Facebook is testing autoplaying video ads inside of Messenger, and holy crap this is a bad idea.
The context: Facebook confirmed to Quartz yesterday it was rolling out the ads next Monday to a small group of users. While a spokesperson insisted the user would be “in control” of their ad experience, that basically means you can hide and report ads of your choosing. You can’t opt out of it.
Stefanos Loukakos, Messenger’s head of ad business, told Recode he’s waiting to gauge audience reaction on the ads before he passes judgement on their value, and I’m just going to let this last sentence hang there in your mind:
…we don’t know yet [if these will work]. However, signs until now, when we tested basic ads, didn’t show any changes with how people used the platform or how many messages they send. Video might be a bit different, but we don’t believe so.
Why It Matters: If Facebook’s waiting to find out if people will react badly to having autoplaying video ads in their Messenger, I can answer that for it: yes. Of course people are going to react differently to video ads than they do static ads. You can scroll past that millionth photo of Lululemon gear without even registering its existence, but a video ad for the Hollywood blockbuster du jour is going to be a big speedbump by comparison.
The problem with video ads in Messenger, which makes them potentially more disruptive than ads on other platforms, is that Messenger is not a platform for passive consumption. When you see an ad ahead of, for example, a YouTube video, you’re already here to just watch and not much else. But when you’re on Messenger, you’re there to talk with people, to catch up with them, or to play games with them.
It’s the same as the difference between seeing a movie preview in a theater versus someone busting into your conversation to tell you all about the movie. In both cases, it involves you getting more information about the movie whether you want it or not. In the first case, it’s annoying, but you expect it. In the second case? Go. Away.