Are Facebook Video Ads a Threat to YouTube?

Facebook’s auto-play video ads got a big endorsement on Friday, when a Heineken executive told Adweek that he considers YouTube and Facebook “equal players now, or at least close to it.” According to Ron Amram, senior media director of marketing for Heineken USA, the brand racked up 5.5 million views in three days while promoting ad spots for Heineken Light in October. During those three days, the ads were pushed out to the newsfeeds of 35 million Facebook users.

The auto-play ads that Heineken rolled out on Facebook in October debuted a few months earlier on TV, and featured Neil Patrick Harris wondering why he couldn’t actually drink the Heineken Light he was promoting. (For the answer to this, see Adweek’s explainer on the Television Code and other regulations.) After reintroducing the ads on Facebook, Amram said traffic accelerated, with October yielding better results than August or September. “What we’re finding is that we have to consider Facebook as the key video partner going forward because not only does it have the reach but the effectiveness,” he told Adweek.

Facebook began testing auto-play videos in late 2013 and said that December that it would extend the option to advertisers. As of this fall, it started looking like Facebook could pose some serious competition to YouTube. In September, Facebook said it was doing a billion video views per day and that so-called organic video views—things shared by friends—had increased 50 percent from May through July. And just this week, the company said it was expanding its auto-play video offerings to give marketers more options for featuring their content. With brands like Heineken also on board, Facebook might be ready to give YouTube a real run for its money.