Facebook: imposing single video viewability standard is not what brands need

Facebook launched its Watch video tab in August

Facebook has said it is committed to offering advertisers flexibility when it comes to video viewability metrics, arguing this is more valuable to brands than a one-size-fits-all currency.

Speaking at Facebook’s IAB Upfronts event on Monday (2 October) the social network’s head of communications planning, Ian Edwards also reiterated to advertisers that video on Facebook should be seen as something that works in "synergy" with TV campaigns, not as a direct competitor.

Video is the single biggest consumer trend Facebook is seeing on its platform since the shift to mobile, said Edwards. Who added that Facebook is currently seeing over 100m hours of video being watched every day on its platform, and predicting that 75% of all mobile data traffic will be video by 2020.

“Our philosophy with video is the fact that there are 2 billion plus smartphones in the world means that there are 2 billion creators."

It’s why Facebook recently rolled out a TV-like platform, Watch, which solidified its efforts to move into the original content production space, and why it’s been striking deals with sports rights holders and broadcasters to keep eyeballs on its platform and take advantage of the lucrative advertising opportunities afforded by video.

The social network also unveiled an open source camera platform similar to that of Snapchat's at its F8 conference this year to advance its skills in augmented reality, and has seen a three-times increase in the amount of video that is captured and shared on that platform, Edwards said.

There's no such thing as a common currency

The rise of video also brings with it a debate around viewability standards, which Facebook has found itself in the centre of after admitting last year it had been inflating video views, forcing the social platform to bolster its third-party measurement partnerships - which now includes 24 partners.

Edwards said there are elements of viewability that Facebook “totally agrees” with the industry on, including the need for video to be fully viewable on screen and viewed by humans rather than bots - claiming that over 99.3% of ads served on Facebook adhere to these standards.

Where it believes the industry needs to have a debate is around what counts as a view. Earlier in the year, P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard said the FMCG giant only wanted to trade on the MRC standard for video that is two-seconds with 50% of the pixels in view.

However, Edwards believes that while that standard might drive value to their business, it wouldn’t necessarily be the right currency for a luxury brand like Chanel, for example, where the premium to get someone to watch for 10-seconds may be worth paying. On the flipside, direct response advertisers “buy as cheap as they possibly can” on an impression basis, and don’t care about view duration but about business outcome, the executive added.

Instead, he believes it is “crucial” to give advertisers the flexibility to trade and buy video on the platform “in the way that delivers value to their business”, rather than create one trading currency.

“As you put constraints into viewability and view duration your price will rise. The longer someone views the more expensive that view will be. We are committed to giving advertisers the flexibility to buy durations that matter to them,” he said.

What’s more, Facebook data shows that there is an almost perfect correlation between age and scroll speed - as its users get older, their scroll speed slows down. This means view duration will bias your audiences towards older audiences, Edwards said.

He also gave an example of a campaign that used an ad pinned to the right-hand side of the desktop app that was in full view as users scrolled through, and the same campaign that was inserted in the mobile news feed that was in view for 2-3 seconds. The mobile ad in news feed delivered 200X more clicks than the ad that was pinned to the right hand side.

“What we need to do is start to recognise view duration as a metric, not an objective,” Edwards said. “When an objective becomes a measurement is stops being a good objective. View duration in isolation is not necessarily a great predictor of business outcomes.”

Better together

While the use of video has been increasing, so has the knowledge gap for marketers when it comes to planning video campaigns on different platforms.

“We also know that as an industry it creates a lot of confusion,” Edwards said, addressing a room of advertisers and agencies at Facebook’s IAB Digital Upfronts session yesterday (2 October).

“The term video and the way it is used is actually quite misleading,” he said. “Video is used as a catch-all term - we talk about video on Facebook, Instagram, TV, cinema, digital panels. They represent incredibly different things.”

As marketers prepare for the holiday season - and the opportunities to drive spend at key retail dates like Black Friday - Edwards wanted to set the record straight on where Facebook sits in the video ecosystem.

“I want to put [to rest] this idea that video on Facebook is anything like video on TV - it is not. Facebook is not 'Channel 6', it is a different media channel entirely, and we have to think about how we use video on Facebook to fit within the context of that platform. It is not enough just to put your videos on Facebook for them to work and be effective,” he said.

Since it first started contemplating a standalone video product for its platform last year, Facebook has been looking to prove to broadcasters it wants to share rather than steal media budgets, with Nicola Mendelsohn likening the two to “really happy bedfellows”.

It stepped up this pitch yesterday by highlighting to advertisers how adding Facebook to a TV campaign can boost incremental reach by 16.1%, according to data from Nielsen Total Ad Ratings.

Kantar Worldpanel also showed that TV and Facebook produced a greater likelihood to purchase when delivered together; on their own TV’s derived likelihood to purchase is 8%, while Facebook’s is 13%. Together they represent a 29% likelihood in driving purchase.

Edwards called this a “synergistical multiplier effect”.

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Jessica Goodfellow

The Drum's media reporter covering everything from publishing, TV, social media, radio and technology.

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