Social Media Video Ads Part 1: Facebook Walks a Thin Line with News Feed Video Ads

Zuckerberg Unveils Autoplaying Video Ads For Social Media Marketers

Facebook has a deal for you. For only 2 million dollars a day, you can promote your company with an engaging, 15-second video ad that will appear in the News Feeds of millions of Facebook users both online and on mobile.

There’s only one problem. Facebook is also going to do their best to make these video ads unobtrusive so those same millions of users don’t get upset.

That’s not a fine line you see there, it’s a hair’s width and that’s what has been keeping Mark Zuckerberg from launching his grand plan.

Video advertising is a growing trend. You’ll find them on YouTube videos, streaming movies and TV shows, even mobile apps ask users to watch video advertisements in lieu of payment. According to comScore, Americans watched a record 20 billion video ads in June of 2013. Those ads reached almost 54% of the total population of the United States an average of 121 times during the month.

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This is why Facebook wants video ads; they think that the platform will be a viable alternative to traditional TV advertising and why not? They have the audience. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg says that 88 million to 100 million people are actively using Facebook during prime-time TV hours every night of the week.

Facebook would have a leg up on TV timeslots because they have the ability to tightly target News Feed ads, but Bloomberg says that the only options will be age and gender. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, since all other forms of Facebook advertising can be targeted by interests, location even the person’s connection to someone who likes your brand.

But targeting is only part of the problem. Facebook engineers have been working hard to make the ad experience as unobtrusive as possible. The plan is to only use 5% of a user’s feed and control ad repeats so the same video doesn’t appear over and over again.

There’s also been some debate about auto-start. Advertisers want the videos to play as soon as the page loads but that can be a problem, particularly for mobile users. The balance point is auto-play without sound. The viewer will have to tap to activate the sound, and Facebook is hoping they’ll also swipe to view additional ads from the same advertiser. Is that likely to happen? Facebook says yes, as long as marketers create video advertising that is so entertaining and compelling that people will want to watch. That’s a lot to hope for in 15 seconds.

For the advertisers who get it right, there’s nothing but good news:

  • 52% of consumers who watch product videos say those videos make them more confident about purchases. (Invodo)
  • 75% of online video viewers have interacted with an online video ad in the past month. (Tremor Video)
  • 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others. (Invodo)
  • 36% of online consumers trust video ads. (Nielsen Wire)
  • Enjoyment of video ads increases purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%. (Unruly)

Facebook is likely to launch their video ad program in the fall. Then it will up to advertisers. If they can deliver a product that makes people want to click, Facebook will continue the program. But if annoying ads aggravate the majority of the users, Zuckerberg won’t hesitate to pull the plug or push the video ads behind the mostly-hidden Page tab.

Will Facebook launch the next big thing in video advertising or will the outcry from the masses put a stop to it before it ever starts? We’ll know before the end of the year.

Like this post? Stay tuned for part 2 next week: Social Networking Video Ads Tips and Takeaways for Brands. 

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