Of course the first time I find an ad interrupting a video on FB would happen while watching a video titled “No pants in court.”
This video, about a Kentucky judge berating the local jail for sending a defendant to courtroom sans pants, posted by millennial-centric news publisher Mic appears to be part of the test Facebook shown last month that it would start slotting mid-roll ads within non-live videos & split the revenue with the publisher.
Here’s what I saw when I came across a FB ad break (to see for yourself, Mic’s original video is embedded at the bottom of this videobuilder).
Other than the novelty of an ad interrupting a FB video, there is not much surprising about the ad break, at least not for anyone who has been following the news of Facebook’s plans since January.
But a few things did stand out, like how FB notifies the viewer that an ad is coming, how soon it will end & who the advertiser is, as well as Facebook’s apparent laissez-faire attitude to if the advertiser makes sense in context.
A couple of seconds before the mid-roll ad interrupts this video, an “Ad break starting” message appears in the left corner. When the ad does play, a countdown timer — sometimes a yellow progress bar — appears below this video to let you know how long until you could get back to what you were originally watching.
If you are watching the ad break in the full-screen video player in FB’s mobile app, the name of the advertiser can appear next to the countdown timer, as well as a button to follow the brand on FB. That also happens if you are watching the video in-feed on Facebook’s desktop site; however, on desktop if you click to expand the video to Facebook’s lightbox-style player, the extra advertiser callout & follow button are nowhere to be found.
FB does not seem to be exercising much discretion when deciding which advertisers make the most sense to appear in the middle of a video. I have been shown mid-roll advertisements for the upcoming King Kong movie, a fancy wallet Tony Stark might use, an insurance marketing & sales conference & a cloud computing conference.
Maybe Facebook figured, “Tim, you are watching a random video; here are some random ads.” Or maybe I am part of some random test group. Or maybe Facebook really is not that concerned with context, though some advertisers are.
When the news broke in January that FB would start running these mid-roll ads, I asked some agency execs for thoughts. A few were concerned about the lack of control FB offered brands over what categories of content their ads would appear within. Advertisers can block 3 content categories: “debated social issues,” “mature audiences” & “tragedy and conflict.” But they cannot specify other content categories that they do / do not want to advertise against.
Maybe the lack of contextual ad targeting will change once FB advances these ad breaks in non-live videos from test to an official product, as it has with ad breaks in live videos. Maybe that will happen once Facebook releases its first original shows in a bid to take on YouTube & Netflix. Or maybe it won’t, and I’ll spend these 15 seconds waiting for my video to restart, wondering why the woman was forced to go to court without any pants.