What brands need to know about Facebook’s autoplay video ads

This morning Facebook signaled that video ads will, after months of anticipation, be coming to users’ newsfeeds later this week. Tuesday saw the social network begin testing an autoplay video function on some of its members, featuring ads for Summit Entertainment’s new movie, “Divergent.”

How this will go over with the Facebook community remains to be seen.

“From a marketer standpoint the ads are appealing, but ultimately it depends on how they’re received by users,” one agency buyer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Digiday earlier this year. “If they alienate or annoy users too much, then ultimately that’s not a good situation for anyone.”

Here’s what marketers need to know about the new format:

It works like this:
As users scroll through their feeds on mobile and desktop, advertiser video content will now begin to play automatically, but without sound. If a video is tapped or clicked to play in full screen, sound will begin. Otherwise, users can simply scroll past it. At the end of the video, a carousel featuring two additional videos will appear, featuring more content from the same marketer. On mobile devices, all videos that begin playing as they appear on the screen will have been downloaded in advance when the device was connected to WiFi.


Ads aren’t the only video content that will autoplay on Facebook.
Since September the social network has been slowly rolling out autoplay functionality for video content shared by users. Video content now begins automatically playing without sound for many users as they scroll through their news feed, on both their desktop and mobile devices. The new autoplay video ads will behave in exactly the same way. There’s been some concern that Facebook could alienate users with the new autoplay ads, but it isn’t allowing brands’ video content to do anything that users’ video content can’t.

Facebook now offers two video ad opportunities.
The autoplay video ads are a new format, but the social network has enabled marketers to embed video content in sponsored page posts for years, as highlighted in a pitch deck that was shared with Digiday last week. Unlike the new autoplay ads, users will still need to click or tap to initiate any video content featured in page post ads, at least for the time being.

Autoplay ads are designed for big-brand advertisers.
According to Facebook the new autoplay video ads are intended to reach a large audience at a specific time, much like the homepage opportunities offered by sites like YouTube. Page post ads, meanwhile, are designed to be targeted to smaller, niche audiences. “This [autoplay] video format is ideal for marketers who are looking to make a large-scale impact,” Facebook said, and for brands that “want to increase awareness and attention.”

Autoplay video ads won’t come cheap.
Facebook refused to disclose pricing for the new video format, but described it as a “premium” opportunity. Agency execs told Digiday the social network has asked them for commitments of over $2 million to secure one of the ads.

Users don’t have to watch them.
There’s no way for users to prevent the new video ads from playing as they appear on screen, but users can simply scroll past the video to skip it if they wish. In other words, they won’t be served as an interstitial ad, or delay users from accessing other content in their news feeds.

They aren’t available to all advertisers, yet.
According to Facebook, the Summit campaign is an initial, limited test, and the format may not be rolled out to other advertisers. Given the time and energy it’s spent in the market pitching the product to agencies, however, it’s likely Summit won’t be the only marketer it’s tested with. A full-scale rollout will likely depend on user reaction to the new ads.


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