Just in time for the holidays, Facebook is giving marketers the gift of News Feed video ads. According to Advertising Age, Facebook will debut the new ad product in early 2013.
Currently, marketers can run video ads through Premium and Homepage ad placements. The rumored video ad unit is different because it would allow marketers to deliver sponsored video content directly within a users’ News Feed – a locale that will likely garner more eyeballs (and engagement).
While Facebook offered no comment in response to the Ad Age report, the new unit follows a similar story to other enhancements and updates we’ve seen over the past several months. As Facebook continues to try to monetize its inventory in new ways (i.e. mobile, News Feed and search ads), the introduction of new ad offerings has become the expected norm. Facebook will continue to develop ad products that enable marketers to easily port existing content into paid placements – and it will continue to make a play for brand dollars.
Expected product features
While the details are still unfolding, Ad Age reports that the new unit will be available to advertisers by April, and will allow marketers to target sponsored video content to users via both the desktop and mobile News Feed. At just 15 seconds long, the length of the ads could be half of what TV advertisers have grown accustomed to – and is perhaps a nod to the dwindling attention spans of digital consumers.
The ads are also rumored to have an “autoplay” feature in which the video will play automatically to guarantee viewership. This would function across both desktop and mobile devices, with an expandable unit automatically playing in the former scenario. As for the latter – mobile – Ad Age reports that Facebook hasn’t fully fleshed out how autoplay would work on those devices.
According to this early report, Facebook is saying that the units will only appear on a user’s News Feed if that person has Liked the brand’s page. Of course, this could change down the line, as some of Facebook’s other ads (i.e. Suggested Posts) don’t require a person to Like the page before being served an ad.
For marketers, more questions than answers – for now
Though unofficial, a new video ad unit will provide brands with yet another means of reaching Facebook’s enormous (and data-laden) audience. It also continues to blur the distinction between digital and traditional, with media investment potentially shifting from TV to Facebook as a result.
Yet while the video offering has clear and obvious links to TV inventory, the social nature of the medium poses unique challenges – and opportunities – for marketers who try it out. Brands will want to ask themselves if existing TV content will resonate with the Facebook community, and if the content will feel “right” within that environment.
The data factor is also a big one. Planning for TV media relies on the general demographics and size of a network or show’s audience – but Facebook’s targeting capabilities are much more powerful. For example, advertisers might opt to show TV ads to non-fans only or perhaps show them to specific demographic or geographic segments. Can Facebook play the role of a spot buy?
Two of the top unknowns are pricing and action. How will the units be priced: CPM, CPC or Cost per View? Moreover, will the new units be more efficient than buying the currently offered Video post ad? In terms of action, it’s not yet clear how users will be able to interact with the ad. Beyond viewing, can they Like or Share the ad? Or alternatively, will they clickthrough to somewhere else?
While advertisers have been awaiting these new types of ad offerings that expand and enrich Facebook’s marketing canvas, it will be interesting to see how users react to the content – especially when it comes to more disruptive features like autoplay. That said, for brand marketers, the rumored unit would be a welcome addition to Facebook’s ever-expanding suite of ad offerings.
Sarah Sikowitz, Group Media Director at 360i, contributed to this article.
Image via Wired