Why Facebook's mobile video guidelines are practical but not perfect

Facebook Creative Shop's guidelines are ostensibly aimed at raising the bar on mobile video creativity, but in truth are more pragmatic than creative.

The guidelines are for brands looking to adapt their TV commercials to a mobile video environment and includes tips on when to screen your brand and message (early), to use typography, optimising your crops and ratios for mobile (square is best), and aim for shorter and faster. 

An additional insight is that while it makes sense to have the punchline at the end of TV commercials, it doesn’t work so while on mobile.

On mobiles, about 47% of the video’s value is delivered in the first three seconds and 74% is delivered in the first ten seconds found a Nielsen BrandEffect study in 2015 that was commissioned by Facebook Marketing Science. After ten seconds, attention starts to decline.

When Emirates optimised its TVC to these guidelines, 6.5x more people viewed the optimised video to the ten-second mark, versus the non-optimised, and there was a +18 point higher message association than original TVC.

Here's the original TVC

And here's the optimised version

In and of themselves, the guidelines are truly useful for brands, Ben Tyson, joint managing director of BornSocial, said.

"The points around use of text/graphics (and subtitles, which they don't mention but many brands revert to) are interesting, because Facebook notably flipped to autoplaying with sound earlier this year. Perhaps a lot of users still keep their devices to silent or change their settings to switch that feature off," Tyson added.

The guidelines are a pragmatic move on Facebook’s part, Tyson noted. "They’re admitting that brands have limited resources and it’s okay to take some TV creative and apply it to social."

But pragmatism shouldn’t be held up as best practice Kristina Matovic, senior designer at We Are Social cautioned.

"A social ad needs to be optimised for square or portrait format; this means when you’re shooting, all the key subjects must fit into a square frame. If you don’t do this, or you're trying to adapt content created for other formats, you risk cropping out important information or not being able to optimise for social without changing the script, which can take time and be expensive," Matovic said.

The guidelines are also, rather basic, Tyson noted. "I would be surprised if there was anything in this list of advice that an agency claiming to do social content didn't already know."

What Facebook could have added, Matovic suggested is to discuss the role interactivity and AI is starting to have in social content.

"Marketers should consider incorporating interactive elements into ads to drive engagement," Matovic advised.

When done right though, Tyson is enthusiastic about the impact of video on Facebook: "We see a two- to three-times increase in effectiveness on Facebook and Instagram when video content is involved at the moment, so there is no doubt that good quality video content is still a big advantage for a brand."

But for that level of quality, Matovic said, brand-making content for social platforms should be planning for the format from the outset. 

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