Advertisers Call for Independent Evaluation Following Facebook Video Metric Miscalculation

Advertisers have called for media owners like Facebook and Google to allow independent evaluation of their audience measurement after Facebook admitted to a miscalculation which resulted in an overstatement of one its video metrics.

WPP chief executive officer Sir Martin Sorrell told Bloomberg that Facebook’s miscalculation, reported in the Wall Street Journal, increases the need for an independent body like comScore to play a bigger role in overseeing important metrics.

“We have also been calling for a long time for media owners like Facebook and Google not to mark their own homework and release data to ComScore to enable independent evaluation,” said Sir Martin said.  “The referee and player cannot be the same person.”

Sir Martin has previously questioned the effectiveness of advertising on digital platforms like Google and Facebook, criticising the relatively low audience measurement standards used online, and saying that the pendulum has “swung too far” towards digital advertising.

Writing about the issue in Marketing Week, columnist Mark Ritson said that the episiode confirms that no-one understands how digital media is measured. Not media agencies, not big-spending clients and not armchair digital strategists.

“The idea that digital marketing is more analytical and attributable than other media is clearly horseshit. Sure, it has more numbers and many more metrics but that does not make it more accountable, it makes it less so,” he wrote.

“The inability of anyone to actually spot the error for two years provides yet more evidence that a situation in which two companies with a third of global advertising spend measure their impact with their own proprietary data is no way to handle the future of marketing communications.

“The irony of Facebook and Google joining forces to form part of the Coalition for Better Advertising should be apparent. More than happy to demand external validation of others, the quest for transparency stops sharp when it comes to their own operations. As Sir Martin Sorrell notes, these companies should not be left to “mark their own homework”. 

Covering the story, the Columbia Journalism Review reported:  “News organizations that flock to video are doing so for two reasons. One is that they are told to by advertisers, and the second is that they believe this is where the audiences, and particularly young audiences, are to be had.

“Both of these assertions rely on the ability to know that this is the case through some kind of reliable metric. Increasingly those metrics are not in the control of news organization but of the third party platforms such as Facebook, or YouTube, or Snapchat. Each platform gives a varying degree of access to that data.”