Facebook kicked off IAB UK Upfront week with a 100 attendees. A modest presentation, Facebook began the morning with an agenda to push mobile and demonstrate the value it provides in enhancing television programming. But the focal point of the event was actually on how Facebook, and its owned properties like Oculus Rift, WhatsApp, LiveRail, and Instagram, as well as native Facebook video, present a large opportunity for brands.
To start, Facebook’s managing director of the UK and Ireland, Steve Hatch, was bullish about Facebook’s future growth in the UK market on the heels of expanding the regional team to more than 500 employees. Eighty of those are engineers dedicated to building advertising products for not only the UK market, but for global application as well. Hatch also noted how the UK is leading in digital, calling it the “most sophisticated market in the world.”
As we reported earlier in the week, a study from the IAB UK notes that in the first half of 2014 alone, there’s been a 16.6% increase in digital ad spend in UK with mobile video ad spend alone rising 196% year-over-year. Video advertising on the web and mobile grew by 59% year-over-year to £202 million.
For Facebook to compete with ad giant Google, developing an ad product that spans its recent product acquisitions, and provides data for digital marketers has been an essential focus. Atlas, which Facebook acquired from Microsoft, does exactly that and helps Facebook close in on Google’s monopoly on the ad market.
Tap into the mobile surge and Facebook’s ability to help virality (see: “Ice Bucket Challenge”) much in the way YouTube does, Facebook, with the help of Atlas, now has a competitive ad product.
While video was not as front and center as I’d anticipated, Facebook did promote its native video-ad unit. That said, the company made a weak differentiation between a standard video ad and the new “premium video” ad unit that simply includes a carousel of recommended content below the video.
And when prompted about the future of Instagram video ads, Instagram’s head of marketing science for Doug Fraser was terse, stating that the main focus right now is to ensure the strong rollout of the static (photo) ads in the UK and other markets — though he did note that Instagram is testing a video ad product in the US.
Facebook’s overall delivery lacked the big-bang Hollywood feel but drove home its message well.
The biggest surprise, however, hit the audience toward the end of the presentation when Claire Valoti ended Facebook’s presentation by reiterating, firmly: “We are a video platform, so please remember that when doing your video planning.”
Facebook’s pieces seem to be falling nicely into place to be able to take on Google and YouTube.
For more of Jocelyn’s thoughts on the inaugural IAB UK Upfronts, click here.