Facebook is touting its latest creator programs and new shows as it looks to prove to advertisers it is more than just social media.
At the Interactive Advertising Bureau's fall marketplace event on Tuesday, Facebook executives made the pitch to marketers that its video ad offering fits into the connected TV and streaming space, while emphasizing video brand safety features, which has become a salient subject for advertisers.
It's not necessarily a new message from Facebook, which has been tempting marketers for years with quality control measures in video ads. But the message had renewed urgency as Facebook deals with tougher competition from younger rivals like Snapchat and TikTok, and as more advertisers demand safer spaces to run their commercials.
Facebook’s in-stream video ads are one of the few places on the social network where brands can control where they appear using tools like “topic exclusions,” which lets brands avoid subjects that offend their sensibilities. Facebook is working on similar tools for News Feed, but that is still in development.
Bianca Bradford, Facebook’s director and head of agency in North America, outlined how the company has developed video advertising, known as “in-stream,” which runs inside videos produced by creators and publishers. Facebook launched “topic targeting” this year, which lets brands choose the subjects of the videos in which they appear. There are hundreds of categories like sports, relationships and holidays, Bradford said.
“These features only matter if you feel comfortable about where you put your brand,” Bradford said.
In the past year, advertisers have been demanding more transparency and controls around where ads run on Facebook. Just this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook exempted certain accounts from celebrities, politicians and other high-profile figures, from penalties, even when they posted content that violated Facebook's policies. The report touched on issues that brands have been pressing for months: the need to understand how harmful content spreads on the platform, the prevalence of harmful content, and how marketers can avoid it. Facebook has been making changes, though, and recently tapped the Media Rating Council to independently audit brand safety controls and content monetization policies.
“While our community standards apply to everyone on Facebook,” Bradford said in the presentation, “we also have industry-leading brand-safety policies, controls, and transparent reporting processes to help ensure ads are running in a high-quality environment.”
The IAB fall event is somewhat of a mid-season NewFront presentation, with platforms and media companies trying to attract major brands with their video programs and new ad capabilities. The event included Roku, Samsung Ads, Vevo and A+E networks, but Facebook was the only major social media or internet platform at the event.
Facebook is trying to grab a greater piece of advertising budgets that are shifting from TV to streaming video. In order to win those budgets, Facebook needs professionally produced programs from popular individual creators and top publishers. Facebook showed off Watch, which is the video hub in the social network, with programs like “Red Table Talk,” the talk show hosted by Jada Pinkett and Willow Smith, and a new reality show that follows Olympian Simone Biles. Facebook also is investing in creators, promising to devote $1 billion to online stars through 2022. Since June 2020, Facebook has dished out more than $30 million to creators of color and diverse backgrounds.
Ryan Ibanez, head of media planning at Volvo USA, presented a case study on how the automaker used Facebook’s “In-Stream Reserve” ad service. In-Stream Reserve is the most highly-vetted video content, so brands can ensure that ads appear in favorable settings.
“We were impressed to find that our TV-plus-Facebook strategy drove higher incremental reach and ad recall than TV alone,” Ibanez said. “With Facebook In-Stream, we had better control and visibility into necessary brand safety and suitability parameters that includes insight into the environment in which our content shows up.”
In recent weeks, Facebook has been reaching out to agencies and brands to promote video, says Jennifer Kohl, senior VP, integrated media at VMLY&R. TikTok has been doing the same, Kohl says, as both platforms are going head-to-head to cater to brands interested in social video, e-commerce and creators. TikTok, the Chinese-owned app, has been a particularly pesky rival for Facebook and YouTube, commanding greater watch times, luring brands with viral shopping trends, and even moving into connected TV with an app on Amazon Fire TV.
“There is space for all of them, because consumers are going to social for more than just checking in on their family,” Kohl says.
Mary Kate McGrath, chief operating officer of Some Spider Studios, a parenting content production firm, also spoke at Facebook’s video showcase, giving an overview of how social media is evolving: “It’s a mistake for people to think about video only as social video,” she said.