Evaluating the Facebook Video Ad Opportunity


Facebook’s still-evolving plan to broadly sell businesses video ads that appear in users’ newsfeeds as a way to engage potential customers, offers a powerful new opportunity to marketers – one that requires a thorough and ongoing evaluation by interested parties.

Video ads can be more captivating than current Facebook options and provide businesses much more than the current “suggested posts” located in the newsfeed – and cost much more (millions of dollars more). Facebook has partnered with Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings and Ace Metrix (who reviews ad quality and engagement level before the ad runs) to help businesses optimize their video ad efforts. My colleague Steve Anderson lays out the Facebook plan-in-progress in detail.

But potential advertisers need to consider and evaluate potential issues and mull key questions to determine if or how to proceed with Facebook’s video ad opportunity - which offers massive member reach on a social media site originally created to let friends share content and comment on posts, free of charge and free of ads.

Member Reaction

Though Facebook has been proceeding with caution and valued partners on the video ad venture in hopes of ensuring positive reaction (and to avoid negative member reaction), the biggest question is whether users want anything else in their daily newsfeed, which already contains numerous suggested posts from merchants, organizations and political groups that they did not request.

The video ads are more invasive but they begin without audio and require a click for the ad to take over the screen and begin – unlike website ads (e.g. on sports news sites) that launch audio and video whether you want it or not when you click on their site. These new ads will stop however if you scroll past them.

The site is taking steps to avoid overloading newsfeeds by allowing a maximum of three video ads per user newsfeed per day, a wise move.

Still, will Facebook users simply skip ads as viewers want to do with TV shows, or will they be magnetic and draw members to give them a quick look?

Image via Shutterstock.

Are Facebook Users Buyers?

This companion question can only be partially answered if at all given the social media site’s finite ad options to date, which focus on suggested posts in the newsfeed. Since there weren’t ad options for some years after its launch, users came aboard for Facebook’s social media functionality.

Alluring and compelling video ads could convert members into viewers, shoppers and buyers - though detailed figures on conversion rates for suggested posts and other current ad options have not been publicly released. Many users complain about the unwanted posts in their newsfeed. Video ads could usher in a new level of user engagement with ads or diminish the value of the site to users.

Social Media ROI?

This has long been debated with some companies not buying the value of marketing on Facebook, with General Motors being the highest profile example. The automaker shut down a $10 million Facebook campaign in 2012 claiming the ads didn’t work for them. It’s important to note that this was well before video ads became an option, but did raise the question of how to determine a ROI for the social media ad campaigns.

Metrics beyond simple “buzz” include lead generation, lead conversion and, of course, sales versus ad spend. Could video ads lure back GM and convert doubters into do-ers? Facebook is hoping so as it works with a select list of companies. Success stories (ones with a solid ROI) would be gold to the effort.

Facebook enlisted Nielsen early on to assist in providing figures for this effort. You can’t justify what you can’t measure. Better still for this undertaking, those buying video ads will be charged based on the measured performance of their video spots by Nielsen.

Know Video!

The value of video can be limitless if it’ understood and optimized. But since you often don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression, understanding what hits and misses with video ads is a prerequisite.

For example, it’s no secret that TV and online video are very different creatures. With that in mind, Facebook is offering shorter-duration ads, 15 seconds long, as opposed to the long standard 30-second and one-minute options for traditional TV. This is an important start.

Make Great Ads

Facebook has the audience and is the delivery mechanism, but they are hardly ad wizards. If they were, they wouldn’t have partnered with Ace Metrix to review video ads before they see daylight on the site. Learn from TV and other outlets and take ownership of the ad creation process.

These premium video ads are expensive, with reports having them at anywhere from $600,000 to $2.5 million a day. Use your 15 seconds of marketing fame wisely. Creative and funny work. Ads featuring sedans racing around closed courses and race tracks with professional drivers underwhelm on TV let alone the web. Magnetic and memorable are paramount. Get “re-creative” for a different delivery method.

There are many reasons why consumers skip TV ads. Know them and avoid them like the plague.

Welcome to short attention span theater. The clock is ticking down: 15, 14, 13….

Reach vs. Relevance

Debated for decades by marketers and agencies, the gist of the question focuses on whether it’s better to reach the largest possible audience with your message or focus more tightly on those believed to be most likely to be interested in your pitch.

U.S. automakers have long focused on the mass shotgun blast approach with endless car and truck ads which struggle to capture viewers’ attention on TV. Others have taken advantage of more honed approaches seeking viewers with interest in their wares without paying for those who don’t.

The potential power of Facebook’s video ad offerings is that the social media mega-site has generated vast amounts of data on users’ like, dislikes and much more marketing gold. As a result, the site is in the position to offer advertisers more of a best of both worlds solution than a one way or the other dilemma. In the end, however, it always comes back to the bottom line ROI for the advertiser.

Understand Facebook Demographics

Knowing your target audience is a marketing 101 staple item. Knowing Facebook’s user base is not necessarily as easy, with reports claiming teens are ditching the site or simply not joining as those that preceded them had.

While Facebook debates this, outsiders have claimed teens and other young user have left the site because their parents are using it and because of alternatives such as Instagram and Twitter (that don’t include ads or require profiles), are rapidly gaining users at Facebook’s expense (literally).

Supplement Facebook’s user demographics with an analysis from an independent third party to help minimize the chance of missing your message mark with video ads on the social media site.

The Ad Quality Imperative

Prospect video ad buyers would be well advised to have their IT teams take a close look at the social media site’s technology infrastructure and the company’s partners in this higher-bandwidth, quality-sensitive ad undertaking. The best ad falls flat if not delivered optimally and the higher definition the better.

Advertisers should seek assurances that peak demand for an ad will not impact its planned performance. The business of advertising requires a rock-solid technology infrastructure. High-quality video can help expand your brand. When quality is adversely impacted, so is your brand. Serving up video ads on a single, ultra highly visited, website is anything but simple.

If you don’t have the IT expertise and/or the Facebook pitch doesn’t address your questions, issues or hypotheticals, find someone who can get you the answers your need. A video can be worth a thousand words, but only if presented optimally.

Not so Fast!

Await Facebook video ad success stories with accompanying best practices to avoid becoming a worst practice. Why? Facebook has long been working on this high stakes initiative with partners Nielsen and Ace Metrix and a select group of businesses to create, refine and prepare video ads for its site. All this is in advance of general availability of the new ad option.

There’s no shame or blame in waiting to see how video ads roll out for these early user businesses. Much can be learned, good, bad and ugly from their experiences. Facebook itself will tweak its offering based on these implementations and amass knowledge to share with the next wave of customers. Given Facebook’s approach with this undertaking, it’s likely better to learn from others than to learn from doing.

The Wild Card

As mentioned far above, user reaction is a core factor in the success or failure of the video ad offering. Reception is tough to predict, but Facebook is likely hoping video ads are much better received than their numerous changes in privacy policy, design, additional features and suggested posts in the newsfeed, to name but a few.

Stay Tuned In

Facebook’s video ads will be under many microscopes from minute one. The media will be on the success or lack thereof of the endeavor like white on rice. Focus on cutting through the noise to get to the relevant news on this front. Observe, analyze and formulate strategies accordingly. Don’t rush to judgment, nor to action as anything new takes time to evaluate.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC

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