Industry reaction: 'Only independent measurement can restore confidence in Facebook'

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 18 November 2016
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Facebook needs to allow an independent body to measure and verify its metrics if it wants to restore market confidence as the industry works towards a single standard metric for digital and traditional media, industry leaders have warned.

A day after the social media platform revealed the scale of errors across its metrics was greater than initially feared, industry leaders have expressed serious concerns about the credibility of Facebook's reporting with one expert even claiming the social media giant doesn't have a clue about what it is doing.

Branding Professor Mark Ritson, who has frequently claimed digital metrics are “dodgy”, told AdNews the latest situation is a “total mess”.

"They have problems. They keep adding more metrics. They are moving too fast,” Ritson says. “They don't know what they are doing. Never in marketing history has a media brand grown such a big share of the pie so quickly in such a new area. And now we are seeing the fallout. Google, if they play their cards right, might get stronger from this."

Media buyers AdNews approached were much more cautious in their assessment, welcoming the fact Facebook has come clean and is taking some steps to improve its transparency, such as opening up its display metrics reporting to third party verification.

However, part of the problem is that Facebook provides the metrics and reported data that third party bodies can verify, which has led some to claim that it now sets its own homework for others to mark.

Louise Romeo, head of implementation and investment operations at Carat, tells AdNews the issue will only be resolved when the industry can come together to set a standard metric that is channel agnostic.

“Whilst this is an issue that concerns us what this should not do is change our confidence of digital as every media channel can play a different role in the communication,” she says.

“But what it does do is it bring the conversation back to the fact that we need a single standard measurement across online and traditional media channels so everything is on a level playing field.”

For media buyers, Romeo adds, the discrepancy in Facebook's reported video completion lengths from reality is particularly worrying.

“We utilise this metric across campaigns as a measure of success,” she explains. “It is positive to see their effort and commitment to being more transparent but it also shows the importance of third party measurement and the need for an independent body to oversee the importance and value of particular metrics.”

In a statement, GroupM said that while it is encouraged Facebook is trying to clarify its metrics, more needs to be done.
“Today’s developments stop short of full third-party measurement which we still believe crucial to advertiser confidence in any market. As Facebook continues to seek collaboration on metrics, we will continue advising this concern”

'Advertisers will act if Facebook doesn't'

The AANA says the latest revelations by Facebook "cast a cloud of doubt over how reliable Facebook's data and self-reporting is".

"The AANA sees no reason why Facebook should not abide by the standards of independent verification and auditing that more traditional media players have signed up to for decades in order to assure advertisers of their media investments," AANA chief executive Sunita Gloster says.

"If Facebook and others don’t move voluntarily to an independent verification, it will require the major advertisers around the world to co-operate and crack this problem and achieve independent accountability in the digital space."

IAB Australia CEO Vijay Solanki says the peak digital advertising body is supportive of “Facebook ’s move toward more transparent measurement and the further adoption of third party measurement systems and metrics”.

“The Australian market has supported independent audience measurement for many years and is one of the few markets with an industry endorsed currency,” Solanki adds.

Think TV CEO Kim Portrate says Facebook's revelation shows that only independently audited figures, such as those produced by OzTam to measure TV audiences, are the only way advertisers can be completely confident in metrics.

“When it comes to advertisers and their agencies deciding where to invest their budgets and having confidence they are reaching the audience they need, TV wins hands down,” she says.

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