Is Facebook’s mid-roll ad offering a kill-joy to video viewing?

You might have noticed a new kind of ad format making its rounds on Facebook – the mid-roll video advertisements.  According to Recode, advertisers can insert the ad break as long as the video has been rolling for at least 20 seconds. The breaks need to be at least two minutes apart.

And while this might let marketers play around and sneakily put their ad in the middle of a video, we ask industry players if this platform will ultimately be a hindrance to the user experience.

In a conversation with Marketing, Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner at Happy Marketer, said that mid-roll ads have been around on many ad networks so it isn't a new way of monetising content. But it does disrupt the user experience. He said:

While it may not be as much of a kill-joy as pre-roll ads, it still disrupts a consumer’s journey – and I’m not a big fan of that.

Agreeing with him is Stanley Clement, managing director at Society Malaysia, who said  that the new format will undoubtedly interfere with the user experience, especially when users are engaged with the content. Hence more needs to be done to get a sense of what the user experience is. This can allow brands to understand how users feel about the brand and content being shown.

“At the end of the day, you might run the risk of turning off the user completely to the brand, so it is important to test if the communication works well with this type of disruptive content,” Clement explained.

Publishers too, may get affected

Not only is there risk for users to get turned off from the brand, the new offering could potentially cause users to drop off from the video content – hence affecting content creators themselves. This is according to Ryan Ong, managing partner at Kingdom Digital. Ong added that "majority of consumers do not like to have an ad shoved down their throats".

“Nevertheless, if it’s smartly used to present an ad that is creative, or one that creates meaningful experience with consumers, they may continue to engage with the content,” Ong added.

This is because consumers nowadays place a great importance on experiences. Hence, before considering mid-roll ads, brands need to be aware of two outcomes – immediate awareness and instant reactions.

“They need to be creative in the execution so that it doesn’t interfere too much with the user’s experience, and think of the consumers – how to capture their attention as well as how they would want them to react to and perceive the brand,” Ong added.

In doing so, Society’s Clement explained that brands can better leverage this new offering once they get a sense of how users react to this format. They should be able to do better testing of content and understand the drop-offs, he added. If or not users will be willing to wait and actually watch an ad, needs to be tested.

“It would also be important to understand how viewability is measured should a user leave the ad,” Clement said.

Either way, the new mid-roll ad offering definitely opens up new inventory for brands to reach out to new audiences, Happy Marker’s Mazumdar added. However, the social giant will need to look at doing a better job at targeting, relevancy and brand safety compared to YouTube.

“It will be good to see how Facebook potentially innovates with the format in terms of integrating mid-rolls into Facebook Live and 360 videos apart from static videos,” Mazumdar said.

He added that it could consider packaging static companion banners in the newsfeed in case the video fails to load or the user passes it by. It could also provide in-built lead generation options in the ad and integrate an augmented/virtual reality feature given that it owns Oculus. But at the end of the day, what is important is having an option, said Mazumdar. He added:

As a user however, I hope that Facebook users will be given a choice to skip ads at will.

He added this is unlike on YouTube, where in brands "continue to take away precious moments in the garb of brand storytelling", disallowing users from skipping ads.

When contacted by Marketing, Facebook declined to comment on details on the offering.