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Facebook Gently Shoves Silent Video Ads in Users' Faces

Facebook Gently Shoves Silent Video Ads in Users' Faces

Facebook is hoping to straddle the fine line between interest and irritation with its display of video ads running in silent mode by default. Video advertising is golden, marketers seem to agree, but consumers by and large don't want in-your-face commercials to be part of their online experience. Millions have downloaded ad-blocking tools to avoid seeing them.

By Richard Adhikari E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
12/19/13 9:15 AM PT

Facebook this week announced the rollout of video ads in the mobile and desktop News Feeds of some of its members.

The video will begin playing in silent mode when it appears onscreen. Clicking or tapping on it will turn on the sound.

When the video ends, a carousel of two additional videos will be offered.

Users who don't want to watch the videos can scroll or swipe past them.

Facebook is pushing this to advertisers as a richer storytelling format. Tests begun in September show this approach increases by 10 percent the number of people watching, liking and commenting on videos, according to the company.

"Any serious commercial Web publisher should have a video ad strategy," Andrew Frank, lead analyst for online advertising at the Gartner Group, told the E-Commerce Times. "Video ads pay much higher yields than static display."

More About the Ads

The video ad format is targeted to specific needs for certain marketers with certain objectives.

The ads will play on individuals' personal Facebook accounts or verified Facebook pages, the pages of entertainers and sports organizations, and with trailers for the new movie Divergent."

Video ads that play on mobile devices are downloaded through WiFi.

Going Where the Money Is

Video is tremendously important for Facebook's users and for marketers, a point underscored by Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg earlier this year, after the company released its Q2 earnings report.

Between 88 million and 100 million users are on the site during prime time TV hours, she noted.

Facebook is not alone in targeting the online video ad market. Google is pushing to increase brand advertising on YouTube. The total brand advertising market, encompassing digital, TV and offline ads, is worth at least US$300 billion a year, said Lucas Watson, Google's vice president of brand solutions.

Twitter launched TV ad targeting in February, letting brands automatically detect when and where their commercials were running on TV, and identifying users who tweeted about the program where an ad ran.

Digital video ad spend in the United States will exceed $8 billion by 2016, about double this year's more than $4 billion, eMarketer predicted.

How Much Is That Online Ad in the Window?

Twitter charges about $200,000 a day for its Promoted Trend service.

YouTube reportedly charges $10 to $20 for cost per thousand impressions.

Advertisers on Facebook reportedly will get slapped with a $2 million daily bill.

Facebook did not respond to our request for further details.

Demand for Twitter's so-called Promoted Trend has been spotty, according to Adweek. Facebook's move into the market might take away some of Twitter's business.

However, the real competition is likely to be between Facebook and YouTube, both of which command huge audiences.

"Video is a strong component of online ads," Gartner's Frank said. "The reason it's not stronger is the limited supply of attractive placement opportunities, either on websites that can handle in-banner video or streams that can accommodate pre/post/mid-roll insertion."

The Great Video Ad Turnoff

Consumer resistance to online ads is growing, according to Adblock Plus, a community-driven open source project aimed at getting rid of online ads, which has been downloaded more than 250 million times worldwide.

Downloads of the project's browser extension between September and this month have increased nearly 60 percent over those for the same period last year.

"Video may become a stronger component [of online ads], but our users complain about how annoying video ads are as much or more than any other type," Ben Williams, a spokesperson for Adblock Plus, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Every brand has to decide how to portray their product," he allowed, "but they must also be aware that users have tools to react if those portrayals are intrusive."


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