Mark Ritson: Facebook Errors Must Have influenced Spend Decisions

Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson has written a withering critique of Facebook’s handling of the recent measurement errors, pointing out that the incorrect data could have influenced advertisers’ initial decision to buy ad space with the social media giant.

In his column, Mark writes: “We are back in the data dunce’s corner once again with Facebook. Last week it made another four admissions of measurement error. Along with September’s announcement, that makes five entirely straightforward calculations gone wrong in as many months and the distinct expectation that there might be more to come.

“Once again, we were immediately advised by Facebook that none of the mistaken metrics mattered because they were not used as the basis for pricing or payment. But that, of course, is entirely disingenuous given any incorrect data could have influenced the initial decision to invest with Facebook in the first place, especially when four out of five of the errors were in its favour and by up to 80 per cent over reality.

“The measurement errors also run directly against the big data, empirically-driven modelling that Facebook promised everyone while it was tearing up the traditional rate cards of formerly dominant media channels. If TV, or God help it the print media, fessed up to 80% overstatements of reach or frequency it would be vilified and the mistake taken as clear evidence of an attempt to hide away its failings and decline.

“Facebook deserves the same scorn twice over, because it was meant to be better than all this and, so far, it has been worse. And no-one knows how bad it really is because, no matter how many times it talks third parties, Facebook still has a massive wall between its garden and everyone else’s.

“The good news is that the sheer size and growth potential of Facebook, which analysts expect will generate around £900m in UK advertising revenues this year, makes it highly unlikely that clients or agencies will put their head over the media parapet and complain. Instead the usual digital suspects, sockless and supine, obediently tell all and sundry that there is nothing to see here. Move on.”