Rumors are swirling about Facebook’s plans to sell 15-second, TV-style commercials  for up to $2.5 million a day. This unofficial announcement reveals Facebook’s eagerness to compete with television, which remains the dominant medium for advertising spend. And the competition is fierce: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently let slip that 88 million to 100 million US residents are on Facebook during prime-time TV hours, figures perhaps meant to drum up enthusiasm for advertisers to spend big on this new medium.
The new Facebook video ads are said to appear in 15-second spots no more than 3 times a day within Facebook users’ news feeds. These ads can be targeted based on the age and gender of each user.
This is a pretty bold move on Facebook’s part, and its success remains to be seen. Resident social media expert, David Carrillo, weighed in on what this could mean for Facebook and the social media world at large. Here are his thoughts:
- Facebook already has online video ads, which are supposedly different from the TV-like ads that they plan to implement. When you click on one of these ads, you are redirected to view the ad in YouTube, which is interesting to me because although Facebook profits from that click, they are also promoting a rival social network in the process. For all of its social dominance, Facebook has never been a popular destination for video content, and I would think that would have to change if this new ad strategy is going to pan out.
- Speaking specifically to their TV play, a couple of things stand out to me. First, similar to their signed-out home page ad, this is an expensive product that is purchased for an entire day. There are rumors of the delay being related to Facebook struggling to convince advertisers to drop between 1 and 2.5 million dollars per day, and I can’t fault the advertisers for being hesitant to commit at that price point. That isn’t exactly chump change and, unlike TV, there is no legacy of success. Second, the targeting is restricted to age and gender. This makes sense in that Facebook is trying to mimic TV ad spend, but it’s a big concern to me because it ignores Facebook (and the internet’s) biggest strength: precise targeting.
- This all plays into Facebook’s desire to get a bigger piece of the pie that Twitter has taken hold of, namely ad targeting to real-time conversations about live media. Twitter Amplify has the head start and has the advantage of being a more “open” network; the majority of Facebook users set their posts to private while the inverse is true of Twitter. Facebook has made small attempts to get into the game—the recently launched Hashtag support specifically—but this isn’t really what the Facebook audience is accustomed to.
- Lastly, we haven’t seen firm details on implementation. What we know is that ads would be limited to 15 seconds, would appear no more than three times a day, and would default to launching without sound. In order to understand this new ad strategy, I want to see it in action: How big is the video? Does it play automatically? Where does it launch from? Does it play by itself or do users click play? Does the video expand to full screen or can I scroll past it? The answers remain to be seen.
- Ultimately, the reports about Facebook’s new ad strategy are interesting if not a little perplexing. If I were Facebook, I would take the opposite approach: launch an aggressively priced model and do limited testing, see what works, and then scale up in price and reach once the kinks work out. Unfortunately for everyone, it doesn’t look like that is their plan.
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