Facebook Video Metrics Mess-Up – The Buyer’s Journey 100

Here’s a shocking statement: sometimes companies lie! Or, depending on how good their PR team is, knowingly make mistakes (that end up making them a lot of money). Such is the case with Facebook’s latest $40 million legal settlement that focuses on inflated Facebook video metrics. Not that Facebook would admit that, of course, but I digress.

Here’s The Story All About How My Metrics Got Flipped, Turned Upside Down

The entire lawsuit and settlement focused on faulty Facebook video metrics provided over a period of 18 months in 2015 and 2016. The class-action suit claims that 1.35 million advertisers could have been affected. On Monday, October 7th, the sides of the class-action lawsuit settled for $40 million.

So, what happened? Well, Facebook’s video metrics were calibrated a specific way that ignored users who didn’t watch for at least 3 seconds. That’s everyone that scrolls or swipes past a video while going down their feed. While that seems good on paper, in practice it leads to faulty numbers; the metrics were overstating average time spent on the video.

You may remember the phrase “pivot to video”. In light of these fantastic Facebook numbers, brands felt a huge push to make this pivot. That resulted in a loss of jobs for many journalists and writers and an eventual loss of profit for many companies. Low and behold, those numbers were faulty. But how faulty are they?

Facebook says that the inflation was only about 60-80%. That’s quite a mighty number by itself, but advertisers disagree.

According to Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, advertisers “allege that the company’s engineers knew of the errors for more than a year before the public announcement, and that average viewership measurements had actually been ‘inflated by some 150 to 900%.’ They assert, moreover, that Facebook showed ‘reckless indifference’ to the accuracy of its metrics, understaffing the engineering team assigned to fix the errors and pursuing a ‘no PR’ strategy to conceal that it ‘screwed up the math.’”

If 60-80% is bad, 150-900% is catastrophically disingenuous.

The Metrics

This is where everything get’s a bit tricky. Faulty Facebook video metrics affected both organic social media and paid ads, but did so in different ways.

According to Garrett Sloane on Ad Age, “Facebook said the error only affected videos that the marketers posted to their social pages for free and did not affect paid ads.” That’s only technically true. The suit suggests that metrics were inflated in paid ads. However, the cost to run the ads wasn’t effected by how long a person watched the video. So someone could see how good the numbers were, but weren’t being billed based on watch time.

Regardless, Facebook’s counter-argument was to question whether advertisers actually used these metrics to purchase more ads.

Let’s be real: advertisers are always looking to metrics to determine how their ads are doing. If you’re seeing unbelievably great numbers on your ads, why wouldn’t you spend more money on them?

Sloane also points out that from an organic side, “plaintiffs argued that the misleading numbers led them to spend more on Facebook ads than they otherwise would have spent. The marketers claimed that since the video metrics were inflated they made buying ads a more attractive prospect.” So even if you weren’t advertising at first, you might be inclined to give Facebook money based on how well video was doing as a whole on the platform.

How Much Is $40 Million, Anyway?

According to Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, “the company collected more than $22 billion in profit last year, on revenue of $55.8 billion, so it could cover the $40-million bill out of about 16 hours of profits.”

Of course, many are unhappy about how little Facebook’s fine is.

Adam Conover, of Adam Ruins Everything fame, shared his dissatisfaction with the fine. In a tweet thread, he also discussed how the “pivot to video” affected his former employer College Humor.

Be sure to listen to the full podcast above to hear our thoughts on this. You can find a full memorandum of the case here.

The Truth Beneath The Lies

While Facebook’s actions spelled disaster for many a media company (and some advertisers) the one thing we do know is that video ads on the platform are still incredibly successful. As we’ve talked about many times in the past, organic social media is slowing down. It’s a paid world now.

Consider this: videos (44%) are the most popular type of content to make an internet user research a brand of product. The second highest is pictures with captions (31%) then blog posts (9%). Suffice to say, we live in a visual world.


And Facebook is still one of the most popular ways to watch video on the internet, short only of YouTube.


Furthermore, US digital video ad spending is only going to increase in the next 4-5 years. Now is an excellent time to try video advertising.


At the end of the day, the faulty Facebook video metrics were a major mess-up. Now, there’s no reason for advertisers to lose trust in the platform. AdWeek’s Kelsey Sutton explains, “the company was accredited by the Media Rating Council to provide some metrics to marketers, and it has introduced some measurement verification partners.” Video ads, and advertising in general, are still powerhouses on social media, especially in the Awareness stage of The Buyer’s Journey.

The Buyer’s Journey News Round-Up

Snapchat Dynamic Ads now in beta: Auto-generates ads from product catalogs via Amy Gesenhues on Marketing Land

Snapchat is releasing a beta for a new advertising option called Dynamic ads. Ad creation and updating occur automatically within the app.

Gesenhues reports that “the Dynamic ads are available in a wide array of templates and aimed at retail, e-commerce and DTC brands that have a product catalog uploaded to the platform. As product details such as price or availability are updated, the Dynamic Ads adjust accordingly.

“’Snapchat Dynamic Ads now allow brands to create real-time optimized mobile ads quickly and at scale, with products showcased in visually-appealing templates that feel native to the app,” said Snap Group Product Marketing Manager of Direct Response Kathleen Gambarelli.'”

Advertisers need to contact snap to be part of the beta, which is available for all advertisers. However, ads will only reach users in the U.S. at the moment. Plans to expand to more markets are coming soon.


Facebook Testing Ads In Group Tab via Amy Gesenhues on Marketing Land

Facebook is testing ad placements in the Groups tab, the area of the mobile app where users can see the content from the Groups they’ve joined. The test begins with a small number of advertisers who will have access to the new ad style within Ads Manager. This will allow them to extend mobile News Feed campaigns to the Groups tab.

“We’re running a small test to place ads in the Groups tab and will evaluate whether these ads are beneficial for people and businesses before deciding whether to expand it further,” said Facebook Product Manager Melisa Tokmak in an email to Marketing Land.

Gesenhues writes, “To take advantage of the ad placement, advertisers with access must select Facebook Feed and Group Feed placement options. Targeting capabilities for Groups tab ads remain the same as other ads. There are no additional options to target users based on their Group memberships.”


Facebook opens search ads to all advertisers Via Amy Gesenhues on Search Engine Land

Facebook is rolling out search ad placements in News Feed and Marketplace search results. This is coming to all advertisers after almost a year of testing. The ads will appear only when the search terms in use have commercial intent. That means commercial products related to e-commerce, retail, or automotive. At the moment, search ads are only available on mobile.

“Testing shows that advertisers and people are finding value in ads in search results, so we’re rolling out these ads more broadly,” said Facebook Director of Product Management Nipoon Malhatra.

Facebook determines keywords and “take[s] into account a combination of ad features” such as ad text, product, category, title and description. Targeting for ads can also be based on the advertiser’s people based targeting option plus the relevant search terms.



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