Facebook prepping new video ads that could autoplay in the feed, sources say


By Brittany Darwell Comment

Facebook is developing a new video ad unit that will autoplay within the mobile and desktop News Feed, according to a source familiar with the social network’s plans.

AdAge first reported about the new product, based on information from industry executives who were briefed by Facebook. Our own source confirms that Facebook has a feed-based video unit in the works and autoplay will be a key feature.

The new ad type could be a major draw for advertisers who have been asking for more prominent and immersive advertising opportunities on Facebook. Video is an especially attractive offering, but it could take some time for advertisers to determine what type of video works best in the Facebook feed as opposed to traditional display units, TV ads or even YouTube.

Advertisers can already pay to promote videos in the Facebook feed and sidebar by creating Page Post Ads and certain types of Sponsored Stories, but users have to click to play them. Facebook hasn’t done much to emphasize this video ad capability to the masses, and it really wasn’t until the second half of this year that advertisers began to take advantage of the unit. With the recent ability to place ads in the feed, videos are more prominent than before, which has encouraged some advertisers to try the format. See an example from McDonald’s Canada to the right.

Autoplay and other enhancements could make future video ad types even more effective, but maintaining a positive user experience is a delicate balance. AdAge reports that the company is still debating whether or not sound will be enabled automatically. The new video ads may also have a 15-second cap, which existing videos do not have. Relevance and frequency will also be key factors that affect how users feel about having the ads in their stream.

It’s unclear whether these ads will be limited to an audience that has already connected to a brand by Liking a page or knowing someone who has, but Facebook seems to be moving away from these requirements and allowing non-social ads to appear in the feed. The McDonald’s example, for instance, does not include any social context and was shown to a user who had not Liked the page. However, as we’ve pointed recently, Facebook’s mobile versions lack options for users to provide negative feedback about ads and opt-out of future messages from an advertiser. When the social network launches a new ad type, it should be sure to give users a way to report and hide videos they don’t like.

McDonald’s ad screenshot via Attention Industry.