Facebook's New Sell: Watch a Video Ad, Earn Credits For Free Stuff

Users Earn 'Credits' For Lots of Things, and Now For Watching Ads

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Facebook users can now earn Facebook "credits" in exchange for watching video ads in games, and in an experiment, the social network is trying the new incentive plan on a small number of pages as well.

The new program will run in all participating ad-supported Facebook games and as part of a test on 1% of Facebook pages on the right-hand side of the screen, an extension of users' ability to earn credits by performing other types of activities inside games, which has been available for the past year.

Facebook users can now earn Facebook
Facebook users can now earn Facebook

The test on Facebook pages will run for the next several months in the US, UK, France, Germany and Canada, a spokesman said.

Ad network TrialPlay has been powering the credits system inside Facebook since last year, including the deal to allow users to rent Warner Bros. "The Dark Knight ." Users have been able to get credits inside games by doing such tasks as signing up for magazine subscriptions or buying items like flowers. That activity earned them credits eligible to be redeemed anywhere on Facebook. TrialPlay will continue to manage the system -- through a platform they call DealPlay -- but will now include video ads from four companies -- Sharethrough, EpicSocial, SocialVibe and SupersonicAds. When users are inside the game, they have a choice to click on a button that will take them to the ad.

SocialVibe raised $20 million in March, is no stranger to Facebook -- they power the advertising in Zynga hits like Cityville, Petville and many others and reach 200 million gamers a month by offering ads from brands like Lexus, American Express and Pepsi.

"What we've learned from millions of interactions is people like free stuff and now Facebook users can earn credits simply by participating with the advertiser to get that free stuff," said CEO Jay Samit. "This kind of advertising satisfies what brands have been looking for -- an opt-in experience with a reach greater than TV and highly targeted."

Sharethrough works with branded content videos and said that this move by Facebook validates an important distinction between traditional advertising and content people choose to watch.

"This new initiative marks Facebook's validation of social video, focusing on views, not impressions; choice, not interruption; shares, not just click-through rates," said Sharethrough CEO Dan Greenberg. "The success metric is the social impact that the brand campaign has."

What Mr. Greenberg said fits in with Facebook's "social by design" mantra -- meaning that everything they do is meant to be shared and experienced with friends -- including advertising.

An example of this kind of video that Facebook users can earn credits by watching is an ad created for Rokk Vodka by the Lonely Island comedic troupe -- the same crew of producers that make the hilarious shorts for Saturday Night Live.

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