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Macy's Is the First Retailer to Run Facebook's Auto-Play Video Ads

Tested the social spots over the weekend

Following a sprinkling of ads from brands in other categories, Macy's is the first retailer to roll out Facebook's auto-play video ads within mobile newsfeeds, Adweek has learned. A rep for the department store giant claimed there were two other merchant brands testing the platform, but didn't disclose names.

Macy's ads—which are marked as sponsored—ran on Friday afternoon within Facebook's iPhone app at the top of the newsfeed and automatically began playing as users scrolled down the screen.

Two of the ads promoted online and in-store sales, and the other video showed off a new collection from designer Tommy Hilfiger and actress Zooey Deschanel.

Swiping across the screen laid out a carousel of three videos, similar to the ad design that brands employ to drive app downloads within Facebook.

When clicked on, the videos expand to the full screen—and then the sound kicks in. Calls-to-action underneath each video prompt for the content to be shared, "liked" or commented on.

"As new vehicles emerge that provide us with enhanced opportunities to engage with our customers, we look to trial and understand the capabilities of the product to deliver compelling communications to shoppers," said Orlando Veras, director of national media relations at Macy's, in an email to Adweek.

"This new video advertising platform allows us to extend the reach of our broadcast advertising for the first time on Facebook," he added. "We are excited to be one of the first retailers to partner with Facebook on this new initiative."

The spot plugging Tommy Hilfiger and Zooey Deschanel's new collection seems to be striking a chord with consumers for Macy's in terms of "likes" and comments. The video generated 1,000 "likes" and 32 comments when the ad appeared while the other two spots racked up 390 and 268 likes and a handful of comments each.

Macy's promos ran mid-afternoon on Friday, which is akin to retail primetime when it comes to creating awareness among weekend shoppers. One 15-second clip features movie director Ron Howard as part of an effort supporting veterans and military families taking place online and in Macy's stores through May 26. Shoppers can donate $3 to the cause in exchange for a 25 percent discount.

The social video ads are part of an integrated campaign, including broadcast, print and digital display.

It should come as no surprise that Macy's is among the small handful of brands initially testing Facebook's new ad feature. The retailer was one of the first to run promoted posts on mobile photo app Instagram at the end of last year and has also tested more interactive formats like scratch-and-peel ads to promote clothing lines like Maison Jules.

Other brands utilizing Facebook's new auto-play video ads include Unilever's Dove, NBC, Progressive Insurance and Summit Entertainment, which used the ad format in December to promote the film "Divergent."

Facebook has made a big bet on video over the past year as a way to lure in advertisers who are increasingly interested in getting more video into newsfeeds, particularly on mobile where eyeballs are going first to access content.

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