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US advertisers want Facebook metrics to be audited, but is this likely to have any effect?

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) used Advertising Week New York as a platform to voice brands’ dissatisfaction over this month’s furore over Facebook’s admission that it had over-reported video measurements.

Facebook has faced fire for its view ability

In a statement issued by the trade body, ANA chief executive Bob Liodice, said: “While ANA recognizes [sic] that 'mistakes do happen,' we also recognize [sic] that Facebook has not yet achieved the level of measurement transparency that marketers need and require."

Calls for accreditation, and apologies

In particular, Liodice called for Facebook’s measurement metrics to be accredited by the Media Ratings Council (MRC), adding that with billions of dollars worth of its members’ media budgets being invested with the social network, it and “other such major media players” (lets view this as a thinly-veiled reference to Google), should be audited and accredited.

This statement was prefaced earlier in the week by an on-stage apology from Facebook's vice president of marketing solutions Carolyn Everson at Ad Week New York, where she said: “I think the lesson learned for all of us at Facebook, and perhaps in the industry, is that what we should have done a month ago is we should have just made it public that we had found this error, and that we had made the correction, and not just called our clients and agencies.”

But is a thumbs up from the MRC really a panacea for measurement?

While the likes of Facebook and Google opening up to accreditation from bodies such as the MRC would undoubtedly be a step in the right direction, will it really cure all measurement woes?

For instance, a little over a year ago UK trade bodies representing members of the adtech, publisher and media buyer worlds g ottogether under the JICWEBs banner to review the measurement methodologies of several MRC-accredited ad viewability solution vendors.

Speaking with The Drum at the time, JICWEBs chairman Richard Foan explained that a key difference between ABC/JICWEBs accreditation compared to MRC backing, is that the former two (which are effectively ‘owned’ by the industry, as they are funded by stakeholders). This means they can be more instructive over how such vendors devise their reporting numbers, before accreditation is issued.

Meanwhile, the MRC’s current mandate (effectively from the US Senate) means it is unable to refuse companies’ accreditation requests provided they were able to do as they said. However, the way they achieve these results is not the MRC’s concern, according to Foan.

So as we can see, MRC accreditation is no silver bullet.

Fragmentation is likely to reign supreme

After all, Facebook does profess to be open to third-party measurement (from selected vendors that is). After all, the recent video measurement furore was prefaced by the social network announcing tie-ups with multiple third parties including: MarketShare; Nielsen; Oracle and Visual IQ, in a bid to show advertisers that it is not ‘grading its own homework’.

So despite prominent advertisers such as WFA president and the Royal Bank of Scotland's chief marketing officer David Wheldon, and P&G (the biggest advertiser in the business by media spend) pulling back from Facebook’s ‘narrow targeting’, it is unlikely to relent to calls for what it would deem as third-party intrusion.

Indeed, Facebook is extremely vocal on its stance over protecting its audience’s privacy. Speaking previously with The Drum over allegations of it being a ‘walled garden’, Facebook's vice president of advertising technology, Brian Boland, said: “For us, we protect people’s information. We protect the identity that people have put into Facebook … That gets criticised as being closed. I don’t think that’s closed, I think that’s privacy protective. And I think that’s a responsibility we have to people.”

Elsewhere, speaking recently with The Drum, Facebook UK’s agency chief Ed Couchman, added: “I would be fascinated to see the level of response in some areas and the complete lack of interest in others. Some of the agencies and brands have said ‘we really do not understand why everyone is making such a big fuss over it’ because it is one metric on a dashboard, we use lots of other metrics to measure success of video.”

One metric worth watching

One key metric to watch out for will be Facebook’s bottom line during its next quarterly call, and whether or not the latest ‘scandal’ and calls for change will slow down the quarter-on-quarter rise in sales that Facebook has consistently posted since the launch of its mobile advertising solutions. So while advertisers may huff, and puff, the scale of the internet’s walled gardens means very little is likely to change any time soon.

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