Without A View Rule, Facebook Premium Video Ads Will Cause Confusion

And lo it came to pass. After Facebook users have peered at their news feeds in wonder, questioning why videos now miraculously appear to be playing automatically, we get the answer we knew was there all along. Facebook Premium Video ads are coming to Britain next month, although they are unlikely to make an impact until the summer holidays or just after because each 15-second creative must be vetted individually.

This was always the point of taking control away from users as to when videos begin to play on their screen, albeit without the sound turned on. It is old school interruption in its most blatant form because it's right there in the news feed that we expect our friends and contacts to keep us up to date on cute kitten viral video news.

The major impact will be a lot of people passing around moans on Facebook, perhaps with some way of changing settings that Facebook has once again set to some level of "give advertisers all my stuff and allow them to do with me as they will" setting.

The biggest impact will be confusion, however. Sure, reaching the UK's 26m daily active Facebook users is going to be very attractive. But how do you know if you've reached them? By automatically playing an advert you bring an out-of-home problem straight on the PC or smartphone screen. We displayed something, but did anyone take any notice?

Hence, just as importantly Facebook has upgraded its Video Metrics service to now include how long a video has been viewed for. Previously, there was just a single metric for how many viewers had simply seen a video with no indication of individual or aggregated view length.

Facebook obviously realises the confusion it will cause. When is a video that plays automatically considered viewed? And if pressing the frame counts as interaction with the video, how do you guard against mobile users inadvertently pressing an advert as they swipe? So if you then add a certain amount of time before you consider a video viewed, how long?

The IAB recently set rules for display that rubber stamped the industry standard that to be viewable half an ad's pixels need to be on display for at least a second. There is no such guidance for video. In the IAB's defence, it says it has to work with broadcasters as well as publishers and technology companies and so video is proving a far harder nut to crack.

Trouble is, it's got to do something soon -- certainly by September when the advertising industry comes back from Tuscany and starts works afresh. 

As it stands, Premium Video ads are going to annoy users and confuse advertisers and their agencies.

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