App developers get first crack at Facebook video ads

Facebook’s much-discussed—and oft-criticized—plans to introduced video ads are out of the test phase and into the wild. The social network said Monday that video ads will soon appear in your News Feed.

DoubleDown's gaming app was one of the early testers of video ads.

But the videos aren’t the 15-second brand free-for-all many were expecting. App developers will use the videos as part of Facebook’s mobile app-install ad product—so instead of just an app screenshot with an “Install now” prompt, developers can offer up videos to make their apps look more appealing. Facebook had been testing video ads that would play without prompt for a small number of users last month, but it looks like this version of video won’t autoplay.

“Potential customers will be able to click play to watch a video featuring your mobile app before installing the app,” Facebook noted in a Monday blog post announcing the product.

It seems like tying the video ads to app installs is Facebook’s way of testing user reaction. The company is encouraging companies to produce high-quality videos to avoid annoying users.

“We recommend videos that showcase the best features of your app, including use of lifestyle or product shots along with in-app screenplays,” the company said.

Ads and apps

App installs are a huge part of Facebook’s ad strategy. At a recent New York press whiteboard session, the company said install ads have prompted 145 million downloads this year. Some 8,400 developers are using Facebook to advertise their apps, though the social network didn’t disclose how much revenue they generated.

Facebook used the iOS app Facetune as an example of install ad success in a case study released Monday. The Israeli startup Lightricks used only Facebook mobile app ads to market the professional image-editing app, and shot to the top spot in Apple’s App Store for paid iOS apps in 40 international markets.

Facebook is marketing itself as the best way for apps to stand out from the rest of the pack. People don’t have time to browse the seemingly endless options in the app store, but they might download an interesting app featured in their News Feed. Especially if that app is accompanied by a compelling video with a cute kitten or two thrown in for good measure.

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