Facebook is still debating several product features, but has
decided on this much to date, these executives said: By April at
the latest, it will offer video advertisers the chance to target
video ads to large numbers of Facebook users in their news feeds on
both the desktop version of Facebook as well as on Facebook apps on
mobile phones and tablets.
Facebook is leaning toward capping the length of these video ads
at 15 seconds -- a move that could push ad agencies normally
reluctant to cut down their 30-second commercials to do so. That
decision could also mean that 15-second video ads would become more
prevalent elsewhere on the web.
In what's sure to be a controversial move, the visual component of
the Facebook video ads will start playing automatically -- a
dynamic known as "autoplay" -- according to two of the executives.
Facebook is still debating whether to have the audio component of
the ads activated automatically as well, one of these people
On the desktop version of Facebook, the video ads are expected
to grab a user's attention by expanding out of the news feed into
webpage real estate in both the left and right columns -- or rails
-- of the screen. Facebook is also working on a way to ensure that
the video ads stand out on the mobile apps as well, though it is
unclear how exactly the company will accomplish this. (Some details
about the video-ad plans remain vague and could change as Facebook
gets more feedback from clients.)
Advertisers will be able to shows their video ads to desktop
users of Facebook, but Facebook has been highlighting the mobile
versions of the product in meetings with ad agencies, demonstrating
the product on both tablets and mobile phones. Advertisers will be
able to show the same video ad to a Facebook user up to three times
a day across various devices, two of the executives said.
All of the executives interviewed view the new video ad product
as a blatant attempt on Facebook's part to wrest big ad dollars
from TV budgets. Ad agencies have plenty of TV spots and
increasingly want to extend their reach on the web. But TV-like
inventory on the web is scarce, which is why ad rates at places
such as Hulu are so high.
Inventory from scratch
Adding video ads to Facebook would create a huge new trough of
inventory created essentially from scratch. With Facebook's scale,
advertisers could target demographics as they do on TV as well as
use the gross ratings point currency, which they use for TV.
Yet questions remain. How widely will advertisers be able to
distribute these TV commercials on Facebook? Will they only be able
to show them to their Facebook fans, and friends of their fans, or
to the Facebook user base at large?
For the most part, videos from advertisers currently only appear
in a user's news feed if that person, or a friend of that person,
has "liked" that advertiser's brand page on the social network and
the brand has posted a video to its page. But several of the
executives Ad Age interviewed are suspecting that advertisers will
be able to target these video ads to Facebook users whether or not
the user or his friends has any relationship on Facebook with the
"The assumption is that these would be widespread campaigns,"
one of the execs said. "They are looking to grab big chunks of
money ... millions of dollars."
These executives stressed that Facebook has not indicated yet
whether this will be case, but they note that the product would
otherwise carry much less appeal to advertisers. It is not clear
how Facebook will charge for the video ads. Video-ad prices are
typically higher than other forms of web advertising.
While the consensus among the executives is that advertisers
have long been waiting for Facebook to open up its platform in a
meaningful way to video advertising, several of the execs Ad Age
spoke to are nervous about the reaction from Facebook users to the
latest ad product.
At the top of the list of concerns is the autoplay function,
which is often viewed as intrusive and sometimes as a source of
fraud in the video-ad market, when autoplay ads count toward a view
even if someone isn't watching them. Additionally, some of those
interviewed said they are concerned that Facebook visitors will
quickly become tired of ads from advertisers with which they or
their friends have no relationship, even if advertisers tailor the
ads based on information in a person's profile.
"There could be serious outrage," one of these people said.
Ad Age reached out to Facebook to inquire about the video-ad
plans, and shared the details of what our reporting has uncovered.
Facebook declined to comment.