I stumbled on this article from Recode from a few months back. Basically it describes Facebook’s intentions to offer video advertisements on its self serve advertising platform (Facebook Ads) on “television” by serving the ads on “connectivity devices” like Roku and Apple Tv.
The news has been radio silent on any developments of this campaign outside of late 2016… Until today.
Well, on 4/20 at approximately 9:50pm I think I just witnessed Facebook’s next step — a proof of concept of this of this video advertising strategy.
Potentially, it’s Facebook’s first “proof of concept” of delivering ads through the Facebook platform on Roku (delivered to me through Hulu).
What I’m about to describe is NOT part of any previously documented Facebook advertising campaigns, as far as I can tell from YouTube or relevant news articles.
It was an ad that featured Facebook Messenger. (Potentially Facebook Live, the line between the 2 products is getting blurred all the time — and from only one viewing of the spot I couldn’t tell you definitively which product it was for as Facebook has run separate campaigns for both Messenger and Live in the past).
It featured a very racially diverse/ambiguous cast of people going to extreme places (one example is like a performance art exhibition? Not sure how often you go see performance art, but okay…), but they were still “real life” experiences — it tapped into experiences desirable yet possible.
(As opposed to how some luxury brands target a feeling, or project an image that can be “unachievable” for most people. It’s how they get their exclusivity branding wise).
I will say this about the performance art. The “artists” were performing in some suits that looked a lot like these in an art museum I just saw. There was a bright saturated background behind these scenes, kind of like Apple ads.
Anyway, the spot was fairly long (I’d say at least 60 seconds if not 90, compared to a 10 second or 30 second spot on traditional television) and featured racially diverse people using the product (FB messenger) to communicate while doing desirable — yet attainable every day things, like attending performance art events — and video chatting with their grandmas.
It really caught my attention, because it’s interesting for me to see a huge company like Facebook deploying advertising dollars using strategies that I have been preaching to deaf ears for some time now.
What I noticed:
While going about their “genre scenes” in this ad, I noticed that the actors were speaking underneath Facebook’s “ad copy” announcer. At first I thought they were using some type of gibberish language to make an edgy statement.
But then I realized that their selection of language perhaps signaled something even bigger about Facebook’s beliefs of the attitudes that Millennials hold.
After World War II, America has been characterized as going through a “cultural change” — specifically that after bombing Japan we stopped looking to the outward world, mainly Europe, for any type of standards. Including, ceasing to look to Europe for political, moral or cultural direction.
Arguably, post-hydrogen bombing of Japan during WWII marks a new period in the projection of American exceptionalism.
Or at least, an art movement says something like that.
What I propose, is that Facebook thinks this belief is significant across the attitudes millennials.
Look, Facebook’s core demographic has been the millennial generation from the get go.
So I think that the fact that Facebook chose French as the language to have dialogue scripted in, as opposed to another language perhaps more popular in the United States (but unobtrusive to the English advertising narration) like Spanish, is telling of what Facebook believes of the attitudes of millennials.
Perhaps our parents as a collective do not continue to look to Europe for some of these ideals as our country has historically in the past (I would say this attitude changed around the 1900’s, or the 1920’s) — but collectively as a generation millennials may feel a little bit differently.
Or, minimally, perhaps Millennials collectively speaking don’t identify with the today’s current direction and manifestation of the “looking away from Europe”.
Perhaps Facebook intends to display this ad internationally, if that were the case it would make only slightly more sense that Facebook selected French as opposed to a more widely spoken language like Spanish, or even German. French is only the 18th most spoken language in the world, and even though it may be more popular abroad than in the United States I still feel like the language selection came from a proactive choice by Facebook — not a passive selection.
Either way, judging from the length of this ad, the “artsy” film style of the genre scenes depicted in the ad, the number of actors, the number of actors who spoke in the ad, the fact that somebody even bothered to select French as the language of choice for the dialogue (over having no actor dialogue, English that was lowered to inaudible volumes, mere whispering or Charlie Brown-esque “gibberish language”, utilizing a more developed nonsense language like Esperanto, Simlish, or even Klingon? Or like I said earlier, Spanish when it is more widely spoken in the US and worldwide?) — this ad was expensive.
The fact that Facebook spent so much time crafting this ad, and made this selection of language, I think says a lot on the aggregate data set they sit on of Millennials attitudes as a whole.
I am a 21 year old who has become recently (in the last couple of years) infatuated with the “old guard” of marketing — copywriting, direct mail, telemarketing, even “As Seen on TV” when 30 minute infomercials were new.
I read books about when 1–800 numbers were new, and it wasn’t just 1–900 numbers for phone sex lines anymore, and I’m actually excited about it.
I am really interested in taking these ideas and using their techniques in today’s digital marketing, that’s what I’m passionate about.
When I say that, there are some people who are immediately excited!
You guys see the value in learning from techniques that built million, and even billion dollar companies like Cesari Direct and GKIC.
Honestly, bless you.
Because for every one of you, there are another 10 people whose eyes gloss over.
Who don’t understand, or care to understand, the role that psychology (which extends to economics, I’ve learned) plays in every single one of their customer’s decisions to buy or not to buy.
And sometimes those people make me feel like studying all of these techniques from the 20’s, 40’s 50’s, 60’s, and 90’s are a waste of time…
But then HUGE companies like Google come into the picture.
Barely anybody knows this, but Google actually spent a decent amount of time and effort producing a 1 hour documentary specifically on the marketing I nerd out about.
And I know this isn’t some big budget millions of dollars type of deal, from the accompanying website it’s clear that this is some Google employee’s project.
(Can we talk about that website for a second? Ugh. Terrible design principles. I mean obviously made a handful of years ago and has 0 budget to have been updated since, but the site itself is definitely a relic of a different time… Of Web design standards).
But from the fact that they even bothered to track down, and fly in all of these old time ad executives — I am sure Google put at least tens of thousands of dollars into the production of this documentary.
For every time I stress the importance of storytelling, or crafting the messaging in the language and life story of the target avatar and somebody’s eyes glaze over — at least I can smile knowing that big companies like Google, and apparently now Facebook, are exploring long form storytelling and laser focused messaging. The same ideas that I am trying desperately to champion!
I hate with a passion the “truism” in advertising that shorter is better.
The lack of depth is the key driver behind why marketers ruin everything.
Back to Facebook’s Roku spot, I see a lot of the same ideas that I heard in Google’s documentary. Or in my “old” marketing books.
I see a lot of money that went into creating a customer avatar of millennials.
What do millennials stand for? The message of diversity for one has been drilled into us since birth — through our parents, institutions like public schools, and through Western culture. This trend starting slightly before our parents generation, even though they may not always ascribe to it.
I see an ad that is almost 2 minutes, from start to finish, dripping in iconography critical to the psychology of the intended target market.
I see an ad that understands the importance of presenting itself well natively on the platform. A company who understands that respecting the native platform correlates to higher conversion rates.
You’re throwing money in the garbage showing video ads in the wrong aspect ratio. (Black bars on the sides take you out of the experience).
I see a company with a heap of data on Millennials, who figured out that the best way to reach their target market (who are increasingly cutting the cord) is on Roku and Apple TV.
I see a company who is in touch with the future, and understands that the days of cable TV providers (and even ISPs) are numbered.
The decline of cable starts around 2017 by the numbers, 10 years (3–5 Wallstreet years) from now that’s what history books will say.
For some people the transition away from mass media, the lack of any more mass “shared cultural experiences” through TV and traditional media, can cause anxiety.
I definitely think that the anxiety of people who do not like this transition, can clash with Millennials — for whom this is a normal fact of life, and does not cause any distress.
I think that 5–10 years from now this cultural clash will come to a head in the way that logically many of us know it will, when providers like Netflix, Hulu, potentially Amazon, and any future successful contenders in the on-demand streaming media space will overtake traditional cable providers in revenue.
Until they are also phased out by the next generation’s preferred medium (VR?), and so on…
Especially as the generation who most uses these new services comes of age, move up in career, and can afford to maintain their own accounts on these services (as opposed to what they are most likely doing now, sharing an account with someone else).
And at a certain point Internet Service Providers will be forced to actually cope with the growing strain streaming video is placing on their aging infrastructure, as it seems pursuing Federal interference will not work out.
Today I do not have the visuals of the Facebook advertisement to show you, although I will update this article when it’s available on YouTube — as I’m sure it will be soon.
The fact that there is not YouTube video of this spot makes me think that this is a very early test of Facebook attempting to deploy ads onto Roku (and potentially Apply TV as well), through their own advertising network.
I am sure you have already noticed a trend of Facebook (as well as other established online companies) transitioning to “crossover” advertising — sometimes buying spots on TV, or in other traditional media.
Remember that a while ago many of Facebook’s own commercials revolved around “Facebook home”, or creating some type of Facebook “operating system” of which it seemed to function very similarly to Messenger… Perhaps that venture is still on their mind?
Anyway, Facebook is no stranger to attempting to storytell about their products on 3rd party channels.
Arguably they have not showed a change in strategy for several months though, since late 2016, so this latest series of Roku advertisement testing could represent a development in the direction of Facebook’s internal advertising.
But what I also think is interesting is that they are using themselves as a type of guinea pig as far as their ability to deploy ads that tell stories in this way, that target users based off of their data (who better than to test it on than the market they know the best, their core?), deployed on these new 3rd party channels.
Facebook has already developed Facebook Blueprint, a hub of sorts to train businesses on how to use Facebook ads — obviously in the hopes that they will convert to becoming users of Facebook’s ad platform themselves.
So in seeing these Roku ads, I can’t help but wonder if I am seeing “behind the curtain” like at Disney of Facebook’s own internal processes.
Maybe this is a product of the inner nuts and bolts of Facebook’s own internal testing process?
We can’t know for today, but if you see case studies of Messenger (or potentially Facebook Live) advertising on Roku in Facebook Blueprint modules after 4/20/2017 — remember that I told you so! ;)