Facebook agrees to independent metrics audit following pressure

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 11 February 2017
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has agreed to have its metrics externally audited. The move following pressure from Procter & Gamble CMO Marc Pritchard, who last month called for all publishers the company works with - Facebook included – to comply with MRC-accredited third-party verification this year.

There have been calls for Facebook to provide third party audited metrics from across the industry following a number of admissions from Facebook that it had misreported its own metrics to advertisers and agencies. Many feared that the sheer scale of Facebook and the number of dollars flowing in would mean the platform could go on as it has been “marking its own homework” as WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell puts it.

The pressure was stepped up last month when Pritchard – who has also just become chair of the US industry body Association of National Advertisers - called for digital publishers including Facebook to allow an independent firm Media Rating Council (MRC) to audit its metrics, in his presentation at the IAB conference in the US.

He relayed a conversation with a ‘major company’ exec who outlined that because other advertisers were spending millions of dollars with it without accreditation, it didn’t need to get the verification.

“At that moment, an image of my dad popped into my mind saying 'If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?’ I had a moment of clarity. We've been leaning forward for the last few years and it's going to stop unless you have accredited third-party verification," he said in his IAB speech.

It seems as though the threat of P&G withdrawing millions of dollars of advertising spend has done the trick
In a blog post yesterday, titled ‘Accountability and new choices for marketers’, Facebook confirmed it would seek MRC accreditation for its numbers to “verify the accuracy of the information we deliver to our partners”.

It stated: “As a partner to over 4 million advertisers across a wide range of organisations and objectives, we want to provide transparency, choice and accountability. Transparency through verified data that shows which campaigns drive measurable results, choice in how advertisers run campaigns across our platforms, and accountability through an audit and third-party verification.”

Facebook is also introducing more options for video ad buying across its network. These options directly relate to criticisms frequently made about what advertisers are actually buying when they buy video on TV. Facebook will again be hoping that it can quell critics.

The three new buy options are; completed-view buying, where advertisers will only pay for video ads that have been viewed in their entirety, for any duration up to 10 seconds; two-second buying, which is compliant with the MRC video standard, where at least 50% of an ad’s pixels are in-view for two dsecods and sound-on buying, which will allow advertisers to buy sound-on video ads in recongiiton that a lot of video on the platform (some numbrs ut it as high as 85%) is viewed ithout sound.

It also vowed to provide more impression-level data with more detail to help marketers with better insights. It will now begin offering in-view and duration data for display ads, including how any milliseconds the ad is on the screen, how many milliseconds 50% and 100% of the ads are on-screen.

Committing to an independent audit is a huge step for towards better transparency. Facebook will be hoping that it quiets critics of its ability to deliver the correct numbers – and a return for advertisers’ dollars.

Mark Ritson, the academic who is vocal about his distrust of Facebook’s tactics and metrics, as well as the need for clients to put pressure on Facebook for anything to change, said in his column in The Australian last week that Pritchard’s speech “represents a watermark in assessing the state of digital media”.

He outlined four ways clients were being gouged by digital and agencies - the lack of independent measurement is one of them.

Today, Ritson commended Facebook on the move tweeting: “Extremely positive stuff. MRC will audit. Great news. Well done FB.”

 

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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