Don’t Panic about the Facebook Video Ad Data Discrepancy
By Dan Goldstein and Daniel Brophy
Facebook’s year of bad PR isn’t going away any time soon. Criticism about how the company handles user privacy and data security is almost constant. Now, the latest claim hits home for marketers and agencies: Video advertising data on Facebook is (allegedly) unreliable.
Facebook self-reported a 60-80% “margin of error” in 2016, but a new lawsuit claims that the discrepancy is much larger. According to CNBC, “The plaintiffs claim that Facebook inflated ad viewing time averages by 150 percent to 900 percent.” What’s more, the lawsuit claims that Facebook knew about the discrepancy for over a year without disclosing it to marketers and agencies that use the Facebook Ads platform.
Digital marketing agencies and advertisers are understandably concerned about these claims. However, there are two reasons why this news isn’t as alarming as it seems. First, the allegations in the lawsuit are not yet proven. Second, Facebook is just one advertising and marketing application for video. Savvy marketers recognize the value of video content regardless of the problems on one platform.
Understanding the Discrepancy
The original 60-80% difference in video ad metrics reported by Facebook in 2016 occurred because Facebook “was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds,” according to the Wall Street Journal. As a result, marketers and advertisers were developing video ad campaigns based on inflated “Average Duration of Video Viewed” data.
Both the original discrepancy and the numbers claimed in the lawsuit underscore the importance of not relying exclusively on the metrics provided by an advertising platform, Facebook or otherwise. Marketers and advertisers need to understand their audience, and every successful ad campaign should be subject to refinement based on audience engagement and conversions.
Of course, the onus is on Facebook and other advertising platforms to provide accurate reporting, and to do so on a timely basis. That’s the most troubling implication of the new lawsuit: not that Facebook miscalculated its own data, but that marketers and advertisers (allegedly) didn’t have the correct data for more than a year.
For now, Facebook is sticking to its original disclosure and claiming that the plaintiffs overstate the discrepancy in video ad engagement. The company is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, but only time and the courts will tell how big of a “margin of error” marketers and advertisers should expect when developing Facebook video ad campaigns.
Digital marketing agencies, including ours, routinely execute successful Facebook video ad campaigns through precise targeting and diligent management. It would be a mistake to write Facebook off because of the accusations made by some dissatisfied advertisers. Facebook remains an effective advertising tool. However, it’s not the only one in the box.
There are a variety of platforms that marketers and advertisers can use to leverage the popularity of video ads. Many social media platforms have effective video advertising components, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Another effective platform outside the traditional mold of social media platforms is YouTube. Businesses and agencies can use pre-roll, mid-roll, and end-roll video ads to deliver targeted messages to users based on their browsing and viewing habits, as well as demographic information. Your ad prominently displays at a designated point in a YouTube video, and you only incur a cost when the user watches the ad until it ends.
In addition to the popularity of YouTube as a video platform, it is also the world’s largest search engine after Google. Many consumers search for products and services on Google, then watch videos to inform themselves further before making a purchase. The tracking code for video ads is not confined to YouTube, so prospective customers who follow the “search, then watch, then buy” path have a high likelihood of seeing retargeted ads for your business and making a purchasing decision based on the familiarity they’ve gained with your brand.
Facebook is struggling to present itself as a transparent social media company. The platform’s privacy, security, and advertising features have all seen setbacks.
One more lawsuit alleging mismanagement of data is not a reason for marketers and ad agencies to abandon Facebook. However, amid the barrage of criticism, it is crucial to understand the potential limitations of the platform and develop accurate expectations with clients.
Fortunately, despite the prominence of Facebook in organic marketing, paid ads, and video, it isn’t the only option available. Digital marketing strategies demand a multifaceted approach, and there are a variety of options to help your business and your clients achieve success.
Dan Goldstein is the president and owner of Page 1 Solutions, LLC. Page 1 Solutions provides full-service digital marketing to attorneys, dentists, and doctors, including plastic surgery, cosmetic medicine, and ophthalmology practices.
Daniel Brophy is a social media specialist at Page 1 Solutions. He has extensive experience in community management, organic engagement, and ad campaigns on multiple social media platforms.