Will These Facebook Video Ads Attract The Right Kind Of User Attention?

    December 19, 2013
    Chris Crum

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it is testing a new promoted video format in the News Feed, starting with one for the new film Divergent on Thursday.

Do you think users will accept these ads? Will they be effective for advertisers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Facebook has been testing similar ads since September, and says that as a result, it has seen views, likes, shares and comments increase over 10%. Of course, it probably helps that changes to the News Feed algorithm make it far less likely that users will even see brand messages unless they’re paid for.

“Marketers will be able to use this new format to tell their stories to a large number of people on Facebook in a short amount of time – with high-quality sight, sound and motion,” Facebook says of the new format. “This approach will continue to improve the quality of ads that you see in News Feed.”

“Compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time,” it says. “From launching new products to shifting brand sentiment, this video format is ideal for marketers who are looking to make a large-scale impact, and for people who will discover more great content in their News Feeds.”

Page post video ads can come into play to sustain the message of the initial campaign over longer periods of time in more targeted ways, according to the company, which also says the format isn’t intended for all video ads or Page post videos on Facebook, but meets “specific needs for certain marketers with certain objectives.”

The ads will autoplay as they appear on screen without sound. Users can simply scroll past them like any other content in the New Feed if they don’t wish to watch the video. If the user taps or clicks the video, it will be played in full screen, and the sound will play.

When the video is over, it will display two additional videos from the same marketer, which users will have the option of watching.

Videos will be downloaded in advance on mobile devices when they connect to WiFi, so the content won’t consume data plans.

If you’re wondering whether all promoted videos will begin playing as soon as they appear, you’ll just have to wait and see. Facebook hasn’t decided yet, but is using what it learns from this initial test to determine what to do. If users react favorably, we can probably expect a lot more autoplaying videos in our News Feeds.

The company says it will continue to refine the format. While it’s only a small test for now, it sounds like we can expect an announcement of broader availability in time. Facebook is simply telling marketers it will let them know. They’re not talking about the pricing for the format.

For the Divergent ads, Facebook has been working with Summit Entertainment and Mindshare. There will be a series of videos promoting the film.

So far, the reaction from marketers seems to be relatively positive. We’ll see what users think.

Users should already be getting used to the idea of autoplay videos. Facebook introduced this functionality to user videos a few months ago, and it’s been that way in Instagram for a while now.

There will no doubt be plenty of people complaining, because that’s what people do, but as my colleague Josh Wolford explains, the ads should prove to be “pretty much the most tolerable kind of video ad around.”

As he notes, they’re less intrusive than other video ads on the web and on television, because you can skip right past them just like any other Facebook ad if you so choose.

This may not seem incredibly great for the advertiser, but it should still accomplish the goal of spreading awareness regardless of whether the user actually watches the video. Advertisers will need to make sure they have a powerful enough message that catches the user’s attention enough to want to make them play the video.

Longtime Facebook reporter Josh Constine compares the experience of Facebook’s new Divergent ad to the dialogue-heavy trailer for the movie as seen on YouTube:

“The short clip promoting Divergent doesn’t rely on audio,” he points out. “It’s soundtracked with thrilling music, but the action sequences and flashes of white text on black get the action flick’s message across even when silent. Compare that to the dialog-heavy official trailer for Divergent…that wouldn’t make sense without sound, and you’ll get an idea of how advertisers will need to adapt.”

BusinessWeek says these ads could “genuinely threaten television companies”.

Constine shared a leaked pitch deck from Facebook last week promising to help advertisers “reach more people than major TV networks”:

Facebook pitch deck

Image: Facebook via TechCrunch

The ads could also eat into Google’s video ad dominance. According to eMarketer (via BusinessWeek), YouTube accounts for 20 percent of the overall online video ad market and drew $5.6 billion in ad revenue this year.

Can Facebook make a dent?

What do you think of Facebook’s new format? Let us know in the comments.

Image: Facebook


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.