Commentary

Facebook Says, 'Not Quite So Fast' On Those Video Ads

Last week, I wrote about how Facebook’s pending move into video advertising was probably the key reason behind its stock’s ascension into the lofty realm of trading just over its $38 opening price back when it went public.

Sure, it took more than a year, but whatevs!

So, I found it intriguing -- and heartening -- to read in The Wall Street Journal this morning that the company is being very, very cautious about the video ad rollout, despite the obvious panting of advertisers and investors.

The headline: The company, and Mark Zuckerberg in particular, seem more concerned with not pissing off users than with exploiting Facebook’s unparalleled reach. Zuck, the story says, wants the video ads to load quickly, and has revamped the platform’s video technology. Facebook has also been conducting extensive testing to see how video ads affect user experience. To wit: “Striking that balance between consumer happiness and commercial opportunity has been a challenge for the young company, leading to delays and frustrations among the marketers it is trying to woo.”

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Well, good for you, Facebook!

What Facebook has essentially done is something that most companies -- especially ones tarnished by a “meh” IPO -- wouldn’t have the nerve to do: to play the long game. The opportunity of leveraging the reach of 1.1 billion users for video advertising has to be excruciatingly tantalizing, especially when nearly everything else that used to qualify as mass media no longer is. Just ask network TV, which just went through a “meh” of its own, otherwise known as the 2013-14 upfront market, which The New York Timesdescribed this week as, “not as bad as some had expected, but not as robust as others had hoped.”

That ringing endorsement of network TV comes after a season, the Times explains, in which the decline in viewership was rivaled only by the 2007- 08 season, which suffered the mitigating-in-the-extreme factor of having a writer’s strike disrupt it. Now, the disruption comes not from writer’s strikes, but from people spending their evenings binge-viewing “Breaking Bad” on their iPads, or posting yet another status update. That makes what just happened to network TV difficult to dismiss.

Facebook could easily come to the rescue -- of advertisers, that is. The plan, as I said last week, is not to micro-target video ads, but to exploit reach, while capping frequency in deference, it seems, to users. Consumers would only see video ads from one advertiser per day, and no more than three times within that day.

But instead of rushing in to fill what could be called as the reach breach, Facebook has its priorities straight; it’s favoring users over advertisers and investors. It’s hard to overstate just how smart -- and hard -- that is to do.

2 comments about "Facebook Says, 'Not Quite So Fast' On Those Video Ads".
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  1. Grant Bergman from SurveyConcierge.com • GrantBergman.com, August 9, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.

    Frankly there's so much irrelevant sponsored content showing up in my news feed with recent changes in Facebook's ad policy that I am spending less time there already. No idea if that is representative behavior, but my hunch is that these video ads could be the last straw for some. Still, Facebook has a right to monetize its massive platform. But it's a given that they will be eroding the user experience in favor of profits. The only issue is where the breakeven will be between user disaffection and advertiser revenues.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, August 13, 2013 at 4:54 a.m.

    I use Facebook to read stuff for less than 5 minutes per day - just to keep track on what friends have done - so "no more" than 3 adverts per day sounds horrific and certainly not favoring users. Sounds like I'll have to cut down and use Facebook weekly.

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