Busting 3 Myths on Adapting TV Ads for Social Media

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By Jonny Hendriksen

CEO of Facebook and Instagram Marketing Partner, Shuttlerock

Jonny Hendriksen


I know that I don’t need to evangelize regarding the power of video to pharma marketers. iSpot.tv found that this industry’s brands spent a whopping $3.73 billion on national TV commercials last year. 

And yet, I’ve found pharma brands seem reluctant to transpose that existing, expensive, and hard-earned video collateral into their digital advertising. 

eMarketer found that U.S. video ad spend across social platforms like Facebook and Instagram is expected to reach almost $12.5 billion in 2020, up from $5.65 billion just two years ago. Clearly there is an opportunity for marketers to engage with audiences in new and exciting ways.

So, where’s the disconnect?

On the highest level, I get it. We all know that in this heavily regulated environment, the amount of time and resources that go into getting a piece of content approved is astronomical. And while pharma brands have made great strides in engaging with people on social media, I find several myths have been perpetuated about translating existing video into shorter, mobile ads.

Here are the three most common:

Myth #1: There’s no way we can fit in the disclaimer info. 

When a key component of your advertising is parodied by “Saturday Night Live,” you know your challenge has gone mainstream. And yes, it is true that any social video ad is going to be half of the length of a TV spot because we always recommend it be no longer than 15 seconds in order to keep a mobile viewer’s attention. 

The solution? Consider your social video ad a hybrid of campaigns, and be sure that a static visual showing the disclaimer information appears in the appropriate place during your 15-second video. 

Myth #2: It will take too long for internal approvals.

Mobile video ads certainly need to go back through your legal, medical, and regulatory teams, but we’ve found that for brands using an approved piece of video content, the process for a mobile video ad goes much quicker. All of the objections have been worked through during the initial video spot approval, so you typically only need to budget 2 additional weeks to get that new creative asset out into the world. 

And for future planning, if you can incorporate your social ads into the initial process, you could get your video ad together, translate to social, and then put both through compliance at the same time. 

Myth #3: The fullscreen format won’t translate to Stories.

It is a fact that you can’t just take your TV ad, cut it by 15 seconds, and then drop it into a social platform ad. Besides the obvious factor of sacrificing the continuity of your message, there are several adjustments that need to be made. 

For one thing, a Stories ad takes the traditional 16:9 ratio of a landscape format and flips it vertically to 9:16. Social video ads must have a focused, single message to engage viewers and need to be designed so that the one key message is conveyed with the sound off (though users always have the option to turn it on). 

But that doesn’t mean your TV spot won’t translate to social platforms. Facebook is continually updating guidance for brands on best practices in vertical design, runtime, sound engineering, and more. By applying those techniques to your existing video, you’ll easily transform it into an effective social ad.

The bottom line is that your team has worked really hard — likely for months — and spent a lot of money on that TV spot. Don’t let these myths trick you out of magnifying your reach via social media platforms.