Over the past month, Facebook received considerable media coverage after the social media giant divulged that one of its key video ad metrics was miscalculated and incorrectly reported. Although the acknowledgement was issued a month ago on its advertiser support page, Facebook released an apology last Friday to assuage marketers’ frustration with the reporting error.
Facebook defined the Average Duration of Video Viewed as the “total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of ‘views’ of a video,” although the number reported depicted the “total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of ‘views’ of a video when watched for three or more seconds.”
In other words, Facebook’s misreporting excluded video viewership for videos that received fewer than three seconds, consequently inflating the reported figures by 80% for the past two years. To put this in perspective, YouTube counts a video view after 30 seconds, and Vine counts a video after a full loop has been watched.
On May 5, 2014, Facebook outlined a ‘video view’ as as a duration of three seconds or more. Despite the metric’s explicit definition, Facebook has been under fire for their opaque transparency in framing video ad performance. The attractive, but incorrectly reported video data influenced marketers to place ads through Facebook instead of executing ads across competitive platforms, such as YouTube or Twitter. The media’s visceral reaction to the error stems from marketers allocating substantial budgets to Facebook’s platform, relying on the misreported figure as one of the video metrics to assess investment. Further, this reinforced the inadequacies with limited third party intervention when it comes to the measurement of analytical data.
The miscalculation doesn’t affect the billing process or determine how much marketers pay, although “average duration of video viewed” is conspicuously included on partners’ dashboards.
Katana’s Expert Opinion
“I think that this is an important moment in the fight for transparency into reporting and data in the advertising campaigns that we run. Hopefully this leads to clarity behind the metrics moving forward. It definitely gives us a certain layer of skepticism when reviewing advertising metrics moving forward, but there is no doubt that Facebook advertising has and will continue to be beneficial for us and our clients.” –Mason Betsch, Katana Media Manager
“Facebook’s video metrics have been under skepticism for some time now, especially since different metrics can contradict each other or lead advertisers to drastically different conclusions. I believe this skepticism has been reinforced with the recent announcement about Facebook’s miscalculated metrics. I think the advertisers specifically focused on engagement campaigns have been hurt the most by this miscalculation because they value Facebook’s metrics to calculate ROI and drive campaign strategy. For video campaigns focused on direct response or offsite conversions, I recommend setting up as much tracking as possible at the front end of the campaign so the campaign performance can be tracking through Google Analytics and all the way down the funnel. This helps marketers paint a clearer picture of performance with different aspects to view the data from.” – Corey Zalewski, Katana Media Manager