Facebook issues its own ‘mea culpa’ in a bid to prove transparency

Facebook maintains the most recent error affected a tiny proportion of advertisers

Facebook wants to show advertisers that it is making good on its promise to ramp-up transparency levels with its ad offering, by holding its hands up plus offering to make amends, whenever its product suite has misfired.

That’s the message behind a blog post which went live today (May 16), where it conceded that despite efforts to fix measurement issues that advertisers were alerted to during the Fall, some bugs still need to be addressed.

However, these issues are being worked upon, and Facebook has offered credits to any advertisers that were inadvertently charged as a result of the most recent measurement mishap. One it is also quick to point out, only affected a limited number (0.4%) of ad impressions that were charged for, according to the post.

During one of its regular accuracy reviews of its measurement systems, the social network recently found (and fixed) a bug that misattributed some clicks on video carousel ads as link clicks.

This bug occurred when people were on mobile web browsers on smartphones, not on desktop or in the Facebook mobile app (where the majority of usage is generated).

Facebook goes on to highlight how the miscalculation only affected media buyers that had used its video ad carousel unit or had bid on link click. “In these cases, instead of being billed only for link clicks (clicks to an advertiser's selected destination), these advertisers were incorrectly billed when people clicked on the videos in the carousel to enlarge and watch them,” reads the post.

As a result of the discovery, affected advertisers will receive a full credit for the charges they incurred for these misattributed clicks, according to the social network, whose post goes on to highlight how mobile app usage accounts to the majority of Facebook’s smartphone consumption.

Carolyn Everson, Facebook, vice president, global marketing solutions, added: "We are committed to transparency with our partners when it comes to driving results on Facebook. As part of our new review process, we recently uncovered a bug. While this bug was small and make goods are a common part of the ad industry, we take all issues seriously and are notifying our clients and agencies and crediting those affected."

The announcement comes in the middle of the current wave of NewFronts and UpFronts pitches in New York City where (predominantly) legacy media owners are pitching their wares to advertisers, with many taking the opportunity to criticize Facebook and Google – the two-biggest sellers of digital media, according to Business Insider.

Both of these companies are referred to collectively as ‘walled gardens’ due to advertisers' difficulties when it comes to comparing how media spend within such environments compares with investments on third party ecosystems.

However, both of these parties are beginning to relent from their earlier stance on permitting third parties to measure the effectiveness of media spend on their properties, with many industry observers asserting that this is the result of direct pressure from advertisers.

Another example is YouTube also relenting from its earlier position and issuing a "mea culpa" apology to advertisers over the brand safety shortcomings exposed a recent high-profile investigation from News Corp-owned The Times of London.

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Ronan Shields

I'm the digital editor at The Drum, and cover adtech and martech. Prefer news and analysis, over opinion pieces. Current fascination(s) are blockchain and media futures trading; also curious about transhumanism on a personal basis. NYC-based, but really London Irish.

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