Advertising Age: Facebook Adds 7 Publishers to Anthology Branded-Video Program

By Tim Peterson

Facebook's Anthology branded-video program may have gotten off to a slow start, but after some price adjustments, the program that pairs brands with premium publishers has begun to pick up traction among advertisers and is now doubling its roster of publishers.

When Facebook announced Anthology in April 2015, some brand and agency execs experienced sticker shock and had reservations about how the bill would be paid, according to media buyers.

Yes, Facebook was going to pair brands with top publishers like Vice, Vox Media and The Onion to produce videos for their brands. And it was possible, in one case, for a publisher to guarantee marketers that those videos would be shown as ads to 70% of the total potential addressable audience a brand had targeted eight times over the course of 12 weeks. But, in that example, the cost was for a minimum spending commitment of $2 million, including production costs.

On face value that deal was more expensive than the amount of inventory an advertiser could otherwise get from Facebook for $2 million, but there were a few considerations that ultimately balanced things out, according to media buyers. Those sweeteners primarily centered around Facebook's in-house agency, Creative Shop, and its ability to mine the social network for insights about brands' audiences and their ads' performance.

"Facebook is a great platform for video, and applying their audience insights and data to optimize creative is a great idea," said David Lang, chief content officer at Mindshare North America and president of Mindshare Content & Entertainment.

In addition to the video content and inventory on Facebook and Instagram, brands buying Anthology deals also get anonymized audience insights from Facebook, such as the interests of their target consumers according to their Facebook profiles, the types of things they talk about on Facebook and how they compare by location. The data can be used to determine what videos to produce, whether to make multiple videos aimed at subsets of the audience, and how to target the videos. Facebook also throws in some measurement muscle, such as being able to track how a campaign impacts product sales.

"The important element in any deal like this is that it's crucial that what a brand creates is based on, and can leverage, the right data and insights and then optimize the creative," Mr. Lang said.

But media buyers did take issue with the idea that they had to pay two bills to purchase an Anthology campaign. They would pay publishers for producing the videos, and then pay Facebook for running the videos as ads.

"The notion of tacking together the cost of paying one partner a production fee and another an ad fee feels like an iterative relationship," said Maikel O'Hanlon, VP of social media strategy at Horizon Media. "If you do a branded series on The Onion or Vox, it's one cost."

That might be seem like a minor accounting annoyance, but it complicates agencies' abilities to tie campaign performance to the money their clients spent on the campaign. Some brands and agencies may be fine with the extra math, but not all.

"The answer depends on the client and whether or not they are looking for a solution that is focused around 'working dollars,'" Mr. Lang said, referring to the money dedicated to the actual ad buy. "If a client is looking for that, then doing an Anthology deal may be more difficult. But for other clients, who are fine paying separately for creative and production through a third party, then it wouldn't be an issue."

Read the rest, including a detailed overview of the seven new publishers, on Ad Age: