Google, Facebook: We're Committed To Transparency -- Attribution, Not So Much

MALAGA, SPAIN -- The two big “walled gardens” of digital media have made significant strides toward opening up to third-party validation and even measurement of their audience delivery, but they have a significant way to go. That was the takeaway from a conversation with key Facebook and Google executives moderated by Media Rating Council CEO George Ivie at the I-COM Global Summit here Wednesday. 

In a sum-up of the platforms’ progress, Ivie said both Facebook and Google have completed extensive year-plus-long audits of their “data pipelines” necessary to tackle two of the industry’s initial goals toward validation -- verifying viewable impressions and sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT) filtration to weed out non-viewable inventory and fraud -- but progress still needs to be made on ambitious goals to enable third-party measurement of their audiences, as well as filtering for brand safety. 



Both platform executives -- Facebook Director of Advertising Research Daniel Slotwiner and Google Senior Product Manager Alec Berntson -- said they were committed to working with the MRC, as well as advertisers, agencies and various third-party measurement firms, to create greater transparency and validity, but they also needed to balance those efforts against increasing needs to ensure their users’ privacy.

The biggest tension in the discussion focused on whether, how and when the platforms would enable their user data to be accessed in a way that would enable advertisers to conduct meaningful attribution analyses.

“Being transparent is absolutely important for us,” Google’s Bernston said, adding that changes in the “privacy landscape” are creating a paradox to simultaneously be both more transparent and protective of their users’ data. 

“We are inventing new privacy tech,” he said, adding, however, that “we’re in discussion” about creating greater attribution for advertising on YouTube.

“We do have an active attribution partnership program,” Facebook’s Slotwiner said, adding that it is being “managed to enable the data in a privacy-safe way.”

“This is an area the MRC plans to set standards for,” the MRC’s Ivie said, ending the session on a question mark:

“Should we be more focused on outcome metrics than counting metrics?”

(Left to right) Ivie, Berntson, Slotwiner

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