facebook video ads
Facebook is looking to become more competitive with television as an advertising medium. Its latest move: adding tools that let advertisers more easily place captions within ads, which users often mute. Reuters

Ads will soon become a lot easier for consumers to absorb and brands to create on Facebook. The social network is adding automatic captioning to video ads, if the advertiser so chooses, without their having to submit the words or put them into the ads themselves.

The update comes as Facebook pushes for more ad dollars, especially in its pitch to to be a cross-marketing option with TV — or even a replacement. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told investors last month, “We believe that we’re really well-positioned to take share from other platforms out there.”

Facebook reached record revenue numbers, driven by mobile ads, in the fourth quarter of 2015. But Sandberg said the company still has work to do. “We need to continue to prove that we're driving results,” she said.

Facebook’s ad creation tool will generate captions advertisers can choose to add to videos. “Each moment counts for advertisers,” Facebook wrote in a blog post about the update. “With people’s growing control over what content they watch and for how long, the faster you communicate your message in a video ad and capture viewers’ attention, the better.”

Facebook introduced autoplay video in December 2013. These ads do not play sound unless a user clicks on the video. Therefore, advertisers have had to build experiences that allow for viewers to understand the ad with or without sound.

Facebook found that video ads with captions increased the video view time by 12 percent on average. Captioning proved successful for A&W Canada in an ad about chicken raised without antibiotics. Watch time increased by 25 percent after the company added captions, according to Robert Cifarelli, a communications manager with A&W Canada.

Watch time on Facebook has reached record numbers. Facebook reported in January that people watch 100 million hours of video on the site each day. Facebook touts 8 billion video views — which count after 3 seconds of airtime — per day. In comparison, Snapchat has 7 billion views per day, at a millisecond each.

Facebook also announced more metrics for advertisers. It will be able to see the percentage of people who viewed with sound. Additionally, advertisers can now pay for a 100 percent in-view option, which means the entire ad must be fully visible for it to count. The absence of such an option was criticized by advertisers, and Facebook responded with the option in September. It is now available globally.