Facebook's auto-play video ads: Will they click in India?

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | December 19, 2013
Facebook confirmed that it is testing video ads this week that automatically start playing in the News Feed on desktop and mobile. Will it be well-accepted among Indian audiences and advertisers alike? afaqs! explores.

Since September, Facebook has been testing a way to make videos more engaging on the platform and as a result, has recently come out with its long-awaited auto-play video ads feature.

Facebook's auto-play video ads

FB video ad on mobile

Sanjay Mehta

R P Singh

The company announced on Tuesday morning that it's testing such ads in the News Feed with a handful of advertisers. Among them are Summit Entertainment's Divergent, a film set for a March release. The ad for the film, and the other video ads, runs without sound unless the user taps or clicks it, in which case it can also expand to full screen. At the end of auto-play video, a carousel appears where one can click on two additional videos.

Rather than having to click or tap to play, videos will begin to play as they appear onscreen - without sound. If a user doesn't want to watch the video, he/she can simply scroll or swipe past it.

Facebook also notes that the videos one will see on mobile will have been downloaded in advance via a Wi-Fi connection - when available - so it won't affect data plans. Just a "small number" of Facebook users will begin seeing the ads this week, according to Facebook.

The India factor:

Video is a great format for brand storytelling and the fact that there will be video ads on the most used and most frequented social network, will most certainly mean an additional boost to the online advertising numbers, from current levels.

Online video advertising in India is currently an economy with limited options. Two major forms of advertising in this domain are the compulsory 30-second ads or the skip-after-five-seconds ads, both of which seem to be accepted by the Indian audience.

Though the new Facebook feature will take some time to be rolled across the world including India, the hassle however is that it might piss off the consumer especially in a price sensitive country like India where video streaming is considered to be pricey.

Speaking to afaqs! on the same, Sanjay Mehta, joint CEO, Social Wavelength, says that there could be some resistance from some people, but it will mostly be due to the initial irritation. "Going ahead, people will get used to these, and if the ads are interesting and creative, people in fact will start liking it too. So no, I don't see this to be much of an issue," he adds.

From an advertising point of view, sight, sound and motion always makes it a compelling advertising communication globally and it also stands true for India as well. With the new Facebook video ads feature, will the Indian TV-friendly advertiser spend on digital video?

"Globally, the video penetration has already shown impressive numbers beyond predictions, the same is likely to happen in this part of the world too. Facebook video ads will definitely help in growing the online ad market in India given the nature of advertisers in India which are very TV (video) friendly," opines R P Singh, CEO, Sirez Group.

However, Singh believes that one will have to see how users behave when it finally hits them but Facebook is expected to ensure the technical specifications in a manner which does not hamper the user experience. "I am sure Facebook knows that 21 per cent of the likes and shares globally come from APAC, with India and Indonesia being the largest contributors to that. So, they will definitely keep the Indian user in mind," he adds.

The YouTube Vs Facebook debate

As per comScore, ranked as the top online video property in March 2013 with 31.5 million unique viewers, followed by Facebook with 18.6 million.

But, the difference usually is that on YouTube, viewers log on to watch videos and in doing so, they end up watching couple of ads. But on Facebook, the user is not looking for videos and this intrusion of video ads (if we may say so) might be a drawback.

As per Mehta, this is not a concern. "People are consuming a lot of video on Facebook. It's been a long time since Facebook was a text only platform. We now see enough of images, rich media content, animation, infographics, and of course, video. So people are quite comfortable and certainly not surprised, to watch videos on Facebook as well," he adds. A recent SocialBakers report had mentioned that Facebook videos have a 10 times higher viral reach than YouTube links.

However, Singh believes that advertising, though no one likes it, is an unavoidable element of consuming free content. "So far, Facebook has ensured that the ads do not interfere much with user experience; if it can adopt the same way forward for videos, I think it will be ok with users too," he states.

Will they buy?

From an advertiser perspective, there is enough appetite to spend monies on digital advertising, and advertisers always want a fair choice to spread their budgets.

Where video ads are concerned, so far, YouTube was taking the large chunk of such spends. Now, with Facebook video ads, advertisers will be happy to spread the money - or increase the spends and add more budgets - to cover Facebook video ads as well.

"I would see Indian brands embracing this opportunity. We have already seen huge adoption of brands advertising on YouTube, and it will not surprise me at all to see brands interested to advertise on Facebook video ads as well," states Mehta.

"Brands blindly jump on to anything which players like Facebook launch. Given the sheer reach of Facebook in India and Indian advertisers already very heavy on TV, it's a direct fit and experts also believe that they will definitely move monies," says Singh.

Online video advertising is surely on the growth path. However, to grow from a niche to a mainstream advertising tool, a tremendous technological push and content innovation has to be on the cards. With Facebook coming up with this feature, we might see Indian brands opting for online video advertising as the best option to reach out to precise TG more often.

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