Jason Del Rey

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Facebook Won’t Launch Auto-Play Video Ads This Year

If you’re an advertiser waiting to hand Facebook a bag of cash to start running video ads on the social network in time for the holidays, it sounds like you’re out of luck.

Sources tell AllThingsD that Facebook has been advising some advertiser clients not to expect a rollout of the much-awaited auto-play video ad product before 2014. The ad format was originally supposed to make its debut in the first half of this year, but that never happened, and its launch has been pushed back several times since then.

The main reason for the current delay? Facebook recognizes the risk of upsetting its user base with the ads, which are expected to play automatically (though audio will have to be turned on by the viewer), so it wants more time to evaluate how its users have interacted with similar noncommercial videos that it started to allow on its platform earlier this year.

Demand among advertisers for Facebook video ads is still high, even as Facebook continues to hold back the product, since brands are eager to reach TV-sized audiences on the Web, sources said.

For Facebook, the stakes are high, as well. Facebook has had hopes of building a canvas to attract lots of big-name advertisers to run expensive advertisements that tell a story — known as “brand advertising” within the ad industry. But, over time, the perception in the ad industry is that Facebook has become better known for being an effective place to run so-called direct-response ad campaigns, which attempt to get a user to take a specific action — say, downloading an app or clicking on an ad to sign up for a service.

Video ads, though, give Facebook another format to lure brand advertising and slices of budgets historically set aside for TV commercials. Morgan Stanley said earlier this year that Facebook could rake in $1 billion from video ads in 2013.

The company had showed some version of the product to advertisers as far back as December 2012. At the time, Facebook told advertisers it was planning to unveil the ad format in the first half of 2013.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.

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