Facebook is using science to deliver branded videos produced by some of the top creators in digital media. Today, the social network formally introduced Anthology, which joins advertisers with digital media partners, including Vice, Vox and Funny or Die.
The media companies will work with advertisers on original video—produced and targeted, using Facebook data. Facebook brings the technical ingenuity, and the digital creators provide the art for the campaigns, said Mike Hadgis, Vox Media's vp of global revenue and partnerships.
"This is content made for specific audiences based on science learned from Facebook," Hadgis said.
Vox mines Facebook for insights into its own audience—fans of properties like Eater, Curbed and The Verge. It can then take that information and use it to shape campaigns for brands.
It can also incorporate more granular Facebook data to target videos to select audiences. Facebook knows which times of year and which days—even down to the minute—are best to deliver different marketing messages. It also has a good grasp of what people are talking about at any given time, and it can use that knowledge to help brands converse more effectively in their ads. The Anthology program relies on these sophisticated data cues.
"Anthology campaigns begin and end with insights," Facebook said in its announcement today. "For each Anthology campaign, the Creative Shop—Facebook's in-house creative strategy team—partners with brands, agencies and publishers to provide audience planning, insights, distribution plans and measurement."
There are seven launch partners, but there are ongoing talks with other digital media properties, sources familiar with the program said. Companies like Fullscreen and Buzzfeed have discussed joining, these sources said.
Of course, all of the media companies mentioned so far have experience developing branded video for Facebook, which has been encouraging such content for almost two years.
A year ago, Facebook officially launched its autoplay video format, which changed the entire News Feed experience.
In the last six months, video views went from 1 billion a day to 4 billion a day, according to stats released this week. Facebook also just launched an embedable player that websites can use to share their videos across the Internet. In the last month, 80,000 Facebook videos have been embedded on sites outside the social network, the company said this week.
Facebook's shift to video has put it in direct competition with YouTube, and branded videos are just one aspect of their rivalry. In fact, the entire digital video landscape has been fragmenting to an increasing degree with upstarts like Snapchat even taking part.
Facebook's ability to target a large audience, however, is what sets it apart from players like Snapchat that don't have as much insight into who their users are, according to industry insiders.
Brands are interested in hiring Vice, Vox, Funny or Die and others like them because of how difficult it is to create high-quality content for all the different kinds of consumers they want to reach. Most brands also lack the expertise to create original content that's compelling enough to grab people's attention in Facebook's News Feed.