How Facebook plans to halt the decline of video ad formats
A view from Matt Bell

How Facebook plans to halt the decline of video ad formats

Research shows that the likelihood of a video ad on Facebook converting into a "three-second" view has fallen to its lowest levels.

This is something that should make advertisers sit up and take note.

Having studied 4,000 Facebook and Instagram campaigns across clients equating to 11 billion impressions, the MEC UK study reveals that if the trend continues, just 9% of opportunities would turn into a view by the end of 2018.

This is not to say that all audiences are turning away from Facebook videos – audiences over the age of 45 have never been more engaged and also appear to be less ad-averse, or even actively enjoy the ad experience, than those from younger demographics.

For brands targeting this audience, the opportunity is there for hay to be made while the sun still shines.

Equally, this does not (yet) signal the death knell for brands wanting to reach a youth audience on Facebook using video ad formats. However in the face of such stark figures coming from traditional video ad formats on the news feed, a new approach is clearly needed.

It’s no surprise that Facebook has done deals with Samsung TV and Apple TV as it seeks to expand its audio-visual capabilities.

It’s something that we have christened "The magpie effect" – formats need to be new and shiny in order to attract the attention of an increasingly scroll-happy audience. It’s never been more apparent that just repurposing an existing TV ad onto the platform is not going to work in the same way, indeed if it ever was.

Rather, each scene must be treated like an audition with the most impactful footage at the beginning of the ad – and preferably make the video finish as soon as possible (MEC research showed that 42% of the top videos for hooking attention were between seven and 17 seconds long while only 17% were between 25 and 35 seconds long).

MEC has christened this "fractional moment" ad placements, where the message can be landed in three seconds because of existing awareness and where sound is no longer a creative requisite.

At the forthcoming Cannes International Festival of Creativity, it’s hotly tipped that Facebook is going to announce the commissioning and creation of its own exclusive content, Netflix-style.

But while advertisers can change their techniques this can only help arrest rather than stop the inexorable decline of scrolling news feed video formats. It’s why Facebook has also been introducing new products that are based outside of this –for example Instagram Stories and Facebook Live Video. These also come with the added bonus of encouraging users to watch videos with the sound turned up – a problem that has hitherto thwarted many advertisers. And this is where we think Facebook’s future lies – and with it that of its advertisers.

It’s no surprise that Facebook has done deals with Samsung TV and Apple TV as it seeks to expand its audio-visual capabilities. And at the forthcoming Cannes International Festival of Creativity, it’s hotly tipped that Facebook is going to announce the commissioning and creation of its own exclusive content, Netflix-style.

These will offer new opportunities for brands, including content and product placement, which were previously thought unimaginable in an already passing era when ads on the news feed were their most important way to reach a target audience.

Matt Bell is head of digital strategy at MEC.