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Marketing Video Marketing

Can Facebook’s Research on 2-Second Videos Be Trusted?

4 Minute Read

Maybe it’s the result of shortened attention spans, or maybe it has something to do with content creators and their ability to create compelling video ad content. Either way, Facebook is jumping on what it sees as a new ad opportunity, launching short-view video ads that will be a mere two seconds in length.

According to research Facebook produced in collaboration with Oracle, these short-view videos have plenty to offer in terms of viewership and sales lift. But not everyone’s convinced: Some critics have openly wondered whether Facebook’s data offers the full picture of how these video ads might work. In addition, some consumers are likely to bristle at this compressed video experience, which will play so fast that by the time consumers are ready to skip the content, the ad itself is already finished.

Ultimately, consumers will be the ones to decide if these two-second video ads are worth the attention of brand marketers. If it makes a measurable impact on sales, it will be hard to deny their value. The more immediate question is whether the hype generated by Facebook’s research is backed up by the evidence.

Calling Facebook’s Stats Into Question

In Facebook’s research on video viewability and sales lift, the company argues that short-view videos drove 52 percent of sales lift in a pilot study and that these compressed ads were worth 60 percent of the value of long-view videos. But the research notes that, relative to the higher video view rates of short-view ads, campaigns “may show higher value from short views [than from long-view ads].”

Encouraging, right? That was what Facebook had in mind. The problem is the numbers argument is shot full of holes. For one, this study only covered fourteen brand campaigns running on Facebook, which is such a small sample size that the results are more anecdotal than empirical.

The study also offers no controls or variables to be considered or isolated, meaning that the cited statistics have almost no context. We know nothing about the types of companies running these campaigns, their size and brand recognition, the types of content they were creating, or any other factors that could affect campaign performance. With such limited information, it’s impossible to know if the performance of short-view versus long-view ads was affected by other factors rather than the inherent format and length of the ads themselves.

For marketers well-versed in crunching numbers and gleaning insights from analytics, the stats offered up by Facebook fail to make much of a case. They’re only useful for promotional purposes that serve the company’s interests, but there’s nothing much included in the company’s report that should compel marketers to start funneling money into short-view campaigns.

That’s not to say that two-second videos should be tossed to the side, however. Facebook did a poor job of building a data-driven case for its new ad product, but marketers should conduct their own due diligence in deciding whether this video format might offer their brand a new ad opportunity.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up On Longer Video

Facebook hasn’t lost confidence regarding two-second video ads. But it’s important to remember that this new ad format is basically another ad product for Facebook to place on its shelf: It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it might be the right option for some of its advertisers. In fact, one Oracle executive even acknowledged to Ad Age that longer videos drive stronger ROI.


Image attribution: Agê Barros

It makes sense why that would be the case: Longer brand exposures—and deeper brand experiences—are likely to have a more significant impact on consumers. A two-second ad is a very small window through which to reach a consumer and make a lasting impression. For some brands, the question of video ad length will be partially answered by their ability to create compelling, engaging content. If you’ve proven through past campaigns that your audience sticks with your video for longer than two seconds, you’re beating the overall Facebook average and creating longer brand experiences that likely provide a sales lift surpassing what a shorter video could offer.

On the flip side, though, poor video engagement may mean it’s time to consider other strategies. If you’re seeing viewers drop early and you’re not getting much ROI from your video campaigns, it could be worth testing shorter videos, which come at a lower price point and are likely to be viewed in full at a higher rate.

In fact, short videos are likely worth testing even if you’ve had some success driving ROI from longer videos. A more diverse, multistream video ad strategy is never a bad thing.

Just don’t put too much weight on Facebook’s internal research. With such a small sample size and the risk that the numbers are biased toward Facebook’s agenda, you’re better off ignoring the research and testing the format’s value for yourself.

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Featured image attribution: Chevanon Photography

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Jonathan Crowl specializes in digital marketing and content creation for both B2B and B2C brands, with an emphasis on startups and technology. His past and current clients include B2B brands IBM, LinkedIn, Mad Mobile, Oktopost, BrightSpot, and Waze, as well as B2C brands Porsche, Epson, and PayPal. He lives in Minneapolis.

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