Overcoming Facebook Video Measurement Challenges
Jun 15, 2017
The revelation that Facebook had inflated average video watch time by 60% to 80% for two years set off a firestorm among agencies and brands. Since then, Facebook has made several updates to its metrics and announced new partnerships with third-party verification providers in an effort to provide more transparency and regain advertisers’ trust. We’ll provide a summary of Facebook’s video metric fiasco and what you should consider when planning future video campaigns.
A History of Facebook’s Video Measurement Errors
The WSJ broke news in September that Facebook had massively overestimated view duration by only including video views of three seconds or more when calculating its “Average Duration of Video Viewed” metric, significantly inflating the average. Following the criticism that erupted, Facebook apologized, and announced they were replacing the old metric with “Average Watch Time” that would factor in all views, including those less than three seconds.
So, why did this error create such an uproar across the industry? First, Facebook had long been touting the increasing consumption of video across the platform, encouraging advertisers to shift digital video and even TV ad dollars. But more importantly, it further fueled skepticism of Facebook’s insular policies regarding data and limited integration with third-party data verification companies.
In addition to correcting the average view duration metric, on November 16th Facebook announced several other changes to video metrics calculations as well as reported that they were expanding their partnerships with third-party measurement companies.
Facebook’s Changes to Video Metrics
First, Facebook reported that they would change how video completion rates are calculated due to an error that was reported by Moat. The issue was that Facebook at times streams a video ad “a fraction of a second” longer or shorter than the video’s actual length because the video’s visual and audio don’t match up, leading it to misreport when the end of a video has been watched and ultimately under-count the metric “video watches at 100%.” Facebook stated they were correcting this by “updating how we read the video length” which “may result in roughly a 35% increase in the count of ‘video watches at 100%.’ For example, if ‘video watches at 100%’ were 1%, they would now be 1.35%.”
Second, Facebook rolled out more specific names and clearer definitions within their reporting interface. For the video views metric, the number of seconds watched was added, (i.e. “Video Views” became “3 Sec Video Views”). In addition, they updated the percentage watched video metrics to be named “Video watches at X%” rather than Video watches to X%” to clarify that these metrics report on the number of people that viewed a video at a certain percent rather than to a certain point to account for users who skipped forward to a given point in the video.
Facebook Responds to Demand for 3rd-Party Data Verification
In response to great demand from marketers, Facebook announced several improvements in their 3rd-party verification and viewability program between September 2015, and most recently in a February 10th Metrics FYI blog post.
Below is a timeline of these updates
• Announced third-party verification for video ad viewability with Moat to allow advertisers to purchase 100% in-view impressions, meaning that 100% of the video must be in a user’s view from top to bottom.
• Added partnerships with Nielsen, comScore and Integral Ad Science to start to verify ad viewability and attention metrics for photo and video ads.
November 16th, 2016
• Announced launching 3rd-party viewability verification for display ads in addition to video, such as website link ads and Canvas ads to verify impression data through measurement partners Moat, Integral Ad Science (IAS) and comScore.
January 31st 2017:
• Expanded Comscore partnership: Going above viewability, this includes in-target performance. Facebook is now beginning tests with comScore to evaluate in-target reach for U.S. users on desktop and mobile through their validated Campaign Essentials (vCE) product.
• Viewability Measurement with Comscore and Integral Ad Science: Facebook began viewability measurement with video on Facebook, then extended to video on Instagram; in January they announced extending to video on Audience Network with comScore and IAS
• Completed the integration of display viewability on Facebook with comScore, IAS and Moat. These partners will be able to provide metrics on when a display ad enters the Facebook screen and when the entire ad appears on the screen.
• Added DoubleVerify, a new viewability verification partner; integration will begin this year and when complete it will support both video and display.
In total, Facebook now has partnerships with 24 global third-party measurement providers, stating in a recent blog, “Through our third-party measurement partners, advertisers are now able to verify or measure outcomes for every impression they buy on Facebook. We will continue to make investments in these integrations over the coming months to meet advertisers’ needs for transparency and verification.”
3rd-Party Measurement Providers to Consider Partnering With
comScore, Moat and IAS currently integrate with Facebook to provide verification and viewability metrics, including viewability, audibility, time and screen real estate. Pricing ranges; Moat requires an annual contract with a $8,000 monthly minimum; IAS’s pricing is based on their standard rate of $.08CPM for display and $.15CPM for video. comScore doesn’t yet have a standard rate card, but costs are based on CPM as well as a monthly minimum. DoubleVerify will also be offering Facebook viewability and verification in the coming months.
Rolling out New Options for Video Buying
In addition to expanding 3rd-party data verification partnerships, this February Facebook announced they will be rolling out more video buying choices later this year across Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network, including:
1. Completed-view buying: advertisers will have the ability to only pay for video ads that have been viewed in their entirety, for any duration up to 10 seconds
2. Two-second buying at least 50% of an ad’s pixels are in-view for two continuous seconds or longer, compliant with the Media Rating Council (MRC) video standard
3. Sound-on buying: advertisers be able to buy sound-on video ads
These are additions to existing video buying options that Facebook offers, including CPM, TRP buying, reach and frequency, and cost-per-ten-second views, giving advertisers more flexibility for planning video campaigns.
Facebook certainly seems to be taking their measurement blunders seriously, and appears to be investing heavily in ensuring their data is reported accurately and easier for advertisers to understand, while also starting to open up their “walled garden” to 3rd-party measurement providers for verification. Although 3rd-party tracking requires additional investment, marketers who are spending heavily on Facebook should consider this added layer to their program.