Facebook, ARF Search For Better Online Metrics

Brad-Smallwood-AA Facebook researcher did not mince words Tuesday when addressing whether the media industry has a measurement crisis. “Yes,” he said. The problem is multilayered, ranging from too much focus on short-term solutions to a lack of innovation to failing to share data, said Brad Smallwood, who heads measurements and insights at Facebook.

“We haven’t kept pace with the consumer and technological advances as an industry,” he said at the Advertising Research Foundation conference.

Smallwood announced that Facebook will be launching a competition in conjunction with the ARF to develop groundbreaking measurement concepts. An overarching goal is developing platforms and standards to furnish ROI metrics for all media. Facebook will fund projects for the winning proposals.

One example of how basic media research is in trouble comes via a question raised by Smallwood: Is a banner ad or 30-second spot more valuable? It’s fair to say that no one can answer definitively, he suggested, but there isn’t even a reliable method to make an assessment. “We haven’t given marketers a good understanding of how to evaluate these things.”

Another hurdle he cited is how to track consumption across devices -- one that will increase in significance at Facebook as mobile access balloons.

Addressing the misguided focus on the near-term, Smallwood said too many research entities are spending time on custom projects -– understandable as far as paying the bills –- and not developing technology for platforms and standards that can move an industry-wide needle.

“We look a lot more like Kodak than we do like Apple, and we need to look like Apple … We need to think of ourselves as a very innovative industry,” Smallwood said.

Smallwood also issued a call for the industry to take a more collaborative approach and move away from proprietary data. (A day before at the ARF event, Turner’s Jack Wakshlag said results from a cross-platform initiative CNN is launching will be widely available. The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement is trying to encourage cooperation as well.)

In regard to building widely usable platforms, similar to Microsoft Windows or Apple iOS, to deal with major issues, Smallwood said: “We all have to contribute data … rather than venture out on our own and try to solve [problems] independently. … None of us can actually do it all. Not Facebook. Not Google. Not any one research company.”

Some may challenge Smallwood to encourage Nielsen to pull back the curtain and share more information about its Online Campaign Ratings that use Facebook data. 

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