Facebook Is Going After TV Ad Dollars with Brand-Safe Shows

February 26, 2019

By Michelle Castillo

Facebook wants to be taken seriously by television advertisers.

The company announced on Tuesday it would allow companies to buy its video ads during the "Upfronts." The term refers to a time in the television industry, usually starting in May, when marketers buy ads on programming for the upcoming TV season.

Previously, Facebook ($FB) only allowed advertisers to buy ads one quarter in advance. The new strategy allows companies to include Facebook in their bigger plans, which should translate to more money. Advertisers spent $69.87 billion on TV advertising in 2018, according to eMarketer. Meanwhile, they only spent $7 billion on digital video ads during the first half of 2018, according to the IAB and PWC.

Facebook's program, called Facebook Showcase, includes programs like In-Stream Reserve that will allow advertisers to buy ads on its top shows. Facebook shows are all reviewed by people rather than artificial intelligence, making it safe for companies to advertise against. About 100 million U.S. viewers watch In-Stream Reserve shows each month, per Facebook. About 43 percent of In-Stream Reserve's viewers are 18 to 34-years old, versus 28 percent for TV, according to the company.

Advertisers can buy ads that correspond to categories like sports, beauty, entertainment, and, as of Tuesday, food and news. The ads are purchased ahead of time at a fixed cost, and have Nielsen-verified audience targets. Facebook did not disclose prices, but said for the first quarter of 2018, CPMs (cost per thousand viewers) were around $23 to $25. Companies can also sponsor shows for U.S. audiences.

In-Stream Reserve is strikingly similar to Google Preferred, a YouTube program that lets brands buy ads on top videos. YouTube allows for advertising on trending and top videos, which lets more people to see the ads. However this could also mean the content isn't always family-friendly or appropriate, which has led marketers to worry about the where their ads are appearing. Recently, YouTube was accused of directing viewers to predatory content featuring young girls.

Universal McCann Chief Investment Officer Jon Stimell told Cheddar said Facebook is "much more brand safe" than YouTube, especially given the recent issues YouTube has faced. Most of Facebook's shows feature known celebrities, in line with what people expect to see on TV. Universal McCann hasn't allocated budgets yet, but is definitely taking Facebook's offerings into consideration, he said.