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What will Facebook video advertising mean for marketers?

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28th Mar 2014
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Facebook users are a pretty tolerant crowd. They have to be; the ten-year-old site has had more controversial makeovers than Madonna. So it’s probably with quiet confidence that Facebook has rolled out its latest modification – Premium Video Advertising.

Having been tentatively launched just a couple of weeks ago, Facebook Premium Video Adverts are still in their baby stages, and only time will tell how successful they will be. However, being perpetually impatient, we’ve spoken to a few industry experts to try and gauge whether or not it’ll be a hit with users, and find out where the potential benefits or boo-boos lie for brands. 

Auto-annoyance? 

The videos, which are beginning to silently infiltrate news feeds as we speak, play automatically as they appear on the page. Without the power to prevent these adverts from rolling, and with no say over their content, users may well get a little irritated – especially as they’re not used to having this kind of advertising enforced upon them in social spaces.

“YouTube is currently the largest video advertising player, but their ad formats avoid most auto-play video ads," notes Alistair Dent, director of paid media at Periscopix. "Generally, an ad is either pre-rolling before a video the user has chosen to watch, or has been actively clicked on as a promoted or searched for video. So, videos to be auto-played in a Facebook user’s stream need to be carefully selected. The audio shouldn’t be important, and they shouldn’t feel intrusive or irrelevant. 

“For that reason I suspect that we’ll see Facebook being very selective over the advertisers and videos that they allow into this format, and we may see some levels of user displeasure until Facebook get that mix right.”

Indeed, the social network has been keen to make users aware that it’s trying not to trash their experience by littering personal feeds. “To make sure Premium Video Ads are as good as other content people see in their news feeds, we’re working with a company called Ace Metrix to help us review and assess how engaging the creative is for each ad – before it appears on Facebook,” their recent blog post says.

It continues: “We’ll roll out Premium Video Ads slowly and monitor how people interact with them. This limited introduction allows us to concentrate our efforts on a smaller number of advertisers with high-quality campaigns to create the best possible experience on Facebook.”

However, Hugh Burrows, head of digital at 3 Monkeys Communications, considers that, content aside, the very nature of this type of advert delivery is likely to cause upset. “There is a risk here that users may resist a format that’s perceived as interruptive – it may be TV-like, but Facebook is not television (which is in itself a medium that’s now subject to record levels of ad skipping thanks to Sky+ and Virgin Tivo).

Employing TV tactics

The videos are, indeed, being likened to TV ads and are to be treated the same in terms of the sales and motoring processes; Gross Rating Points will be used to help target specific audiences with different videos, which will then be measured by another third party whose results will dictate what advertisers pay. Just like traditional broadcasted ads.

It’s not just the processes that make these videos similar to TV adverts though; content and style will inevitably also cross over. “I suspect that taking a similar stylistic approach to video ads as traditional TV ads on Facebook would not go down well with users, because of the vast differences in how the mediums are perceived and a strong sense of ownership of the newsfeed,” says Edward Bass, social media consultant at Amaze. “With this in mind, advertisers need to ensure their Facebook video ads seem at home on the channel as well as promoting interaction and sharing to ensure reach."

Burrows agrees with this last point, and explains why brands should carefully consider whether this type of marketing is suitable for them. “Targeting and creativity are everything: it’s far less of a leap of faith to see users willingly lapping up video ads from entertainment distributors or brands that behave like media owners, such as Red Bull, than it is those from banks or utilities.” On that basis he concludes that “it’s unlikely to be a silver bullet.”

While it may not be a one-size-fits-all advertising medium, video has more than proven its effectiveness, and the increasing number of social platforms makes it easier to exploit. “The use of video takes storytelling to a whole new level,” notes Holli Brown, digital marketing executive at ramarketing. “You know the saying ‘a picture paints a thousand words’? Well, the use of a video can paint a thousand more. The introduction of Instagram Video and Vine has dramatically changed the way Facebook users absorb information from their news feed, meaning they’re much more likely to view a six second video then spend five minutes reading a paragraph.

“Using video opens up opportunities for any type of business to connect with their target audiences, whether it be to give fans a sneak preview of a film, for brands to promote a new product or for industry leaders to share tips and tricks.”

The potential is certainly there, as long as advertisers tread carefully. “To utilise it effectively requires more time, planning and investment than other mediums,” Bass reminds us, “which may present a challenge to brands without a carefully considered content strategy and firm view on their visual identity."

The next frontier

As for the future, our experts predict that although we’ll hear grumbles in the short-term, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. “The thing about Facebook is that its users hate change,” notes Brown. “So, when Facebook video advertisements roll out in the next few weeks there’s bound to be some backlash, and we’re bound to see a few faces on our news feeds saying they’re going to stage a boycott. But sure enough, we’ll see them come crawling back.”

Once the dust has settled though, we may see this type of advertising cropping up in other social spaces, too. “If the ads prove a success, I would expect to see a similar feature rolled out on Instagram in the future, as Facebook has already stated its keenness to start utilising the channel for ads,” reasons Bass.

Burrows also foresees this prompting a shift in video marketing: “Facebook offers sophisticated targeting opportunities (age, gender, location, likes, tastes, interests, fans of complementary or competitive brands) and this may mean a new era in video targeting which has hitherto been based largely on search.”

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