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Avengers Trailer Is the Ultimate Test for Facebook Video Versus YouTube

Marvel's college championship ad drove millions of views

'Age of Ultron' vies for views on Facebook and YouTube.

When the new Avengers trailer debuted this week, it revealed that there is a huge battle going on—but not between The Hulk and his frenemy Iron Man. Instead, it pits Facebook against YouTube.

Marvel teased its second trailer for the super franchise during the college football playoff championship game on Monday, and it posted the clip to Facebook and YouTube, providing a real-time look at how both sites attract millions of viewers within hours.

Not even 24 hours later, the Avengers clip had been viewed more than 12 million times on Facebook and YouTube combined. Marketing experts see the view tally as a demonstration of the force of Facebook in the video space, chipping away at YouTube's dominance.

In fact, Marvel's championship game commercial directed users to its Facebook page, not its YouTube channel.

"It's very easy on Facebook to virally spread an ad, users click one button and share, whereas on YouTube it's a little more clunky and not as easy as one click," said Debra Aho Williamson, an eMarketer analyst. "So, a lot of marketers are considering the power of Facebook to share video quickly and easily."

Whereas YouTube used to be the go-to place for brands to share, now there are options. Facebook is one of the more powerful offerings after developing autoplay video and serving up more videos to users' News Feeds. Facebook users view 3 billion clips a day now, up from 1 billion less than six months ago, according to multiple sources.

There has been tremendous focus across social media to deliver more video—Twitter is the latest to develop an autoplay feature for marketers.

Twitter is perhaps the top platform still for marketing during live events, but Marvel chose Facebook for its video push during ESPN's broadcast of Monday night's collegiate pigskin grand finale, showing the value of a strong native video platform.

"It's a smart move to go to Facebook and put the trailer there because it's in the stream of conversation about the game—so it's very naturally woven in," said Dave Marsey, evp/md at DigitasLBi San Francisco.

The game, a first Super Bowl of sorts for college football, drew more than 33 million viewers. After the Avengers: Age of Ultron teaser aired, the full trailer shot to more than a million views within the hour on Facebook. The YouTube counter does not quite tally as fast, but it was clearly getting more attention on Facebook from the start.

By today, however, YouTube showed more views with 7.5 million compared to 5.4 million on Facebook. YouTube videos have a longer shelf life, Williamson said.

YouTube is still, and likely will remain for a long time, the main video platform for brands, according to Williamson. A new eMarketer report found YouTube had 162.3 million viewers in October, No. 1 compared to Facebook at No. 2 with 93.8 million viewers.

"Facebook is a challenge, but marketers and agencies are very used to using YouTube as a library of content to point people to videos," Williamson said. "They don't want to create baby YouTubes on every social site."

The ease of sharing, however, is giving an edge to Facebook, and agency execs like Marsey are looking at engagement to see what platforms perform best for their brands.

"It's great that Avengers got roughly the same number of views," he said. "But what is the sharing that is happening in one versus the other?"

As of this afternoon, the trailer has 159,000 likes on Facebook and 81,000 likes on YouTube.

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