Facebook’s mid-roll video ads will be limited to 15 seconds

Advertisers can pick content categories they do or don’t want their ads to interrupt, but may want more control over placement.

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Last year Facebook started interrupting some Live broadcasts with mid-roll video ads, and this year the social network plans to do the same with non-Live videos.

Facebook will inject mid-roll ads into some publishers’ videos after those videos have played for at least 20 seconds, according to a report published by Recode on Monday. The video ads will be limited to 15 seconds in length, three people familiar with the matter told Marketing Land on Monday after Facebook began emailing agencies about the new ad slots’ availability in Facebook’s ad buying tools. A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.

Last year Facebook, which has been against pre-roll ads, had winked at inserting mid-roll ads into non-live videos. “Next year, we’re going to start thinking about how that type of monetization opportunity could potentially be brought to regular videos as well,” said Facebook’s VP of partnerships, Dan Rose, in an interview with Poynter in September. And the mid-roll ad insertion was made even more inevitable following the news last month that Facebook planned to stock up on original and licensed shows.

For advertisers the mid-roll ads, which Facebook has been testing in Live videos since last August, will be enabled by default when buying a video ad campaign on Facebook. Their placement will be labeled “In-Stream Videos,” and advertisers will have to uncheck the placement if they don’t want their ads to run in the middle of publishers’ videos, the people said. If a video ad runs longer than 15 seconds, then an error message will appear if an advertiser tries to buy the “In-Stream Videos” placement.

In addition to the normal Facebook targeting options, advertisers will be able to pick categories of videos in which they want their ads to run, such as sports or humor, and they can specify categories they want to avoid, such as “debated social issues,” “mature audiences” and “tragedy and conflict.”

That may not be enough control for some advertisers who want a firmer grasp over the kinds of content alongside of which their brands will appear. For example, some advertisers want the ability to explicitly specify which publishers’ or creators’ videos they do or do not want their ads to run against when buying pre- or mid-roll ads, according to one agency exec.

But the ad’s placement may not matter if people opt not to stick around to watch it. If Facebook stops a video after 20 seconds to insert an ads, as Recode reported, then that 20 seconds needs to be good enough for a viewer to be willing to sit through an ad in order to finish the video.

Facebook is reportedly incentivizing publishers to make those initial 20 seconds worth viewers’ while. Provided a video runs at least 90 seconds long to be eligible to contain a mid-roll ad, Facebook will split 55 percent of the ad revenue with the video’s publisher, according to Recode.

This wouldn’t be the first time Facebook has opened up a revenue-sharing program with publishers. In addition to Instant Articles, Facebook’s year-and-a-half-old Suggested Videos program shares ad revenue with publishers whose videos are watched in the same recommended video carousel as a video ad, so long as the ad is watched too. But that program hasn’t exactly been a moneymaker for publishers.

Maybe Facebook’s mid-roll ad program will be different. And even if it’s not, publishers will still be able to make money by distributing their videos on YouTube, Twitter and Amazon, or by producing branded videos to distribute on Facebook without needing to share any of that money with the social network.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.

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