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Advertising groups demand third-party oversight after Facebook is exposed for inflating video views


By Jessica Goodfellow, Media Reporter

September 25, 2016 | 5 min read

Advertising groups are calling for third-party oversight in measurement following news that Facebook has been overinflating its video views for two years, meaning many advertisers have been misled over engagement time.



The social network admitted to the mistake on Thursday (22 September) causing a wave of concern among marketers and advertisers who may have been using the inflated views to judge the efficacy of their campaigns.

The social network revealed that its metric for the average time users spent watching videos was artificially inflated because it had been dividing the total spent watching a video by the number of people who had seen at least three seconds of it rather than everyone who had watched it.. The company said it was introducing a new metric to fix the problem.

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 per cent, according to a letter Publicis Media sent to clients that was seen by the Wall Street Journal.

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell has not shied away from voicing his thoughts on the closed off "walled gardens" of Facebook and Google, which collectively account for 75 per cent of total online ad spend, and their lack of independent review.

Speaking on the company’s earnings earlier this year, Sir Martin said brands are increasingly questioning their digital ad spend, using Procter & Gamble as an example of this. The FMCG business, which is the biggest ad spender on the globe, revealed last month it was pulling investment out of targeted ads on Facebook, saying that hyper targeting did not prove as effective as the company thought it would be.

The reason for this, according to Sir Martin, is because marketers are increasingly demanding better metrics on the effectiveness of digital, especially at the likes of Google and Facebook which have been exposed for their lack of transparency.

“We and our competitors want better measurement, not just offline but online too. The answer is not Facebook or Google data... There has to be independence in terms of measurement,” he said in a statement reported by the Financial Times, echoing a speech he made at Dmexco, in which he called the digital giants out for “marking their own homework”.

“The referee and player cannot be the same person,” he chimed.

Publicis, the industry’s second-largest holding group, took a similar stance. “We take the job of being stewards of our clients’ investments very seriously,” the company told the Financial Times. “As an industry, we need to further push for more third-party measurement.”

These seem fears were also echoed by the Royal Bank of Scotland's chief marketing officer David Wheldon. Speaking to The Drum prior to the revelations, the marketer, who is also the president of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), said "correctly, clients are now questioning some of the metrics that are attached to their campaigns so the value of the click -hrough in and of itself may not be all it was cracked up to be".

"This is exacerbated by the digital fraud that’s happening around the world. Conservative estimates put it at 10 per cent of total digital advertising is fraudulent," he continued.

"The more sensationalist ones have that up 40 to 45 per cent. At the WFA we’ve done a lot of work around that issue on behalf of our members. We’re looking at what is the reality of this and what we can all do to protect marketing investment. None of this is to say that digital is not effective. It can be phenomenally so when targeted correctly and delivered in the right way. What you’ll see over the next 18 months or so is the whole industry kicking the tyres of what the metrics should be."

The Facebook admission comes in the same week that Dentsu, Japan’s largest ad group, said it will pay $2.3m back to clients that it has overcharged for digital advertising work in Japan. The ad group is investigating 200,000 transactions for evidence of overcharging clients, following a complaint from long-time client Toyota.

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