Facebook admits to inflating advertisers’ video views

The platform’s VP of business and marketing partnerships said it was ‘only one of the many metrics’ you can view, but the company ‘take[s] any mistake seriously.’


Consumers might not be watching your organization’s videos as much as you thought they were.

The platform admitted that it inflated metrics for its videos—misleading marketers who believed their video efforts were more successful than they actually were.

It boils down to this: Facebook claims it was unintentionally boosting the time spent watching videos because it only counted a video as being viewed if it was seen for more than three seconds. It didn’t include persons who simply didn’t watch or those who watched for fewer than three seconds. So, if you skipped a video or scrolled past it quickly on your phone, Facebook acted like it never even happened.

RELATED: Learn to produce newscast-ready video and B-roll that media notice and fans share.

Facebook assured advertisers that they weren’t overcharged. The company issued two statements about the discrepancy. The first read:

We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics … This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach. We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns.

The second comes from David Fischer, the platform’s vice president of business and marketing partnerships, who wrote in a Facebook post:

The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t. While this is only one of the many metrics marketers look at, we take any mistake seriously.

Of note here is that even though Facebook self-reported the discrepancy weeks ago on its Advertiser Help Center, reporters only picked it up recently. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on it, noting that Facebook’s previous metric “likely overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60 [percent] and 80 [percent].”

What’s impossible to know is whether (or how many) advertisers made decisions to funnel money toward Facebook video ad buys because they were pleased by the metrics that they saw in regards to time spent watching their videos. Did the inaccurate metric help sway some advertisers to spend on Facebook instead of Twitter or YouTube?

Facebook’s new metric is called “Average Watch Time,” and the company says it more accurately reports video-viewing time.

Does the error sway your trust in Facebook as a marketing vehicle, PR Daily readers? How would you advise the platform to proceed in this situation?

(Image by Joe The Goat Farmer, via)

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