Autoplay Video Ads Are Coming to Facebook Messenger

A ‘super-small percentage’ of people are in the test group

The same autoplay video ads that have been available for Facebook’s News Feed and Instagram are coming to Messenger. Getty Images

Facebook Messenger users, brace yourselves: Autoplay video ads are coming.

The social network confirmed that the same autoplay video ads that have been available for Facebook’s News Feed and Instagram are now available on its messaging application for all advertisers.

Those ads will appear in the sponsored portion of the app’s main feed, and people aren’t happy.

“There’s going to be mixed feelings from the advertiser standpoint,” said Periscope social media creative director Bridget Jewell. “I think it’s one of the dumbest decisions Facebook has made. I personally would never recommend that a client do this.”

Those Messenger ads are only being served to “a super-small percentage of people” to start, so that Facebook can keep a close eye on how they affect the user experience.

On that note, Messenger autoplay video ads are not available as a stand-alone buy, and they must be part of campaigns that also use News Feed or Instagram.

Director and head of Messenger business Stefanos Loukakos told Kurt Wagner of Recode at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, “The top priority for us is user experience, so we don’t know yet [if these ad units will work]. However, signs until now, when we tested basic ads, didn’t show any changes with how people used the platform or how many messages they send. Video might be a bit different, but we don’t believe so.”

A Messenger spokesperson told Adweek, “As we shared with advertisers at Cannes Lions, we are now expanding the availability of video ads to Messenger. We will be rolling out video ads gradually and thoughtfully. People that use Messenger each month are our top priority, and they will remain in control of their experience.”

Jewell said she understands that Facebook wants to leverage the fact that people use Messenger, but “marketers today are looking for more ways than ever to make advertising not feel like advertising,” and she believes autoplay video ads will be “an annoyance” to Messenger users.

She added that if Facebook could somehow find a way to make these new video ads contextually relevant, as it did with enabling people to book Uber rides and make restaurant reservations within Messenger, that might be a different story. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.