Facebook has made no secret of its ambition to become the No.1 platform when it comes to content consumption online. Video content is a huge part of this strategy. Showing an ironic sense of timing, on YouTube’s 10th anniversary, Facebook announced that it is partnering with a number of digital media companies to create branded content for advertisers. The project is being called Anthology and currently has some well-known new media companies like Electus Digital, Funny Or Die, Oh My Disney, The Onion, Tastemade, Vice Media and Vox Media.
Over the last couple of years, Facebook has been taking the quality of video content that shows up on the timeline very seriously and it has worked. As per the latest numbers, around 4 billion videos are viewed on it per day; 3.6 times the number last year. This is still far behind YouTube, which boasts of more than 6 billion hours’ worth of content but Facebook’s video push is definitely picking up steam.
The real icing on the cake would be when Facebook gets content creators to develop video content specifically for its platform. This is where Anthology comes in; and takes it another step forward. There is no shortage of advertisers wanting to spend money on Facebook but not many of them will have the expertise to create great content. The solution according to Facebook is to partner with media companies that already have a track record of doing just that. This is the idea behind Anthology.
Facebook’s media partners will create video content tailored to client briefs, which will then be exclusively promoted on the Facebook platform. It is not known how the client pays for it but it is a fair guess that the client will have to pay the media house for the creative and then to Facebook for actually promoting the content.
The threat, though it might be too early to call it that right now, is also very really for creative agencies. If platforms and media companies start partnering to create in-house content, why would anyone actually approach a creative agency?
This is actually quite a valid argument. An executive at an ad tech agency, which, currently, also builds creatives for clients using its technology platform, agreed that it becomes easier for the client and the agency to work in such a scenario as the agency best understands its own platform.
Anthology is a smart initiative and, some would argue, much needed in a world where advertising is increasingly being viewed as intrusive and just not compelling enough to engage the average audience. All of the partners mentioned above are known for great editorial content, storytelling skills, combined with an understanding of how the new digital age works.
With more and more clients and agencies understanding that the future of advertising is slowly shifting towards brand-based campaigns rather than performance advertising, Anthology could be a game changing move by Facebook, combining Facebook’s advertiser-friendly capabilities with high quality branded content and definitely something the likes of YouTube would likely follow with some trepidation.
The idea in itself is not new. Companies like BuzzFeed have in-house ad teams which work with clients to create customized content. But Facebook says that the advantage lies as each Anthology partner will “in addition to offering creative and production services, each is trained on how to get the most out of the Facebook platform to drive business results.” Clients will also be able to work with Facebook’s in-house creative strategy team to maximise efficiency of the campaigns.
The obvious advantage for Facebook here is that it no longer has to depend on users uploading content on third party platforms and then share it on Facebook. Even earlier, the social networking company was said to be speaking with publishers to host their links on its servers.
There is no doubt that Facebook is a great marketing platform and getting to work with a certified Facebook partner will boost the quality of a brand’s content, but will advertisers be open to creating specific content for different platforms? Even now, we are not really seeing brands creating specialized content for digital. More often than not, it is an adaptation of a TVC or, at most, a subtle brand placement. What Facebook is proposing is more on the lines of a customized, creative storytelling solution. It will be interesting to see how many brands actually consider spending additional dollars for these ads on Facebook, considering that, especially in India, YouTube is the go to video ad platform.
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