On a roll: Facebook adds “interruptive” ads, third-party support and lots of questions

By Frank Sinton

I hate to say I told you so, but I don’t hate it that much. I told you so: Facebook will now support what it formerly called “interruptive” ads, including pre-roll and mid-roll video. The announcement was part of news that Facebook also will move beyond its own walled garden to serve ads on third-party publisher sites.

It’s indeed a big move. That said, the announcements also created a lot more questions, questions that have big implications for publishers and advertisers trying to reach audiences both on Facebook and far beyond.

  • For instance, when the company recently said it turned off third-party display ads in Facebook Audience Network, was that really because of what it said was high levels of fraud? Or were they just making a pivot to the future of mobile and video and didn’t want to deal with legacy ad formats any more?
  • How much do you trust Facebook to have your company’s best interests in mind when it does deals both on its site and beyond it? For many companies, a lack of transparency about pricing and placement will be a substantial concern as they ponder just how much of their operations will be controlled by Facebook. Given that video advertising also can be a hotbed for fraud, how will Facebook protect brands?
  • It appears that Facebook will support 15- and 30-second pre-roll ads, but apparently only off-Facebook. What about video that runs on Facebook itself? What does that mean for the companies trying to reach as many outlets as possible with their messages? Most brands and publishers already struggle with how to turn Facebook’s huge audiences into revenue for their own operations.
  • Outstream vs. instream? Many brands almost certainly will want to know what formats they will have access to in this new regime. Not being able to choose may be a big problem for many companies. It’s yet another question about control and flexibility, and Facebook’s limits on both.
  • Will a Facebook move to pre-roll/mid-roll, especially if it remains limited, further encourage ad-blocker use? Viewers really don’t like pre-roll in particular. Lots of work needs to be done to ensure whatever is done is as unintrusive, lightweight, and fast to download as possible.

Overall, it’s clear many details need to be worked out, though Facebook is once again making clear how seriously it takes mobile and video. That focus is appropriate; it’s something Beachfront Media has done for quite a long time now.

Of course, Beachfront also has offered brands and publishers transparent systems for video ad buying and selling for quite a while. We offer all kinds of flexibility on unit type, player size, inventory placements, and many other targeting options. That’s one of the benefits that companies get when they partner with an ad-tech firm whose own interests are aligned with theirs, instead of merely working to enhance its own giant distribution platform. Companies need, and deserve, more answers to questions like the ones above, and solutions to their problems — and most importantly, a path to growth.

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