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CIO - Following months of testing and even longer periods of doubtful timelines, the culmination of auto play video ads on Facebook is approaching.
Facebook is in the final stages of testing an auto play video ad unit that will be released "imminently," says David Lawenda, head of global marketing solutions at Facebook. "I feel very good that we'll have a product to bring to the market in short order."
While the company's march to a mobile-first mindset and delivery has been persistent and widely recognized, Facebook is rising to the video occasion with a more deliberate rollout. Part of the delay could be due to the timidity of TV networks and film studios, but the launch also comes on the heels of notable changes to Facebook's ad products and rapid user growth on mobile.
"The entertainment vertical is a big business for us, but it really is a tale of two cities," Lawenda said during his keynote at this week's Digital Entertainment World conference. While the TV business is "already eager to place big investments around their fall season," Lawenda says the film industry is a little slower to the draw.
Facebook Goes Hollywood
Lawenda, a longtime advertising executive, says he and his team just completed a second round of testing with the film studio Summit Entertainment and are currently preparing for a final round. With more than 25 years of experience in broadcast, cable TV and ad agencies, it's no wonder Lawenda was hired by Facebook last September to help make the case for televsion show promos and movie trailers to get airtime on the platform.
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"I'll be meeting with the movie studios this week to help them see what is possible," he told attendees. "They should look at us like every other media platform that they're doing business with ... The same way they look at TV or other mass media, they should be looking at Facebook."
Lawenda says he was naturally drawn to Facebook because he loves "understanding and analyzing how new generations of consumers engage with content." Of course it doesn't hurt that he also believes Facebook is the greatest advertising and marketing opportunity that he will see in his lifetime.
Lawenda says his mission is to unlock that opportunity by convincing entertainment marketers to funnel more ad dollars to Facebook. A monumental task to be sure, but after all there is a lot of cheddar up for grabs with the TV ad business approaching $70 billion in the United States last year and almost $200 billion globally.
"So many marketers today see Facebook as a social media tactic," he says. "We're not a cornerstone of the marketing plan today, and that's a missed opportunity."
With Facebook's advanced targeting capabilities and unparalleled reach, the platform should be viewed as an extension of any marketing team and conduit to their respective goals, Lawenda adds.