News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Facebook grossly inflates ad reach in all 50 US states, cites more people than actually exist. Facebook 'trust-me' metrics: "A systematic misrepresentation of data across the board, at a scale unlike anything we’ve ever seen." Facebook doesn't use same exacting third-party verification expected in tv industry-Adweek, 10/2/17

10/2/17, "Facebook Ad Reach is More than U.S. Census Bureau Data in All 50 States (Report)," adweek.com, David Cohen

"Facebook’s ad reach figures outpace U.S. Census estimates for every single state by anywhere from 3 percent to 42 percent."

"Facebook’s issues with reporting ad reaches larger than the actual population base appear to be even more prevalent, according to a new report from the Video Advertising Bureau.

Early last month, Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser pointed out discrepancies between Facebook’s ad reach and U.S. Census Bureau data, including:
A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Adweek at the time, “Reach estimations are based on a number of factors, including Facebook user behaviors, user demographics, location data from devices and other factors. They are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad that a business might run. They are not designed to match population or census estimates. We are always working to improve our estimates.”

The VAB took a closer look in the report it released Monday, and its findings included:
















*While Facebook cited visitors from different areas as one of the reasons for its reach topping U.S. Census figures, the same reach figures are generated when advertisers select “everyone” in the U.S. or users who “live” in the U.S.

*The gap between Facebook’s ad reach figures and U.S. Census date for users 18 through 34 is “much more pronounced within the 10 most populous cities.”











  • When preparing a demographic-targeted, one-day, $5,000 ad buy on Facebook, there is a gap of more than 10 million adults between 18 and 34—1.9 million to 12 million—between the low and high ranges. 
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  • The VAB said in the conclusion of its report, “Whether this is truly another metrics glitch remains to be seen. However, withquestions of trust regarding ad-tech platforms at an all-time high among many marketers, our analysis provides another instance where first-party data should at least be questioned, or even challenged, particularly when the numbers don’t align with universally accepted metrics such as U.S. Census Bureau population data and basic media math.

  • And VAB president and CEO Sean Cunningham said in a statement emailed to Social Pro Daily: “It’s difficult to understand how a precision platform, such as Facebook, could continue to miscalculate these numbers time and time againRather, there appears to be a systematic misrepresentation of data across the board, at a scale unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Advertisers need to know that the data and metrics they’re viewing are valid, and third-party verification, rather than simply accepting data at face value, is the only way to ensure that advertisers get what they pay for.”

    Facebook had not yet responded to a request for comment at the time of this post."
      
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    Added: 

    "Facebook has promulgated a number of "trust-me metrics...There is a pattern. All of them are about giving the appearance of being bigger.""... 

    10/4/17, "Facebook accused of inflating its reach among young adults," Poynter.org, Rick Edmonds 

    "Analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research raised that and other questions about Facebook's claims to advertisers in a report in early September.

    Now the Video Advertising Bureau, a trade group for cable and broadcast networks and their sites, has a follow-up study saying that the internet giant is over-counting non-existent 18- to 24-year-olds in all 50 states. 

    Collectively, Wieiser and the VAB say, the company's claimed reach exceeds census estimates by a third in the 18-24 demographic and 80 percent among 25-to-34-year-olds.

    This is not Facebook's first misadventure with ad metrics. A year ago September, the company conceded that over a period of two years it had miscalculated and thus overstated the typical time that users were spending engaged with its videos.

    I chatted with a Facebook spokesman, who explicated the company's cryptic rejoinder to Wieser that its estimated reach numbers "are based on a number of factors" and do not necessarily correspond to census data, itself an estimate.

    Those young users Facebook counted could include people from other countries registering in the United States and some who misreport or don't update their age, he said. Also the reach figure would pick up tourists and other visitors.

    I'll buy that there are plenty of people in New York City (and a few other destinations) at a given time who do not live there. But I am highly dubious that addition would cover the gap the critics have identified.

    Sean Cunningham, president and CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau, told me that Facebook has promulgated a number of "trust-me metrics ...There is a pattern. All of them are about giving the appearance of being bigger ... pushing the idea that they are ubiquitous."

    The accusation is not that Facebook is overcharging. Its ads are generally placed by electronic auction, and the price is based on the numbers (views and a watch-to-completion factor) for a given ad. 

    But Cunningham said that the inflated claims for desired demographic groups are meant to influence ad buyers who are considering the scale of Facebook purchases compared to their broadcast and cable budgets.

    His members would like to see Facebook using the same exacting third-party verification that is expected in the TV industry, Cunningham said. "Data innovation is a big part of what's going to be good about the future of advertising," he added, "but we need an equal view where everyone is looking at the same set of data." 

    The Facebook spokesman said that the company is partnering with both Nielsen and comScore to develop new and more exact measures of digital audience reach. More is on the way, he said, as well as a more detailed explanation of the reach claims.

    I had the impression that the current controversy is focused on national advertisers and big brands. But Cunningham said his membership includes Comcast and other cable system owners who see the same dynamic at work in local market competition for ad share.

    As I and others have been reporting for some time, Facebook and Google's growing dominance in local advertising is the biggest factor in ad revenue declines at newspapers and magazines. Those placements make publications less competitive in selling ads to their digital sites and often are financed by reducing print schedules.

    The questions about Facebook's claimed reach take place against a broader background of concerns about ad fraud in digital buying and pricing. 

    Just last week, the Financial Times said an internal study had found bogus listings for ft.com ads on a number of ad exchanges. It urged clients to step up verification to insure against fraudulent placements....

    The worse case for Facebook is that hits to its credibility will slow the astronomic rates of ad revenue growth that have kept the company a darling among investors even as it has grown from big to huge."

    "Rick Edmonds is Poynter's media business analyst, co-author of 10 State of the News Media reports, former Tampa Bay Times and Philadelphia Inquirer editor."



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