Advertisers May Not 'Like" Facebook As Much Now

Is there a Facebook emoji that shows an exec with egg on his face? Maybe there ought to be.

The hugely dominant social site, along with Google, gathered in 75% of the world’s new online advertising last year, just announced it had wildly overestimated the time spent on ads on the site--by 60% to 80%, according to The Wall Street Journal.

For the last two years, it has disregarded ad views of less than three seconds. In the Internet world, it’s those quickly disregarded views that the whole biz is trying to solve. In a way, I guess, Facebook did it by disregarding those disregarded views. Never happened.

WSJ said Facebook on its Advertising Help Center site admitted a few weeks ago that the “average time spent” data it gave clients was overstated. Later, the story said, Publicis asked for more information, which led to this broader spilling of the beans. According to data in the Journal story, Publicis last year purchased $77 billion in advertising for clients worldwide.

“About a month ago, we found an error in the way we calculate one of the video metrics on our dashboard — average duration of video viewed,” wrote David Fischer, vice president of Facebook business and marketing partnerships unit. “The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t.

"It reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of ‘views’ of a video — that is, when the video was watched for three or more seconds. And so the miscalculation overstated this metric. While this is only one of the many metrics marketers look at, we take any mistake seriously.”

Fischer went on to seemingly explain how this error proves Facebook’s diligence.

“But this isn’t just about this error,”  he wrote. “This is about how seriously we take our partners’ commitment to our platform, and how their investments with us wholly depend on the transparency with which we communicate. We know we can’t have true partnerships with our clients unless we are upfront and honest with them, including when we make mistakes like this one. Our clients’ trust and belief in our metrics is essential to us and we have to earn that trust.”

(This reminds me:  I must get that thank you note out to Donald Trump for settling the whole Obama birth thing, by raising the phony issue in the first place. A selfless act.)

MediaPost reporter Laurie Sullivan speculates Facebook’s adjustment may cause a domino effect as ad agencies and brands recalculate how many ads they bought, or how effective the units were really were. And Facebook might get slapped around too.

Not everybody is so sure how screwy this might become.

Jason Kirk, chief business officer for ad tech firm Zefr, which cut its teeth on YouTube and social media, says the incident is “bringing attention to the way every platform measures. It's likely that buyers will ask more questions about views and measurement on the other platforms where they engage with video, not just on Facebook ... Advertisers may begin to ask more questions, but because Facebook has acknowledged and addressed the issue, I don't think advertisers will pull out. Facebook is and will remain an important piece of marketers' strategies.”

Though Facebook emphasized there are lots of measurements advertisers use --— his is just one teensy-weensy one — just a couple months ago it reported a 63% spike in ad revenues from the second quarter a year ago, and overall revenues were at $6.4 billion, about $400 million than Wall Street expected.

 Financial Times noted that Facebook’s CFO David Wehner bragged that the number of times users visit their apps and the time they spent there showed its strongest gains in three years.
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