Facebook Under Fire: Do Marketers Care?

In a media world lacking transparency and trust, Facebook paved the way for developing a trusting relationship with an advertising channel.

Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny over the recent discovery that its video duration metrics were incorrect. For a company expected to earn $17 billion this year, maintaining the confidence of its advertisers is paramount to retaining its expected future position as the leader in attracting brand advertising dollars.

Clients from great startups to established Fortune 500 brands are continuing their bullish investment in Facebook advertising despite the accidental misreporting of video duration and completion metrics. The underreporting (video duration) or over-reporting (video views to 100 percent) doesn’t materially affect the results of campaigns.

Although protective of its data (commonly referred to as a “walled garden”), I’ve always seen Facebook take the matter of data integrity very seriously. That’s why it started an audit to review its metrics to ensure that there were no other reporting errors.

Last week, Facebook announced some additional metrics that it was reporting incorrectly:

  • Page Insights, organic reach: Reach will decline 33 percent to 55 percent after the bug fix.
  • Video, measuring completions: Video views to 100 percent will increase 35 percent after the bug fix.
  • Instant Articles, time spent: Time spent will decline 7 percent after the bug fix.
  • Analytics for Apps, referrals: Referrals will decline 6 percent after the bug fix.
  • Interest lists, follower counts: Followers will decline 5 percent or less after the bug fix.

The most important metric affecting brand advertisers is the increase of “video views to 100 percent” by 35 percent. Given that this metric positively impacts performance, advertisers will see no problem with this change.

The metric was understated because the audio-track length for the video didn’t always line up with the video itself. Video completions were not counted until someone made it to the end of the audio track. Facebook is updating how it reads video length to address the underreporting issue.

In a media world lacking transparency and trust, Facebook paved the way for developing a trusting relationship with an advertising channel. However, given the lack of transparency available from other digital display channels, anything that erodes the confidence Facebook has built to date puts Facebook in a difficult position. It has a long way to go before this trust is eroded to a point where it would impact advertiser adoption.

Marketers looking to make a decision on whether to advertise on Facebook should consider why they’re looking to advertise on the platform and decide whether they feel comfortable with potential reporting inaccuracy on newer metrics, such as video view statistics. Brands making significant investments will benefit from the availability of programs like third-party ad-viewability verification.

In an effort to drive more transparency and further give confidence to clients, Facebook publicly announced new partners for its third-party ad-viewability verification program. In addition to Moat, Nielsen, comScore and Integral Ad Science, other partners will start to verify ad viewability and attention metrics in the next few months.

Programs like this drive additional transparency and will push Facebook to identify and solve delivery problems as they arise.

Ryan Pitylak is the co-founder and CEO of social and search advertising agency Unique Influence, part of MDC Media Partners.