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Is it too late for Facebook to apologise for its inflated video metrics?

Facebook has apologised for an error in the way it calculated video viewership – a mistake that overstated the time that its users spent on average watching videos on the platform. This in turn gave marketers a false view of how well their ads had performed.

The company reportedly admitted it overstating average video view times by between 60-80% on its previous “average duration of video viewed” metric, according to a letter Publicis sent to clients obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

David Fischer, Facebook’s vice president of business and marketing partnerships said:

“We sincerely apologise for the issues this has created for our clients. This error should not stand in the way of our ultimate goal, which is to do what’s in the best interest of our partners and their business growth. We can only be successful if we’re providing clients with the tools to drive their business forward, and we’ll continue to deliver on that promise.”

The miscalculation was found about a month ago and while Fischer said while this is only one of the many metrics marketers look at, he added Facebook is taking the mistake seriously. He added that the company has since fixed the problem and reviewed its other video metrics on the dashboard.

“We want our clients to know that this miscalculation has not and will not going forward have an impact on billing or how media mix models value their Facebook video investments[…]that is why we also give marketers choice by offering third-party video verification options with companies like Nielsen and Moat. We want marketers to measure video with us in the way they feel most comfortable,” Fischer added.

But we all know the world of digital is a complicated one and data from different measurement providers don’t always tally to a tee. Moreover, with Facebook being a giant in the social media space, media owners and brands have no choice but to place their video content (which is obviously on the rise) on the platform.

As such, president of Malaysian Digital Association (MDA) Serm Teck Choon who’s also Malaysia’s country head of CtrlShift said the latest Facebook incident will unlikely hamper the trust among agencies on buying media spots from Facebook in the future. This is also largely because of the social network’s own admission.

Being upfront and honest to clients and partners is the key to win trust. The reality is – there are so many metrics, and new metrics being calculated and consumed everyday. Incident such as this will always happen regardless which platform.

What brands and agencies can do, he added, is use third party verification tools so as to have clarify of reports or data moving forward. He added:

“Transparency is a must for handling issue like this. And seems like this is how they are handling this incident now.”

Kenneth Wong, head of digital, Carat Malaysia said from a Carat Malaysia standpoint, the error didn’t impact spend from clients as it looked at analytics more holistically with its campaigns. He added the percentage view rate was always available and the agency was already introducing the new additional Video Average Watch Time metric in its campaign reports.

Nonetheless, not all agency partners were as forgiving – and rightly so. Facebook has for the longest time been criticised for ferociously guarding its user data.

Sarah Wood, CEO of tech firm Unruly who was of a different view from Serm said these revelations by Facebook could pose a serious blow to its video proposition, which has had so much momentum over the last two years.

“Not only will it raise questions about the effectiveness of Facebook as a video platform but it will raise more fundamental questions around trustworthiness and highlights as to why third-party verification is so critical,” she said adding:

 

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