Will Facebook video ads turn off users?

Facebook recently unveiled a new feature for advertisers: video ads that autoplay in select users’ News Feeds. It started with ads for the teen dystopia movie Divergent. But, users are not as happy as advertisers. 

Facebook needs to pull in high-end ad revenue even if it risks alienating its users, some of whom have already voiced concerns about the ads being annoying.

Which is not so much of a concern for advertisers who would love nothing better than to get prime positioning in News Feeds because, that’s where Facebook eyeballs are most engaged. See the problem? Facebook gives you a feature that you like to use, and then it risks its value by chucking stuff in there that you don’t really care to see.

The corollary to this is we have had autoplay video ads on websites for some time and they are a big turn-off.

Why didn’t Facebook just talk to ESPN. The hatred of its autoplay videos is unbounded, and as a fan of the site, I should know. I am not alone, and I am sure most of you reading this hate autoplay video ads. In a News Feed on Facebook, the disruption is magnified because it takes up so much of your content real estate.

Facebook has been testing its video feature since September, and claim the its tests show views, likes, shares and comments increase more than 10%. 

Facebook says:


Marketers will be able to use this new format to tell their stories to a large number of people on Facebook in a short amount of time – with high-quality sight, sound and motion. This approach will continue to improve the quality of ads that you see in News Feed. 


That sounds fancy, but it is highly subjective. Marketers want you to buy stuff. They are not entertainers. Sure, you get the odd great ad or viral marketing piece, but I assume everyone will get access to feature and be able to buy time on the site.

However, the biggest problem for me is that on mobile devices, all videos begin playing as they appear on the screen. That’s about as intrusive as it can get. Maybe the trailer for Divergent is engaging, but that’s a movie trailer. That’s like Web video junk food. We all consume it.

Ads? Not so much.