Facebook Launches New Video Advertising Format

In a new digital challenge to television, Facebook has begun to let advertiser test a new video format that plays automatically when users check their news feeds.

The first advertiser to work with Facebook is Summit Entertainment, which has created a series of videos to promote the upcoming film Divergent. Mindshare is Summit’s media agency.

Facebook has been looking to monetize its huge number of users through advertising. But in the digital ad business, video has emerged as the most lucrative category. Facebook, however, has encountered challenges in putting ads on its site without alienating users who want to interact with friends and family.

“This week, we’re starting to test this richer storytelling format for advertisers. Compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time,” Facebook said in its Facebook for Business blog, which includes a video showing how the format works. “From launching new products to shifting brand sentiment, this video format is ideal for marketers who are looking to make a large-scale impact, and for people who will discover more great content in their News Feeds.”

With the new format, video begins to play when it appears on the screen. It appears at first without sound. Users have the option to continue to scroll past the video or to tap it, which will move the video to a full-screen mode with sound.  At the end of the video a “carousel” featuring two additional videos will appear, allowing the user to get more content from the same marketer, Facebook said.

On mobile devices, Facebook said, the ads are loaded via WiFi and will not consume users’ data plans.

"This format isn’t intended for every video ad or page post video on Facebook; it meets specific needs for certain marketers with certain objectives. We’ll continue to refine this new way for brands to tell stories on Facebook to ensure the best experience for people and marketers."

Facebook has been testing the new format since September to allow users to share their own videos. In tests with users, “we’ve seen a more than 10% increase in people watching, liking, sharing and commenting on videos. It’s a better experience for people and it’s leading to increased engagement,” Facebook said.

In a recent interview with B&C’s Media Buyer and Planner Today newsletter, David Lawenda, who joined Facebook in October as VP of global marketing solutions in the U.S. after a long TV ad sales career, noted that TV is a great reach vehicle.

“However, now that I am at Facebook, I am seeing that we have the same reach story as TV, but we can also be extremely targeted and provide deep engagement and measurable results at a fraction of the cost of TV. We’re like TV with benefits,” he said.

"So for us it’s about telling that story, providing case studies and examples of brands that have already done well, and working very closely with marketers to come up with great campaigns that effectively utilize our advertising solutions,” he said. “We’re not selling against TV, we’re selling the benefits of Facebook and we know that we stack up well against any platform out there, traditional or digital.”

Lawenda said Facebook’s reach now trumps other platforms, with 1.2 billion users.

He said he’s begun to approach people he sold TV to. “I’ve had many clients already tell me that Facebook is ‘the new primetime’ and they are eager to put the power of our platform to work for their business.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.