Facebook wants advertisers to get a lot better at silent video

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Facebook via Mark Zuckerberg's page

Facebook video has come a long way since 2007.

People are now watching 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day - but many of those users are watching autoplay videos on their mobiles, which silently play in the news feed.

That's a challenge for advertisers: Chances are their 30-second TV ad with the cool soundtrack and the big reveal shock ending isn't going to capture that much attention as users thumb their way down the screen while they're sat on the bus with the sound off. They need to completely rethink the idea of "video."

On Wednesday, Facebook announced a series of product updates and research with the aim of getting advertisers to think differently about how they create mobile video ads. That includes a new caption tool, 

Facebook's director of ads product marketing, Graham Mudd, told Business Insider the company estimates that as many as 40% of video ads don't communicate their message effectively unless they have the sound on.

To help address this issue, Facebook has launched auto-captioning for video ads. Before, advertisers had to embed their own captions or upload caption files. But now there's a tool that does it all for them (they can review beforehand before publishing.)

The great viewability debate

In a press release, Facebook says internal tests showed that captions can increase video view time by an average of 12%.

View time is an extremely important measure. Mudd told us that 55% of people who watch the first three seconds of an ad will watch the next 10 seconds. And 45% will make it all the way to the end.

That three second number is significant. It's the length of time Facebook considers counts as a "view." 

Viewability is a contentious issue in the marketing industry at the moment. Facebook's three seconds is actually above the industry-standard video viewability measure of 50% of the frame in view for two seconds or more.

Nevertheless, there are many high-profile industry figures who don't believe a few seconds should qualify as a view. Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of the world's largest advertising agency holding group, said last year at advertising trade show Dmexco: "Three seconds-and 50 percent of video online not listened to with sound-is ludicrous. The standards have to change."

martin sorrell

Reuters/Ruben Sprich

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell.

Mudd said Facebook "disagree[s] with that viewpoint," adding that mobile video requires a "shift in mindset" compared to other mediums such as linear TV, where consumers have far less control (you have to sit through the ads to get your TV program, rather than simply scroll past as you do on mobile.)

"Mobile is a fundamentally different medium to what we are used to," he said, and he encourages marketers to experiment with the platform - particularly in creating videos that are designed for being played silently and encourage users to watch beyond the first three seconds.

A recent study conducted by Nielsen and commissioned by Facebook, for example, found that up to 47% of the value in a video campaign was delivered in the first three seconds - and 74% of the value was delivered in the first 10.

To continue to address viewability concerns, Facebook has also announced it is extending its "100% in-view" buying option worldwide - so marketers can opt only to pay when an entire ad, from top to bottom, has passed through the news feed.

Facebook is also introducing new metrics so advertisers can see the percentage of people who have viewed their videos with sound on.

The marketer's view 

Nick Guastaferro, brand director for Absolut vodka, told Business Insider the brand has had to fundamentally change the way it approaches video advertising when it comes to mobile. 

TV gives marketers the ability to tell the full story using visuals, music to heighten a mood, a voiceover to reinforce certain points, and a large screen. On mobile there are clear constraints.

But Guastaferro said that simple, iconic visuals "can do a lot of heavy-lifting - they can provide energy and tone that we would otherwise rely on music or a voice-over to deliver."

Last year, the brand launched its new Spark bottle, which has a light that shines through, the with a "successful TV campaign." To continue the campaign, the brand launched a new video ad to Facebook and Instagram each Friday for the course of six weeks. Each ad aimed to build "intrigue" in the first three seconds using the recognizable bottle. The next few seconds explained what was different about it, while the final seconds of the videos went into more detail about the product features.

Guastaferro said the work with Facebook "moved the needle very significantly given the time frame." Measurement with Nielsen found the Facebook ads led to a four-point lift in brand favorability, the Instagram ads lifted brand awareness by five points, and there was a 33-point lift in ad recall on Instagram. 

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