Did Facebook Just Admit TV Was Right About Video Ads All Along?

There wasn't a great deal of detail on the "X" and "Y" axes of its graphs, but the message from Facebook was pretty clear -- tv has already got video advertising right, so why mess with it?

OK -- so that isn't exactly what a recent company blog said, but it's pretty much the takeaway. The social giant had compared video ad engagement on Facebook and Instagram last summer and drawn lines on a graph to show the rate at which engagement drops off. 

As you may already be able to imagine, the quickest dropoff was for ads that were skippable. It will come as little surprise that such ads are soon skipped so the main content can be viewed. It's not just you or I holding a cursor over the "skip ad" button -- it's the vast majority of us.

It's a little similar with in-feed video ads that have high reach, and thus a high potential to catch the largest number of eyes. However, they are in there fighting for attention against summer holiday pictures from friends and unsolicited updates on what they have just cooked for dinner. The result is that like skippable ads, attention is very soon lost. 

Stories has a similar fate to skippables, although interest is lost a little sooner, even if audio is switched on. Come to think of it, that could well be a reason for skipping past the ad. The Facebook point is, again, that they are in the middle of a long line of content, and so can soon be navigated away from.

Live TV fared little better, prompting Facebook to make the point, again, that when video is consumed on a device in the hand, the thumb is always there to keep flicking to the next piece of content, unless people are immediately captivated.

Captive is probably the right word here. You will need no prizes for guessing which format has the graph which shows the least decline and so manages to maintain the majority of its engagement throughout. Non-skippable ads are the top format here for the simple reason, one can only imagine, that people are willing to sit thorough an ad to receive the content that is on its way. 

In fact, Facebook makes the point that 70% of non-skippable ads are watched for their entire length. Marketing Land makes a good point here, indicating that Facebook has a roaring trade in selling non-skippable ads and so has a reason to demonstrate their effectiveness. 

However, the social giant does caution that annoyance with non-skippable video ads grows with viewing time -- thus the rise of the six-second slot, sitting alongside the more traditional 15-second video. 

So, for most looking at these graph lines -- presented without figures -- the takeaway is obvious. When video ads are in the context of a busy feed, they get less engagement. However, when someone actively wants to watch a piece of content, they accept the attention level required to watch a six- or 15-second ad is a price worth paying.

Facebook's blog makes the point that this is the closest online model to television. You offer great content, and viewers pay for that content through providing their attention while brands try to sell them stuff. 

As such, it's the clearest indication yet that Facebook, for one, is giving traditional tv a nod of approval and admitting that perhaps the "mad men" really did know a thing or two about advertising after all. 

2 comments about "Did Facebook Just Admit TV Was Right About Video Ads All Along?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 10, 2018 at 5:13 p.m.

    Interesting take, Sean. One small point. My understanding is that "completion rates" do not necessarily indicate that an ad was viewed, merely that it was allowed to remain on the users' screens.If so, it is unlikely that 70% of the FB "audience" actually watches an average non-skippable commerfcial. A more plausible estimate might be 50% or therebaouts---which is quite a decent level of exposure in my opinion.

  2. Sean Hargrave from Sean Hargrave, January 11, 2018 at 4:26 a.m.

    Yes, I'm not sure Facebook's record on video analytics is always trustworthy. I think with a shift towards 6 second pre and mid rolls, though, the majority of people watching the entire ad to get to the juicy content is realistic. Whether they're looking at the screen or wasting 6 seconds looking at their calendar instead, is anyone's guess. 

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