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Why is Facebook Moving into TV Advertising?

In November, online media giant Facebook made a surprising announcement: it was planning to start selling TV spots to advertisers. Although Facebook’s TV plans are limited, for now, to “connected” TV devices like the Roku and Apple TV, the move does tell us a lot about the state of TV advertising in comparison to digital spending, as well as the future growth plans for one of the online advertising world’s biggest companies. What do advertisers need know about this unexpected news?

The most important takeaway from Facebook’s “move” into TV is what it tells the ad industry about the continued “competition” between TV ads and digital ads. As recent research has shown, ad spending in the US is more or less evenly split between TV and digital formats. Yet  many advertisers continue to hold back from fully embracing digital ads, claiming online ad campaigns lack the scalability, measurement and standardization they’ve come to demand from traditional television. Facebook’s move toward TV appears to be an “insurance policy” to help them reach more of these skeptical buyers.

It would seem that Facebook’s TV plans are directly related to simple dollars and cents. As recently as Q2 2016, Facebook executives were telling investors they had reached a “saturation point” with displaying ads in the company’s popular newsfeed. That’s bad news for the company’s growth plans, which depend heavily on finding new and better ways to display targeted marketing messages to users. The move into television represents a new and untapped source of ad inventory for Facebook that should help it keep growing.

Finally, Facebook’s move into TV emphasizes that cross-device, cross-screen ad campaigns are becoming the new normal. Facebook may be mostly known for the ads it shows consumers on social media. In addition, the company has been doubling down on video. But let’s put the ad formats discussion aside for a moment. Behind the scenes, what Facebook is really building is a data-driven marketing platform that offers advertisers pinpoint targeting regardless of screen or device, following consumers as they choose to surf, shop or watch content. The social network’s new TV experiment appears to be a way to further the connections between online ad formats, video and TV, offering more measurable tools for advertisers.

Will Facebook look to further deepen its connection with the TV industry? It’s still way too early to tell. But expect to see plenty more experiments in the coming months as the lines between video and TV continue to blur.