

“Another big issue is Facebook’s lack of transparency,” Cruz said. “At least to my knowledge there’s not an official statement yet.”

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