Facebook users are relentlessly bombarded with advertising. First, there were the ads on the side of the page, tailored to your interests based on location, what you talk about, and what you search. Then brand pages asking for likes…which makes you a free advertiser. Then came the inline “promoted posts.” And coming soon, the final insult – commercials. Right there in your feed.
What effect will Facebook video ads have on social marketing campaigns? Will ad-weary users embrace more in-your-face marketing, ignore it altogether, or abandon Facebook for the next social phenomenon? It wouldn’t be the first time.
Expion recently took a look at the top 50 most-engaged brands on Facebook, and the overall results were not encouraging. Luxury retailers came out on top, while overall brand engagement was down by 16% across the board. Graphics dominated the scene; 80% of retailer posts featured graphics, as opposed to just 3% that featured videos. Users clearly preferred quality over quantity, preferring to share clever posts, photos of expensive baubles and trendy clothing over pedestrian company news and dull, predictable product ads.
The Dilemma: Cost vs Viral
The cost of Facebook video ads is reputed to be astronomical. Like superbowl-commercial astronomical. Once an advertiser lays out a cool $2.5 million, they get a year of aggressive placement designed to annoy a much broader audience. Unlike most Facebook ad strategies, the ads will be targeted only to age and gender. In a market already saturated with ads…where social engagement has already proven more successful, introducing old-school commercials could be a costly risk.
In a report released in August, Morgan Stanley predicted the outrageously priced video ads will generate more than $1 billion in revenues in 2014. While the reach potential is hard to deny, the money might be better spent on producing content designed to engage the public.
The Scarecrow, recently released by Chipotle Mexican Grill, is a brilliant example. The beautifully illustrated video is not so much ad as brand storytelling. Using stunning animation backed by a heartbreaking (and slightly creepy) Fiona Apple cover of “Pure Imagination”, the video touches on a subject near and dear to social, political, and health-conscious Facebook users: giant corporate control and abuse of the food supply.
Without overtly trying to sell, the video draws a clear line between everything we hate about Monsanto and other megalith food corporations and what is better for us – locally sourced, freshly made, organic foods harvested by real farmers. Otherwise known as the Chipotle concept.
The resulting effect has powerful emotional impact. The film’s beauty, entertainment value, and message are interesting, and the response has been impressive. Ten days after the video was posted on YouTube, it had already logged six million views.
If the film alone isn’t attractive enough, it’s tied to the launch of the Chipotle Scarecrow video game app for Apple iPhone and iPad. And there’s a contest. Since the retail value of each prize is set at $6 to $8, I’m guessing it’s Chipotle food. Genius…
…but not above a good skewering by FunnyorDie.com.
And the point is…
This is the heart of social media. Instead of putting money into advertising placement, Chipotle invested in a product people want to share. It’s that simple. Engaging the imagination of fans with quality offerings is what social media marketing is all about.
Many retailers are already missing the point of social media by using Facebook to push one-way messaging noone is interested in sharing. As a result, engagement with these brands is down. Others have a better understanding of the way social media works and spend their efforts on true social media campaigns, complete with responsive engagement and share-worthy content.
Facebook video ads are an expensive gamble that could easily backfire on advertisers who don’t get it. Although a huge number of people will see the ads, the real question is whether retailers with deep enough pockets to afford premium placement will have the savvy to create social engagement, or will they rely on the same antiquated marketing methods consumers are already sick of. Only one thing is certain. No matter what happens to the profits of retailers who spend big bucks to be seen (or ignored), the real winner will be Facebook.