Talking tech since 2003

Remember how we told you that 15 second video ads are coming to Facebook?  Well, they still are but apparently Mark Zuckerberg is being very cautious about the launch of the video advertising product.  The video ads, which may launch as soon as the fall, will be 15 seconds or less and run on both the web and mobile version of the social network. Additionally, the video ads will be prominently placed on users news feeds — making advertisers happy, while hopefully not upsetting the user base.

One way Facebook may keep users happy is by not allowing ads to start playing with sound, the only way sound would be turned on for an ad is if a user clicks on the ad and select to turn on the sound.  This would be a nice touch, especially if you have several tabs open (Facebook being one of them) when you launch your browser and it starts blaring an advertisement–I don’t think that would go over too well.

It’s going to be a difficult balancing act for Facebook — keeping users happy, engaged, and on the site for long periods of time, while getting advertisers to agree to fork over the $2 million for a 15 second video ad.  According to the WSJ, Zuck has been heavily involved in the video ad product, ensuring that the engineers have developed a way to load video ads quickly so users aren’t stuck waiting.  Zuck has also been reportedly approving changes at every stage of development and pushing his team to repeatedly test with small groups, in order to understand how the ads impact activity and time spent with Facebook.

Another issue Facebook is working to figure out is whether or not ads should be able to stop being played automatically.  That is certainly a good question and should be a real concern, especially when it comes to users who are mobile phones.  As any smartphone user is aware: data isn’t free and it certainly isn’t cheap, requiring a mobile Facebook user to watch a 15 second video on their cellular data could be a real problem, and lead to a poor user experience.

All of the information so far indicates that users will see only one 15 second video per day, and will then see additional traditional Facebook advertising content (for that same video advertiser) up to three more times throughout the day.  In addition to that and to make Facebook video ads more appealing than TV, Facebook will allow brands to showcase up to three videos in “carousels,” a feature in which users swipe from right-to-left to see two more videos from the advertiser.

Honestly, it was only a matter of time before Facebook got to this point.  With over 1.1 billion active users, this seems like a good way for the company bring in revenue — I get that. The question and issue for Facebook really now becomes is the content on Facebook good enough to warrant sitting through a 15 second commercial to get to it?  The TV ad industry works because people who watch TV are willing to sit through the commercials to get back to the content.  Only time will tell if people feel the same way about Facebook.

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