Facebook Opens Branded Video Program on YouTube's Anniversary

Vice, Vox Media, Tastemade, Funny or Die Involved in Anthology Program

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity in Cannes on June 18, 2014.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity in Cannes on June 18, 2014. Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

On Thursday YouTube celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first video being uploaded to what would become the preeminent online video service. And Facebook crashed the party.

Facebook announced on Thursday a branded-video program called Anthology that will have publishers and digital video producers including Vice, Vox Media, Tastemade and Funny or Die creating videos for advertisers -- in collaboration with Creative Shop, Facebook's in-house agency -- that would run as ads on the social network.

Additional publishers involved in the Anthology program are The Onion, Electus Digital and Oh My Disney.

The Anthology program's business model is similar to the typical branded-content deal. An advertiser links up with a publisher or production company and pays them to produce a video or series of videos for the brand. The brand then takes that content and pays another publisher to run it as an ad, often on Google's YouTube.

But with Anthology, advertisers are required to run videos created through the program as ads on Facebook, according to a Facebook spokesman. That could boost Facebook's position as it tries to usurp YouTube's position as the go-to destination for digital-video advertising.

Facebook is already catching up to YouTube as consumers' go-to destination for digital-video watching. On Wednesday Facebook announced that its users are averaging 4 billion video views a day, up from 1 billion views per day in September. YouTube no longer reports its total daily video views, but the Google-owned video service said in January 2012 that it had notched 4 billion daily video views.

Facebook and its publishing/production partners are not splitting the revenue from Anthology deals, according to the Facebook spokesman. Facebook will keep the money the brand spends to advertise the campaign on Facebook, and the publishing/production partners will keep the money the brand spends to produce the campaign. Publishers can dig up additional revenue by getting the advertiser to pay to run the Anthology videos as sponsored content on the publisher's own site, and the publisher wouldn't have to share that money with Facebook.

Advertisers will also be able to run these ads as ads on non-Facebook properties, such as YouTube, Yahoo, Hulu or linear TV. The advertiser is ultimately responsible for distribution.

Facebook has been doing this kind of branded-video work with brands and publishers for a couple years, dating back to Budweiser's "Made for Music" campaign with Vice, which also did campaigns with Lufthansa and Bose. With Anthology, the company has formalized that work.

But brands can do these kinds of branded content deals with companies sans Facebook and its requirement that the videos run as ads on the social network. So why get Facebook involved? Because Facebook has a bunch of data on the types of videos people want to watch. Companies that are part of its Anthology program will be able to use that Facebook data to inform the content they're developing for advertisers.

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