According to six agency ad buyers interviewed for this article, Facebook Watch, which only offers mid-roll programmatic ad breaks and is now starting to test pre-roll ads, is being sold the way Instagram or Facebook Audience Network was sold when those first launched.
“They’re telling us, working together, these will drive the best results,” said one New York-based head of media at an agency. “Their strategy is to tell us this so it doesn’t sound like the ad products will cannibalize each other.”
A different buyer told Digiday that because Facebook’s own ad infrastructure is already familiar for advertisers, Watch is positioned as an “additional placement you just check and tick off,” making it easy for advertisers who already buy on Facebook. (The option has existed as of August to buy in-stream placements only, not in conjunction with News Feed, but Facebook reps are still pitching them as better together.) The platform is now starting to test YouTube-like pre-roll ads at the beginning of Watch shows. Two buyers told Digiday that a possible pre-roll is tempting. “When you think about Watch, the experience is very different [from TV],” said one buyer. Even though Facebook is positioning it as being like premium cable, multiple buyers said they’re worried that people might not stick around for ad breaks. A pre-roll, which Facebook has long resisted, is a way to placate unconvinced advertisers.
A third buyer said Facebook wanted the agency to increase overall spend to $5 million and get it as part of a bigger deal.
Facebook is also telling agencies that internal data has shown that people are sharing long-form video and watching it more often. The monetization opportunity for Facebook and the publishers that are splitting the revenue with the platform is finding the right ad breaks. It’s very tempting for advertisers: Facebook just needs to make great shows and monetize an existing audience. If it can sell buyers on great integration ideas or the right kind of ad breaks, they’d be sold.
The mid-roll placements are between five and 15 seconds, and Facebook said 70 percent of them have been viewed to completion, the majority with the sound on.
Right now, the ads are sold with a standard audience-based buying approach so brands can target interests, geographies or other attributes. One gripe agencies have is that they can only buy, for example, around “sports” or “cooking.” Two ad buyers said they have repeatedly asked Facebook for the ability to buy advertising around certain publishers only. (Snapchat’s Discover channel does offer that option.) “That’s what makes it feel premium,” said one buyer, who speculated that Facebook doesn’t want to offer that option because it’s less scalable.