Tumblr Rolls Out Auto-Playing Video Ads To Users’ Dashboards

Tumblr’s auto-playing video ads will begin rolling out to users’ dashboards today, in a pilot program that includes participation from ten big-name brands such as CW, Lexus, Universal, JCPenney, Hulu and others. The video ad test follows last week’s news of an updated video player offering auto-play capabilities and looping, “Vine-like” videos. The new brand ads will take advantage of the same functionality, as they will also loop infinitely on desktop and mobile (Android and iOS) — though in the latter case, they’ll only auto-play when connected to Wi-Fi.

In addition, like Facebook’s video ads, Tumblr’s video ads will be muted by default offering a speaker button to activate the sound, as well as a pop-out video player for the web that will allow users to keep scrolling through their Tumblr Dashboard while the video plays. Users can also change the video quality to HD if they prefer.

Meanwhile, for advertisers who are exploring sponsored video ads, Tumblr’s new video player technology will also support Vine and Instagram videos — allowing the advertisers to reuse videos they’ve crafted for other platforms. Brands could already run Sponsored Posts, including video posts, on Tumblr prior to today’s launch, but now those ads with videos can auto-play thanks to the new video enhancements launched earlier.

Though the company is following in Facebook’s footsteps when it comes to augmenting the user experience with auto-playing videos, it hasn’t really given the Tumblr user base time to get used to the new feature before turning it into an ad mechanism. That could lead some Tumblr users into mentally associating any auto-play videos with ads and could discourage them from clicking.

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Of course, that may depend on how good the video ads are — some, like the above for Lexus, one of the first advertisers to trial this feature, are pretty interesting.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said last week during Yahoo’s earnings call that Tumblr is expected to generate over $100 million in revenue for the company, mainly due to the introduction of sponsored advertising.

She also noted that Tumblr will achieve positive earnings before interest, tax and depreciation next year, and the platform has seen its audience grow 40 percent to 420 million visitors. The news surprised investors, who had previously been writing off the $1.1 billion Tumblr acquisition as something of a dud, especially as Yahoo had been silent about Tumblr’s financial situation. (So much for all that brouhaha about Tumblr users abandoning the service following the Yahoo deal.)

Mayer also revealed at the time that the number of blogs on Tumblr had nearly doubled to 206 million, and people were staying on the service longer – with Dashboard browsing sessions growing from 22 minutes to 28 minutes. (Apparently, Taylor Swift is an addict, too, or so she said in a recent interview.)

The news of the Tumblr video ads also comes at a time when it’s been rumored that Yahoo is aiming to position the network as a competitor to YouTube, attracting a younger, millennial audience, and specifically the YouTube stars they follow. But instead of focusing on the same sorts of advertisements common on other video ad networks, like pre-roll ads for example, Yahoo has for a long time now been attempting to make Tumblr the home for brand advertising.

Because the ads auto-play, Tumblr is only charging after the ad has been viewed for 2 seconds, and advertisers won’t pay for any looping views, sharing or reblogging of those ads, AdAge reports. Additionally, advertisers will be able to target the ads based on gender, interest and location information.

These new auto-playing ads will remain in Tumblr for now, though other Tumblr ads have already expanded to Yahoo sites, including Yahoo’s new digital magazines.