23 March 2016

How to use a 5x5 grid tool to design sponsored ads in Facebook

Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising: How to Access 1 Billion Potential Customers in 10 Minutes (Ultimate Series)
Yesterday, my friend sent me a note that she wants to promote one of our posters in Ang ProLife Partylist as a sponsored post: the national elections is already this May 2016 and we need to promote our partylist representative for Congress. But the problem is that Facebook won't approve the post: the text should only be 20% of the image, she said.

Ok, no big deal, I said to myself. I edited out my marketing copy and shrunk the text in the post to about 3 lines, which should be roughly 20% of the size of the image; the rest of the post I dumped to my other blog, Monk's Hobbit: Who do you think is the most pro-life presidential candidate? No, it's not exactly a dump: it's actually an overhaul. I spent at least 3 hours just to expand the text by elaborating on the 9 core life issues that should be debated by presidential candidates: abortion, contraception, divorce, same-sex unions, depopulation, radical feminism, sex education, pornography, and euthanasia. In this way, the text would fit the editorial standards I set for my blog: long articles of at least 1,000 words with lots of quotes and hyperlinks to original articles.

In the shortened Facebook post, I simply posted a shorted link to the blog post via goo.gl: http://goo.gl/XlBSo5. It is believed that in Facebook, links below posters have much lower click through rates than blog post snippets. But it's ok.

So far, so good. I told my friend that everything is already ok. And I returned to my work, learning new tricks in GIMP, such as cropping pictures using scissors and lasso.

Who do you think is the most pro-life presidential candidate?
Who do you think is the most pro-life presidential candidate? (Ang Pro-Life Partylist)

B. Facebook's 5x5 Grid Tool

A few hours later my Facebook message box popped. My friend told me that Facebook did not approve the poster. She sent me the link to try: https://www.facebook.com/ads/tools/text_overlay. So I tried it. Here's what I got:

Poster uploaded in Facebook's Grid Tool
Ang ProLife Partylist's poster uploaded in Facebook's Grid Tool
Notice that Facebook's grid tool divides the 4:3 poster into a 5x5 grid, which gives 25 rectangles. Facebook requires that the text size should only be 20% of the image, which means that the number of cells that the text occupies should only be 20% x 25 = 5 cells. For my poster, the text occupied 18 cells out of 25, or a whopping 72%!

C. Grappling with Facebook's restrictions

Well, if Facebook won't approve our ad, then I'll just add more text to the image to make it more informative and catchy for Facebook news feed scrollers, I said to myself. Specifically, I'll just add the 9 core pro-life issues in the image and rely on organic reach for marketing muscle. So far, our organic reach ranges from 100 to 2,000 views for 7,000 followers or about 1.4% to 28.5%. Here's my revised poster on Ang ProLife Partylist's page's timeline:

Shouldn't they also debate on core pro-life issues? (Ang ProLife Partylist)

I tried out other poster designs, except now I tried not to be stubborn and really try to reduce my text to 20% using Facebook's Grid Tool. It was tough. Really tough. It was like wrestling against the Angel of the Lord as Jacob did:
Jacob was left there alone. Then a man* wrestled with him until the break of dawn. 26When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that Jacob’s socket was dislocated as he wrestled with him.d 27The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” 28“What is your name?” the man asked. He answered, “Jacob.”e 29Then the man said, “You shall no longer be named Jacob, but Israel,* because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.” (Gen 32:25-29)
D. Designing in Google Drawings 5x5 grid

Instead of going to Facebook's Grid Tool every time, I used the Insert-> Table in Google Drawings and chose the 5x5 option. I pulled the sides of the table to stretch it to the dimension of the 4:3 poster size. In this way, I can test my posters if they fit the 20% text-to-image ratio requirement

1. Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae

The first poster is a picture of Pope Paul VI with a quote from Humanae Vitae:
The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God.  (Humanae Vitae, sec. 23)
Notice that that the primary text (Italics Times New Roman) and attribution is 8 cells, while the Ang ProLife Partylist simplified logo is nearly 1 cell, but may be counted by Facebook as 2 cells. I also signed the poster as Monk's Hobbit (Satisfy font) in the papal chair, which spans 2 cells. Overall, the text occupies 8 + 2 + 2 = 12 cells out of 25, which gives 32%. Thus, this poster fails the 20% text-to-image ratio for Facebook sponsored ads. Nevertheless, I still like this poster for its legible font and logo. I think this poster will go a long way. So far, it has 29 shares.

Pope Paul VI on the family and natural law
Pope Paul VI on the family and natural law (Ang ProLife Partylist)

2. Pope John Paul II and Evangelium Vitae

The second poster is Pope John Paul II and a quote from his Evangelium Vitae:

But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree.  (Evangelium Vitae, sec. 13, par. 3)
Notice that the text spans 9 cells, while the Ang ProLife Partylist's simplified logo spans 2 cells. This gives 9 + 2 = 11 cells for text out of 25, which is 44% text-to-image ratio. Thus, this poster fails the 20% text-to-image ratio for Facebook sponsored ads. Nevertheless, I like this poster, though I wish that the text would be larger, so that it is more readable while scrolling.

St. John Paul II on contraception and abortion
St. John Paul II on contraception and abortion (Ang ProLife Partylist)

3. Jose Rizal and Noli Me Tangere

The third poster (the last for this blog post) is that of Jose Rizal through one of his characters in Noli Me Tangere:
"There are useless officials, evil, if you like, but there are also good ones, and these are not able to accomplish anything because they encounter an inert mass, the population that takes little part in matters that concern them." (Noli Me Tangere)
Notice that the text occupies 4 cells, while the logo only 1 cell (I have to shrink the logo for this purpose), which gives a total of 4 + 1 = 5 cells out of 25. This gives exactly 20% text-to-image ratio, which satisfies Facebook's requirement for sponsored ads.

But I am not happy with this poster: I wish the text to be larger and a bit closer to the face of Rizal. I also wish the logo to be bigger. We'll, that's the price we have to pay if we play by the rules in another man's court. But this is where art lies: to create with freedom within the bounds set forth. The problem with Modern Art is that it promises freedom without bounds: to let the creative imagination soar without the downward gravitational pull of convention (e.g. the rules of perspective geometry or the physics of light), and so the artist floats aimlessly in space, not knowing what is up or down, or left or right.

Jose Rizal on the inert masses of the country
Jose Rizal on the inert masses of the country (Ang ProLife Partylist)

  E. Conclusions

 Jon Loomer, who runs a blog for advanced Facebook marketers, had this to say:
When you think about it, there is no true way to measure the percentage of text in an image. Since letters aren’t blocks, there will always be white space in between. This is why using a grid is so inexact. It doesn’t really measure 20% text at all. It just measures whether there is some text within 20% of the squares within an arbitrary grid. So, yes, it’s an insanely stupid rule. But you have two choices here:
  • Ignore the rule, cross your fingers and get frustrated when your ads get rejected; or
  • Use the Grid Tool to make sure that your text is in the right place.
I recommend #2. Be conscious of the amount of text within your image. Before you submit your ad, make sure that text is placed properly when you use the Grid Tool.
And I agree with him. Just limit your text in your Facebook sponsored post to a word or a phrase--or at most a sentence. And you'll be fine.