Facebook last Friday finally agreed to be audited by the Media Rating Council (MRC). This is a big step and the right step for Facebook. In a blog post, Facebook announced its plans to be audited by the MRC in a bid to verify the accuracy of the measurement and metrics it offers its customers — advertisers.
The blog post said: “We've been working closely with marketers to understand their measurement needs on key topics such as reach, attribution, audience demographics, brand lift, offline sales and mobile app measurement.” The post also indicated that Facebook has been working closely with independent verification partners and global third-party measurement partners including Nielsen, with which it has expanded its relationship, as well as comScore, Integral Ad Science, and Moat. It said it is starting a relationship to integrate DoubleVerify which includes both video and display advertising.
Although Facebook didn’t say when the audit will begin and it’s unclear whether the audit will lead to MRC accreditation, the gold standard -- the mere fact that it’s working with the MRC -- is a positive move.
Facebook has been caught in the crosshairs lately on video measurement. Last fall, it had to apologize for overstating its video metrics and the way it measured video viewership, saying it miscalculated the amount of time, on average, that viewers were watching videos on its network. Those incorrect numbers were offered to advertisers and publishers for more than two years. While Facebook initially balked at providing more transparency into its measurement practices and embracing third-party viewability measurement, it looks like it is now opening the kimono.
Ultimately, Facebook should aim for MRC accreditation. P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard threw shade at Facebook during the IAB’s recent Annual Leadership Meeting, arguing that platforms, publishers, and digital media outlets should the MRC standard or P&G will decide to withdraw its brand portfolio’s digital media spend.
In working with MRC on an audit of its measurement practices, Facebook is helping to allay advertiser and publisher concerns over fraud and viewability, and that’s a good thing.
The MRC and Facebook have divergent definitions of viewability. The MRC defines viewability as 50% of pixels in view for at least one second for display and two continuous seconds for video. For larger display units (242,500 pixels or greater), 30% of pixels in view is acceptable.
However, Facebook has defined viewability as the moment an ad enters the viewable window, with no time-based restrictions. As consumers quickly scroll through their feeds, its conceivable that they don’t see ads for more than a second at times.
In a bid to allay viewability concerns, Facebook began allowing advertisers to purchase 100% in-view impressions. That means an ad would be measured as viewable only when the entire ad has run through the viewable window.
Facebook has also taken steps to share more detailed impression-level data with its third-party verification partners, including in-view and duration data for display ads.