Video ads come to Facebook

15-second ads will play automatically in users' feeds.

An assortment of video ads will soon start appearing in Facebook users' feeds as the company grasps at a larger slice of the lucrative TV advertising market.

The ads will be 15 seconds long, similar to the length of some television commercials, and will begin appearing in the next few months. The ads will play without sound as users scroll past them, but will expand into a full-screen view with sound if they are clicked on. The ads will run on desktops and mobile devices.

Facebook will work with a select group of U.S. advertisers on the program, which it calls "premium video ads." The ramp up follows some earlier tests of the ads that began late last year.

Facebook will roll out the ads slowly as it monitors how users interact with them, the company said. The social media company is working with Ace Metrix, a TV advertising analytics company, to assess each ad before it appears on Facebook's site.

"We're taking this step in order to maintain high-quality ads on Facebook and help advertisers understand what's working to maximize their return on investment," Facebook said in its announcement.

With more than 1.2 billion monthly active users, Facebook hopes to give marketers a way to reach a massive number of people on its site. Facebook will provide targeting capabilities, so that advertisers can target specific groups, for instance, by gender or age.

The ads, Facebook said, are bought and measured in a way that's similar to how advertisers already buy and measure ads on TV. They will be designed, Facebook said, to reach a specific audience over a short period of time and their impact will be measured by Nielsen.

The rollout comes as revenue from digital advertising trails behind TV advertising. But the gap could shrink over time. In a recent report, Nielsen said integration between online and TV video ad markets is real and accelerating.

Facebook didn't say how much its video ads would cost advertisers in total, though a report in Bloomberg cited a range of US$1 million to $2.5 million a day.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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