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Digital marketers are ready to test Facebook’s new digital ad offerings but say their effectiveness for campaigns very much remains to be seen.
Facebook is gearing up to test pre-roll ad offerings in its Watch tab, according to reports. Those ads will air in front of the medley of scripted, unscripted and user-generated content the channel is amassing. In fact, Facebook is expected to invest $1 billion in original content in 2018.
Campaigns and groups could potentially place their ads in front of some of these offerings as inventory for 2018 gets gobbled up.
The move by Facebook into pre-roll is getting attention as a noteworthy change as CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously said the format didn’t work for videos playing in users' newsfeeds. Instead, Facebook offered mid-roll ads, whose introduction annoyed some users.
Despite the size of Facebook’s audience and the financial muscle it’s putting into Watch, some digital marketers say they wouldn’t invest their clients budgets into pre-roll inventory there.
“My gut tells me this format will have very limited effectiveness on Facebook as despite what they want to do with the Watch Now section people still go on Facebook to connect and I don't see them as a big player in online original content,” said Brian Ross Adams, a Democratic digital consultant based in Los Angeles.
Chris Talbot, a D.C.-based Democratic digital consultant, is also a skeptic.
"I think Zuck is right that the Facebook feed is incompatible with pre-roll, and that's their conundrum: campaigns want a disruptive messaging format that's fundamentally opposed to the feed experience. That's why you're seeing Facebook test this in the Watch tab — most Facebook users couldn't find that tab if you offered them $100," Talbot said. "We'll see if users adopt, but so far the Watch section of Facebook is not valuable real estate for campaigns, whereas the feed absolutely is where you need to be."
Facebook’s new Watch video tab is expected to grab 20 minutes of viewership from the site’s average North American users, which has Wall Street analysts excited. But Adams isn’t alone in his hesitation.
Matt Farrar, co-founder of the GOP firm Strategic Digital Services, said they’d invest in testing the effectiveness of the inventory before committing to a large buy.
“Whether or not it adds value to our clients with 2018 elections will solely depend on the results of our extensive testing against other forms of digital advertising," said Farrar, who is based in Florida. "If the numbers show that it's an effective way to reach our target audiences, than it will certainly be incorporated into our strategy."
Rosemari Ochoa, a partner in the Democratic firm 1828 Media, is also eager to start testing the inventory.
“Now more than ever, campaigns should do everything they can to earnestly and authentically reach their audiences. We’ve seen pre-roll video already do that on platforms like YouTube, so in 2018 it’s time to try it on Facebook,” said Ochoa.
Meanwhile, as Facebook pushes further into video – it recently launched a Facebook Creator app for users to create content – it will encounter the same issue plaguing YouTube. The Google site is grappling with advertisers angry over their videos playing in front of disturbing content.
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, published a blog post Monday detailing how the site had, among other steps, removed more than 150,000 “videos for violent extremism” since June. Moreover, Wojcicki said the company plans to expand the ranks of its content moderators to 10,000 by the end of 2018.
"As challenges to our platform evolve and change, our enforcement methods must and will evolve to respond to them,” she wrote. “We will take the steps necessary to protect our community and ensure that YouTube continues to be a place where creators, advertisers, and viewers can thrive.”