Facebook is indeed rolling out autoplaying videos for ad units in your News Feed on both mobile and desktop, something the Wall Street Journal pegged for arrival just a little while before it was made official. The autoplaying ads follow Facebook’s trial of autoplaying non-ad video content on both the web and mobile.
The reasoning behind the decision is simple math in terms of returned value for advertising partners: Facebook claims that its autoplaying videos have seen engagement in terms of views, likes and shares on mobile and desktop increase over 10 percent versus the non autoplaying kind since it started testing them back in September.
Earlier this month, Facebook flat-out revealed in a slide deck obtained by Ad Age that its organic reach was waning, a fact which was used as a stepping off point for the sale of ads, which can drive greater brand visibility. And here it’s foregrounding the interaction metrics – there’s no doubt this is a sales pitch to advertisers, more so than a way to “continue to improve the quality of ads you see in News Feed,” as Facebook actually claims in the release.
Here’s more from our writer Josh Constine on how marketers will have to adapt to silent autoplay video ads.
It’s hard to imagine many users lauding Facebook for putting autoplaying ads in the News Feed, which is probably why this is rolling out to just a small test audience first. The initial pilot will feature ads for Divergent, a new movie due out next year. Videos start playing instantly when they come into view for the test group on both desktop and mobile, albeit without sound, and to stop playback you can just continue to scroll past. Facebook is looking to potentially start a video ad chain reaction by presenting you with two other video ads to choose from if you watch one all the way through, too.
It’s easy to see where this got its root: Instagram enforced autoplaying videos in its feed as mandatory back in October, and as mentioned, FB already piloted a project for non-ad content on its network to do the same. It’s awfully hard not to read both as an attempt to make autoplaying video The New Normal for users, in order to pave the way for the real payload of autoplaying video ads, which is likely to be the most material to Facebook’s business going forward.
At least FB is doing users a solid by pre-loading video ad content on mobile devices when they’re connected to Wi-Fi, instead of eating up all that bandwidth when they’re connected to more expensive and data-capped mobile network connections. And it’s a limited test, which means it could always get killed if the general reaction from users is negative enough.
Check out our deep dive on Facebook’s video ads to learn how silent autoplay will change marketing and the social network experience.