Earlier this week, Martin Sorrell, the head of international ad agency WPP, voiced his strong concerns about the failings of the current ad measurement systems the industry has in place, highlighting Facebook videos ads, specifically, as a key issue.
"Three seconds - and 50% of video online not listened to with sound - is ludicrous. The standards have to change."
He's not alone in this view - in the past few months, more and more people have started to question Facebook's video measurement techniques and how the platform charges for video ads. Last month, Hank Green wrote a popular post on Medium titled 'Theft, Lies and Facebook Video' which looked at how The Social Network handles all aspects of their video content, with a particular focus on how they measure video engagement.
"Facebook counts the "view" at the three second mark (whether or not the viewer has even turned on the sound) in the midst of a precipitous decline in retention. At that moment, 90% of people scrolling the page are still 'watching' this silent animated GIF. But by 30 seconds, when viewership actually could be claimed, only 20% are watching. 90% of people are being counted, but only 20% of people are actually "viewing" the video."
Facebook responded to this by noting that:
"If you have stayed on a video for at least three seconds, it signals to us that you are not simply scrolling through feed and you've shown intent to watch that video."
A statement that only exacerbated the issue. But Facebook is always listening, and is always looking to improve their offering. So in line with rising industry concerns, the social giant has now introduced two new options which aim to assure advertisers that their content is being seen and that the metrics they receive are accurate.
The Whole Picture
In an official blog post, Facebook announced a new buying option that lets advertisers purchase 100% in-view impressions.
From the announcement:
"100% in-view impression buying gives advertisers the option to purchase ad impressions where the entire ad-from top to bottom-has passed through a person's screen in News Feed."
This new option, combined with Facebook's announcement back in June that they would give advertisers the option to only pay for video ads when viewed for at least 10 seconds, goes some way to assuring advertisers about the accuracy and transparency of the video ad figures they're seeing - though Facebook, as they've noted previously, does not think this is the most effective way to measure video ad effectiveness. This was underlined again in this latest announcement:
"While it remains our belief that value is created for an advertiser as soon as an ad is in view, we also believe in offering advertisers control and flexibility over how they run their ads. "
It'll be interesting to see whether industry sentiment, and ad performance, improves as a result of this change. The new option will be available for every type of ad delivered in News Feed, including text, photo, link and video ads.
On a Moat
The second element of Facebook's latest announcement relates to the accuracy of their video ad metrics, and how Facebook verifies that data. In order to increase transparency, Facebook is partnering with marketing analytics and intelligence company Moat to have the company independently verify Facebook video ad numbers.
"...we're integrating Moat technology to verify video ad views and view lengths, giving interested advertisers assurance that they know exactly how their video campaigns are performing."
This is a good move by Facebook, and one which will go a long way in assuring ad buyers that they're getting what they've paid for.
Logically, we all want to see return on investment, and we need to be able to connect the dots between ad spend and conversion. New metrics and processes are advancing in this regard, bringing us closer to being able to prove definitive links between social media activity and the bottom line - Facebook's own 'Conversion Lift' option is one of the front-runners in providing such linkage for marketers. Further data verification and oversight of this type will help advertisers ensure that they're seeing the best return, not just vanity metrics or inflated numbers based on ads seen, in reality, by no one.
Facebook plans to begin their partnership with Moat by verifying video ad metrics, then expanding that verification to all other types of News Feed and Instagram ads, providing overall assurance on their ad data accuracy.
And we'll await the next round of results.