Well it’s been confirmed: precocious tech start-up Facebook is launching a new advertising offer for all those banks, airlines, abdominal improvement products and databases of Singles In Your Area that, at least according to my news feed, choose to spruik their varied wares through the Social Network. The Wall Street Journal reports that Video advertisements will be available to brands as of this week, a development that already will be striking fear into the hearts of all the Harry Cranes of the television world.
Facebook describes the new asset as a “richer storytelling format for advertisers.” It then helpfully explains: “compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time.” Sounds like some kind of evocative marketing dreamscape, no? But beneath that romantic jargon-enriched explanation of video advertising lies an inconvenient truth that is going to fuck with your Facebook user experience like no amount of Sponsored Wix posts ever have. Here’s why:
“Rather than having to click or tap on the content, videos will begin to
play as they appear on screen — without sound — similar to how they
behave when shared by friends now. If you don’t want to watch the video,
you can simply scroll past it.”
Guys, let me riff First World for a moment.
Automatically playing videos are the thorn in the side of the instant gratification culture we hold in such high esteem. They are the browser-shutting cause of frustration that stops most people from hitting the Fairfax paywall threshold (is anyone else silently protesting news sites because they don’t give you an opt-in choice, or are you an actual mature adult?). Autoplay videos are the shouty one at a hens party who gets looser and louder faster than anyone else. They are the major sporting event security guard that ushers out the hot lady streaker. They are the 15-second obstacle standing between you and the latest Beyonce video on Youtube. They suck data usage, dammit.
Facebook says the videos will not play with sound unless you turn the sound on to minimise obtrusiveness as much as possible, and it also advises that this is an initial, limited test. We’ll determine future uses based on what we learn from this test.
Until then: Facebook videos are coming soon to your news feed whether you like it or not (and if you don’t like it you can always just quit).