Can Facebook’s Metrics Blunder Help Us To Measure Better?

  • November 18, 2016

Can Facebook’s Metrics Blunder Help Us To Measure Better? by  Jason Bercovici, Senior Manager, Creative Strategy, Exponential

Facebook is in the news again, reporting ad-metric errors and inconsistencies.

I think this is a great thing for our industry! No, this is not schadenfreude or facetiousness. I’m honestly hopeful that this will lead to thoughtful conversations about what metrics mean, and when digital ads are truly effective.

The big takeaway for ad agencies and clients is that they’ll have more third-party verification available. This is important because it ensures that counting is done correctly. It also should ensure that counting is consistent across vendors. But will it be? Not quite.

Take video completions, for example. Does a video completion of an autoplaying, sound-off video in a Facebook feed equal the completion of a sound-on pre-roll on YouTube? What about a video that completes in the page sidebar on CNN.com because the viewer scrolled down while it was playing? Or a video that completes in the Spotify app after a listener was offered 30 minutes of ad-free music to watch?

If you ask third-party measurement companies, as long as the 100% play pixel fired and the video was in-view, then yes, these completions are counted equally. This is the third-party verified truth.

But ask yourself, as a viewer, which video did you pay full attention to? Which did you glance at? Which did you ignore? When you drill down into what the metrics represent, it’s clear that we need to do a better job of taking the user experience into account.

Increasing the use of third-party measurement on Facebook is a step toward standardizing metrics across the industry. And while it’s a necessary step, we still have a long way to go toward improving how brand marketing clients can measure ROI.

In order to make metrics meaningful and useful across vendors, we need to consider the entire user experience. We need to understand how metrics for each vendor’s ad equate to user attention and intentional user actions. An easy feat, right?

While it is difficult to qualify attention with certainty, there are measures that can be taken to ensure the highest degree of likelihood that you’ve captured a viewer’s attention. For example, you can qualify a user’s intent to view by defining meaningful opt-in points. User-initiated actions to start a video, expand a rich media ad, or turn on the sound of an autoplaying video are all examples.

I’m hopeful we can make progress here for a couple of reasons. First, Facebook is forming a Measurement Council composed of key clients and agency leaders, whose purpose will likely include improving metrics so that they are more meaningful and valuable. Second, Facebook has launched its Metrics FYI blog. This will bring more attention to discussions about what Facebook and their Measurement Council are doing.

As an industry, we not only need to ensure that we’re applying measurements uniformly, but that we’re valuing data correctly and equivalently too. Hopefully, the recent changes at Facebook will help move us in the right direction.