Facebook Lets Advertisers Unbundle Their In-Stream Video Buys

Facebook is giving advertisers a bit more control over how they buy in-stream video ads within the news feed, through Audience Network and on Watch, its newly launched video tab.

In the past, advertisers that wanted to purchase in-stream placements delivered into ad breaks were required to run them in the news feed.

Starting Thursday, Facebook will decouple the buy, enabling advertisers to run ads only through Audience Network. They can also choose to bundle inventory or only buy in-stream video in news feed.

It’s something advertisers have been asking for, said Kate Orseth, a product marketing manager at Facebook.

Now that video supply is starting to catch up with demand – and Facebook is doubling down on its video investment – Facebook is in a position to nix the bundling requirement.

It’s common practice for Facebook to bundle inventory buys while waiting for demand to scale. For example, advertisers and agencies can now only buy Messenger ads, which rolled out in July, as part of a package deal with news feed inventory, not as a separate placement.

“Advertisers want the flexibility and control to buy ads in a way that makes sense for whatever their campaign goals and objectives are,” Orseth said.

But there’s another motivation behind the move: user behavior.

“We’re seeing people watch video in a spectrum of ways, whether that’s in short, on-the-go bursts in places like news feed or in more lean-back environments,” she said.

Consumers are spending an increasing amount of time consuming video, and they seem to be sticking around for the ads.

Facebook users are viewing 70% of 15-second in-stream video ads to completion on Facebook and Audience Network. Most of that watch time happens with the sound on, although Facebook declined to quantify “most” with a specific number.

Facebook recommends that advertisers keep creative short and sweet even though advertisers can buy 30-second in-stream video placements on publisher sites and apps through Audience Network. Ads are limited to a 15-second maximum within the news feed.

“The currency here is attention,” said Orseth, who noted that lean-back viewing is increasingly happening on mobile, where attention spans aren’t known for their longevity. “We always encourage advertisers to build shorter creative and capture attention early.”

It’s also arguable that shorter creative lends itself to better viewability and higher completion rates. Some agencies are wary of viewability rates on Facebook. In June, a handful of media agency execs told Digiday that they’d seen viewability rates as low as 20% on Facebook video campaigns.

Having doled out this concession around unbundling the in-stream video buy, Facebook will now turn its attention to the next major item atop the advertiser wish list: brand safety. Advertisers have been requesting more control over the environments in which their ads appear, Orseth said.

“This is an ongoing conversation,” she said. “We’re investing heavily in brand-safety controls and continuing to build more ways for advertisers to have visibility into where their ads run, in terms of categories or publishers that are sensitive.”

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