On Thursday, as the entire ad-devouring world must know by now, Facebook will begin displaying auto-play ads, a move with enormous implications because of Facebook’s enormous audience and the enormous cost of the ad itself, which if not now, then soon may cost $2 million per day. That’s enormous.
Facebook stock rose with the announcement and the business press is all excited, as are analysts, who one can depend on to state optimism and pessimism in two succinct sentences. I got mine from Forbes.com, which quoted S&P Capital IQ Analyst Scott Kessler like this: “We think video content and advertising is a significant and largely untapped opportunity for FB, as the company looks to increase user engagement and monetization. We do think FB needs to carefully consider potential issues with video advertisements (especially if they start automatically playing without being clicked), despite substantial possible monetization benefits.”
I hope they’ve thought of that.
I am pretty sure this will go over all right with Facebook users, but the social site has been careful and has played around with this plan for most of this year. Thursday’s ad debut, Facebook stresses, is just a test, though one supposes they’ve got a good idea about what they’re getting into.
That said, I’d find it unlikely Facebook users aren’t going to howl. Facebook hasn’t made one site improvement in the last two or three years that hasn’t gotten pushback from users and this one has an added wrinkle: It is advertising and a certain large percentage of users are going to hate it just for that.
But the fact is, Facebook has become its own kind of organism, an Internet version of call-and-response. Users visit understanding that a visit to Facebook is involving—engaging, I guess—so that it’s very likely they will soon be responding to something.
That’s great for an advertiser, or absolutely terrible, especially if sufficient millions of users never wanted you there in the first place. Facebook is a habit, like
a morning news show or avoiding pay walls. You don't mess.
No doubt users will have a point of view. I see from bopping around the Internet that a Patch site in Georgia asked its readers to give their opinion about the Facebook ads, which is either an really outlying outlier about interest in the topic, or an indication there is nothing better to argue about for the moment in Barrrow, Georgia.
(Patch Barrow Editor Kristi Reed sent me the figures as of 2 pm Eastern. To the question “Do you want video ads in your Facebook feed,” 25 said yes, 12 said no and 8 don’t care.)
I wonder if Facebook will accommodate users who want to respond to the ad itself—why not? After all, it's an experiment.
This guinea pig advertiser is Summit Entertainment plugging the hugely anticipated sci-fi film “Divergent” that doesn’t open until next March. Ordinarily, I’d think the week before Christmas is a kind of too-late time to create a new, certainly premium ad position, but TV’s of two biggest advertising events—the Super Bowl and the Oscar telecast—air in the first quarter of 2014. It is certainly worth betting that unless this ad experiment is a colossal failure, Facebook, which has made it plain will be competing with television and YouTube for major dollars, will be angling for some very showy advertising displays very soon. Let’s see what happens.