Facebook claims ad reach is higher than census data, finds Pivotal

Facebook accused of over-stating ad reach in pursuit of marketing dollars

Facebook could be inflating the reach of Facebook’s Ads Manager into the millions, according to research from Pivotal.

According to Facebook, it can reach 41m 18-24 year old’s and 60m 25-34 year old’s in the US. However, one analyst who has called out the firm for massively overstating the number of people who view ads on the platform given that census data confirms there are only 31m and 45m people respectively in each age bracket.

In a statement Facebook confirmed that the numbers it gives advertisers are "estimates" of how many people are "eligible" to see a hypothetical ad – but added: “They are not designed to match population or census estimates.”

Outlining the potential impact of Facebook’s dubious counting Brian Weiser commented: “While Facebook’s measurement issues won’t necessarily deter advertisers from spending money with Facebook, they will help traditional TV sellers justify existing budget shares and could restrain Facebook’s growth in video ad sales on the margins.”

Instead of basing its numbers on official population headcounts Facebook relies on a number of different metrics to calculate likely viewing figures; such as location data, demographics and user behavior.

Such calculations are a sore point for Facebook which has already been engulfed by a misreporting scandal which forced it to agree to an audit by the Media Ratings Council.

John Glenday

John Glenday is responsible for compiling The Drum's daily morning bulletin and ensuring that overnight breaking news is covered while you're still brushing your teeth. Can also make a mean cup of tea.

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