Facebook Announces Anthology.

Facebook's new Anthology program pairs publishers like Vice, Vox and The Onion with advertisers to create branded content. Why it signals a new direction for ads on Facebook and mobile ads in general.

Matthew Klein
April 29, 2015 - 4 min. read

Facebook recently announced that they’re creating a new advertising partnership program called anthology.

The program will focus on the creation of branded video content. It will involve a handful of creative partners—The Onion, Vox Media, Vice, and Funny or Die, Electus Digital, Tastemade and Oh My Disney—that will create video content for brands, which will be served as video ads in Facebook News Feeds. It seems like they will make exclusively branded content—more focused on entertainment and storytelling than direct product sales, which is logical, considering the creator companies are media brands rather than ad agencies.

There were also a report last month that Buzzfeed, GQ, Refinery29 and BET were in talks to become content creation partners; it’s unclear if they might still be added.

The Facebook Anthology story was buried a bit, coming the same day as reports from the social network’s Q1 earnings call. But it signals a new direction for paid video content on Facebook, and it says a lot about Facebook’s plans for mobile ads in the future. 

Sponsored content created by The Onion

Part of a bigger push for video

As we’ve seen, video on Facebook has become much, much more prominent over the last months. There are now over 4 billion video views a day on the network. And Facebook is gearing up to increase the prominence of video ads, possibly hoping to take business from youtube as well as from the $70 billion TV ad industry.

Appropriately, considering that Facebook is shaping up to be a potential rival to traditional television for advertising dollars, this move is coming at the start of the newfronts, a sort of internet only analogue to the upfronts, the period when advertisers preview the upcoming TV season and make their ad buys.

The huge uptick in videos and views on Facebook has not, for now, come with a corresponding rise in video ads (though there have been a few high profile campaigns).

This new program will likely be part of a bigger shift to towards video ads in the News Feed, where they will likely “catch up” with video content proportionally.

This is, decidedly, a prestige program, and it will cost the advertisers that want to participate.

The Wall Street Journal reported that “Facebook is seeking minimum commitments of $2 million per campaign,” in terms of production costs for the partners and ad spend on Facebook, of which at least 50% would be Facebook’s.

Data gets creative

The program touts not only the creative prowess of the partner agencies, but also the capability to harness data for more effective content.

And some advertisers on Facebook have already begun creating multiple versions of video ads, served to targeted user segments, like Lexus, which made 1,000 different video ads, targeted to different audiences, for its new campaign.

While they won’t necessarily create 1,000 versions of anything, the creators will, it seems tailor content based on data about Faceboook fans from advertisers.


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A sponsored video from Eater, a Vox property

What’s Facebook up to here?

Seems that Facebook has two related aims here. The first is to perhaps lay out the direction it sees for video ad content on the network.

Facebook has introduced an untold number of algorithm changes, all in an effort to basically make the News Feed as engaging as possible, and bring in as many ad dollars as it can while doing it.

Sites like Buzzfeed more or less pioneered a new model for sponsored content—lightly branded, engaging articles and videos that fit with the tone form of the rest of the site’s content—which has worked very well for them. (Here’s a look at how brands like Vox, Refinery29 and Mashable are making this model work).

As there is a push for those companies to host content directly on Facebook (which will happen soon), they will need a way to make that model work. In providing a neat solution for them, Facebook gets one of its own: They can maximize the engagement of the News Feed with videos from the likes of Vox and get brands to pay for it.

And, if Facebook has its way, content like this won’t just be prominent in your News Feed, but anywhere mobile video exists.

Business Insider reports that they have filed a patent on a tool to serve native content, including video content, to outside publishers, most probably on their apps.

Mobile has become the default for content viewing. Much of that content is viewed on Facebook, but for what’s not—for native ads in a publisher’s app, for example, Facebook wants to be the standard.

If the biggest advertisers are creating content in conjunction with Facebook partners, once Facebook can serve sponsored content on outside properties (which they’ve filed this patent for), with its extensive ad targeting capabilities, the company will be much closer to being the go-to for native ads on mobile.

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