Social Media

Facebook Launches Video Ad Testing

December 18, 2013

Following several months of talk and speculation, Facebook has finally commenced auto-play video ad testing across mobile and desktop News Feeds. The update is expected to be a boon for TV and entertainment marketers in particular, but also holds opportunity for any advertiser with compelling video content.

For the initial test, Facebook partnered with Summit Entertainment to promote a series of videos for the upcoming film “Divergent.” The video ads play automatically without sound as users scroll through their News Feed environments.

Pending the success of the test, these new video ads will eventually be sold to select advertisers as a premium placement — directly through Facebook and outside of Facebook’s bid-based ad marketplace – but the platform has not yet publicized pricing. Facebook says it is optimistic the ads will be successful following the testing of organic auto-play videos over the past few months, during which time ongoing optimizations led to a more than 10 percent increase in user engagement, per Facebook.

Facebook explains how the ads will work in a blog post published earlier this week:

  • Rather than having to click or tap to play, videos will begin to play as they appear onscreen – without sound – similar to how they behave when shared by friends or verified Pages. If you don’t want to watch the video, you can simply scroll or swipe past it.
  • If the video is clicked or tapped and played in full screen, the sound for that video will play as well.
  • At the end of the video, a carousel of two additional videos will appear, making it easy to continue to discover additional content from the same marketer.
  • On mobile devices, all videos that begin playing as they appear on the screen will have been downloaded in advance when the device was connected to Wi-Fi – meaning this content will not consume data plans, even if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi at the time of playback.

Facebook recommends auto-play video ads for advertisers who have a goal of reach and awareness over a short period of time. We can see television and film advertisers benefitting greatly from the ads if rolled out as a permanent ad product.

The video ads to some might be seen as a response to Twitter Amplify ads, which leverage the power of Twitter conversation with TV show viewership to create dual-screen synergies for advertisers. Facebook has adopted the hashtag with mediocre success; could auto-play video ads potentially make Facebook the preferred advertiser for entertainment brands?

We have seen advertisers sync TV advertising schedules to amplify ad messaging on Twitter with large success. Expanding video messaging across TV, Twitter and Facebook could develop the message in ways we have never seen before, through conversation on Twitter and through engagement with additional video footage on Facebook.

Moreover, the opportunity may very well also extend beyond TV and entertainment brands, as entities such as professional sports teams/organizations, record labels, automakers and gaming companies often have compelling video content at their disposal as well. For these and other marketers, the name of the game will be creating custom video content that plays well within the platform (e.g. we don’t recommend repurposing a TV spot). Not surprisingly, the suspected high price tags of the ads will make it difficult for smaller advertisers to get in on the action.

Time and user behavior will tell if these ads will be rolled out as a permanent ad product. But the benefits to advertisers are clear, as Facebook has brought to the table a new format for marketers to tell their stories to a massive audience – along with the advantage of great targeting capabilities.

Molly Baker, Media Coordinator at 360i, contributed to this report.

Cover photo via CNN Money