Last week news broke broadly that Facebook had been overstating key video metrics for 2 years.
The news was originally released via the “Advertiser Help Center” and then grew based on a letter Facebook sent to Publicis Media, who is collectively responsible for purchasing roughly $77 billion in ads on behalf of marketers around the world in 2015. The metric issues essentially led to the platform to overstate average viewing time for videos by 60% – 80%.
The inflation occurred because Facebook—when calculating average time spent—was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds rather than lesser view times. As you can imagine, a lot of videos get viewed for less than 3 seconds on Facebook.
Does this matter and is it a big deal? Yes and no.
The argument for it not being a big deal is the fact that media agencies don’t buy on average view time. They buy on impressions, total, 10-second views and completed views. So this didn’t directly impact the billions being spent on Facebook. However, average few time is one of the positive metrics that Facebook reported to brands, over the last few years which subsequently allowed brands to channel more and more budget to the platform. In fact, it’s estimated that 85% of new digital spending goes to Facebook or Google now.
Where it is a big deal is the fact that Facebook continues to be a walled garden — they don’t let any outside tracking solutions in to verify their data. For that reason, brands & agencies have to take them at their word / metrics. There is no recourse to question otherwise. This is an example of where that dynamic becomes problematic.
Facebook’s David Fischer posted this follow-up piece on Friday regarding the situation.