Facebook Tests Auto-Play Video Ads

Social networking site Facebook is testing videos that play automatically on mobile versions of its service, thus firing things up to turn the 1.15 billion-member club into an attractive venue for lucrative, television-esq video ads.

The videos will be silent when they appear in a user’s newsfeed, but then expand and play the audio when clicked.  Facebook has stated that only videos posted to the site by individual users, celebrities or musicians will have the auto-play function during the test.  But it noted that it would “explore how to bring this to marketers in the future.”  The test, which involves only a small group of U.S. users, is likely to increase expectations for Facebook video ads.

According to differing media reports in recent months, Facebook is planning to charge brand marketers $1 million to $2.4 million to show a 15-second auto-play video advertisement on its social network.  The stock market reaction to this is encouraging as Facebook’s stock set a new all-time high of $45.62 on Thursday, (no doubt due to investors anticipated new revenue sources).  By conducting this small test before selling auto-play ads to advertisers, Facebook will be able to make sure the technology is working fine and also to gauge users’ response.

Facebook spokeswoman Momo Zhou said “Because bringing video to life in a feed is something that’s going to really change the way users’ experience Facebook … we wanted to sort of tread water lightly and start with this and see how it goes”  Auto-play will work only with videos that users upload directly to Facebook and videos from external websites such as YouTube will not work with the auto-play feature in the test.

Facebook does not expect the auto-play videos to have a big impact on smartphone users’ wireless data usage and monthly phone bills.  Auto-play videos will work on Facebook’s mobile apps for smartphones running Google Inc’s Android software and Apple Inc’s iOS software.  In internal testing the auto-play ads did not seem to significantly reduce battery life. The videos stop playing once a user scrolls past them in the newsfeed and users have the option of switching off the auto-play feature.