Facebook Video Ad Miscalculations: What Happened and What it Means for Advertisers

29 September 2016

Facebook Video Ad Miscalculations: What Happened and What it Means for Advertisers

Facebook has been making the news for all the wrong reasons. The social network has been found to have miscalculated its video view metrics, which the site admitted in its Advertiser Help Centre. The errant statistics that have been presented to advertisers could be argued to be inflated because they did not include very short video views.

Facebook is known amongst video marketers for counting a video as ‘viewed’ once somebody has watched it for three seconds, whereas YouTube only considers a video to have been ‘viewed’ when somebody has sat through 30 seconds of the clip. However, in its video advertising stats, Facebook spent two years calculating average view times while only counting views that lasted for more than three seconds, distorting the overall figures and making it look like more people had watched more of the video than was actually the case.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Ad buying agency Publicis Media was told by Facebook that the earlier counting method likely overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60% and 80%”.

The rapidly increasing popularity of video-based marketing makes this an embarrassing problem for Facebook to have to admit to. Although it insists it had no impact on any clients’ billing, it will undoubtedly lead to some temporary trust issues around how accurate advertisers expect Facebook’s reporting to be.

eMarketer estimates that 71% of marketers will use social video advertising in the next 12 months, 66% of whom intend to use Facebook as their video marketing platform. These marketers will want accurate metrics about what is working in their advertising campaigns and this latest issue highlights the problems advertisers face when they have to rely on another platform’s figures about their rates of success and failure. Google, Twitter and YouTube have similarly protected platforms that hide a lot of important calculations from advertisers, leading to calls for some for independent verification of the metrics involved, and requests for standardised reporting and data.

However, despite all of this, it is unlikely that this will have any long-term impact on Facebook advertising rates. The site is so successful and so ubiquitous that advertisers large and small will undoubtedly continue to flock to try and reach its well-targeted audience. It’s unlikely to even have an impact on video advertising, which is increasingly sophisticated and prevalent on the site. But if it makes marketers more aware of the importance of keeping their own notes and measuring as much as they can using tracked URLs and Google Analytics, that can only be a good thing.