Facebook Inc. on Tuesday announced a new pricing option for video ads, after marketers raised concerns that the company has been charging for ads that were barely viewed by users.
The social networking giant said it will now give advertisers the option of paying for video ads only when they are viewed for at least 10 seconds. Previously, advertisers were charged immediately when ads came into view on users’ screens.
Many marketers were unhappy with Facebook’s earlier approach, which they felt left them paying for ads even when users were scrolling past them quickly in the Facebook News Feed, unable to truly see or absorb them.
The social network’s change shows the company is adapting to the wishes of Madison Avenue as it ramps up its video advertising business.
Facebook has begun briefing ad buyers on its new approach, people in the industry said. Its ads are sold through electronic auctions, so it is possible marketers will wind up paying more for the 10-second option.
The dust-up over Facebook’s video ads is related to a larger debate in the digital media world over what should count as a “viewable” ad. Marketers and publishers have been sparring over the issue, which is becoming a key variable in how money is spent in the $145 billion global digital ad market.
Video has proved an especially tricky subset of this debate. WPP’s GroupM, which controls an estimated $105 billion worth of annual ad spending around the globe for marketers such as Unilever, Ford Motor and Dell, said it now expects to only pay for video ads that are initiated by users instead of launched automatically; played with volume instead of muted by default; and viewed more than half-way through. Facebook’s ads fall short of those requirements.
Facebook argues that its ads provide value to advertisers the instant they’re displayed, even without sound. The company said it was providing the 10-second option after receiving feedback from advertising partners.
“We don’t believe it’s the best option in terms of capturing the best value and brand objectives marketers care about, but we want to give them control and choice over how they buy,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.
Marketers are also calling for the ability to use third-party companies to measure their ads on the Facebook platform. Currently, they must take Facebook’s word on how many times their ads were viewed, and for how long.
Facebook said it’s in discussions with the Media Rating Council, an industry association that establishes common media measurement standards, and third-party companies such as Nielsen to figure out a way to accurately measure video on mobile. The current solutions on the market aren’t sufficient, Facebook has said.
Meanwhile, rival online ad sellers are also doing their best to cater to marketers’ demands. Twitter, for example, announced its own video ad product earlier this month, and said it will only charge for an ad if 100% of the video appears on a user’s screen for a minimum of three consecutive seconds.
That’s higher than the standard set last year by the Media Ratings Council and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group for online ad sellers. Under that standard, an online video ad should only be deemed viewable if at least 50% of the ad is visible on a user’s screen for at least two consecutive seconds.