Back to the drawing board
After several complaints from ad buyers throughout this year about faulty measurements, Facebook has started letting third-party auditors verify its numbers, and the findings have been a bit discouraging.
After using the new auditing capabilities, some agencies have discovered that viewability rates on their Facebook video campaigns are as low as 20-30%, far below the average viewability rate for video ads on websites.
According to The Media Rating Council, the industry standard for video viewability requires a minimum of 50 percent of a video ad’s pixels to be in view for two continuous seconds.
Other industry authorities such as Unilever and GroupM required 100 percent of the video player to be viewable, with half the ad viewed with the sound on, without autoplay.
This comparatively low performance by Facebook video ads worried many media agency ad executives who are now planning to reassess their branding campaign budgets to account for cost-for-viewable impression.
Many suspect the social media network’s numbers to be even lower than 20%, expressing concerns that verification companies like Integral Ad Science and Moat cannot access the platform quickly enough to make accurate calculations.
They view this as unfair, as many agencies are pouring money into what appear to be fruitless endeavors and empty promises.
While sometimes Facebook’s numbers are substantially higher than the standard, this only points to the drastic inconsistency in Facebook ad performance, and there’s no apparent pattern for under or over-reporting.
So what is viewability?
There are two elements of viewability.
The first is whether the ad is seen by a human.
The second is whether it can be seen on a website or app. When it comes to being seen by humans, Facebook scores 99%. However, the percentage of the video played in each view is where the trouble lies: one agency reported only 22 percent of its videos were played in view.
Not a new problem
Facebook’s ad viewability in general has been a topic of concern since last December at a Nomura conference, when Drew Huening from Omnicom stated their own tests revealed Facebook display ads had not reached the minimum industry standard of 50 percent visibility in a browser window for one whole second.
According to Huening, people scroll through their News Feed too quickly, especially now that everyone has mobile devices.
More than two-third of marketers in the U.S. currently run Facebook video ads, but due to these rising concerns regarding viewability, advertisers are uncertain whether they should be investing as much marketing spend in Facebook.
Some agency executives think that in order to challenge Facebook on these subpar metrics, advertisers must band together to push for enforcement of third-party verification.
But is it really such a big deal?
Others don’t view the numbers as particularly troubling, arguing that all they demonstrate is how Facebook functions as a platform. Facebook is most effective for reaching large audiences with relevant content.
Video ads though?
Not so much.
“Brand awareness,” these experts argue, can be built with repeated exposure and minimal impression duration.
The main takeaway? Facebook ads, and social media ads in general, are fleeting by nature–they rely upon platforms designed for instant gratification and constant optimization.
This doesn’t mean they aren’t worth investing in.
It just means marketers should strategically consider how much to invest in Facebook ads relative to other mediums. In today’s digitally connected world, appearing in a prospect’s news feed even for a second is better than not appearing at all.