Forget Brangelina, Let’s Talk About Facebook Video View Duration

by Ovative Group
September 27, 2016

The big news on the social web last week was Brangelina’s break up. The breakup, which trended for days on social media, lead to extensive debate as folks reacted to one of their favorite Hollywood power couples calling it quits. Why does this matter? Because the Brangelina breakup coincided with my First Week at Ovative/group – and with the news that Facebook had been inflating video view duration in its reporting. Oh, and also, Yahoo had a massive data breach. The amount of passion and dialogue around the latter two topics amongst my new cohorts overshadowed the biggest tabloid news of the year, tenfold. This is just one of the many things I encountered in my first week that made me feel at home here!

(But I digress.)

The News

Facebook misrepresented/miscalculated their “average video view duration” metric by only including views that Facebook counts as a view, which is any view three seconds or longer. This means that every view that was one or two seconds (which still count as an impression) wouldn’t be included, thus over-inflating the sense of success for video advertisers by as much as 80%!

Why it Hurts

As a video advertiser, there are stark realities you need to realize before investing your marketing dollars on Facebook:

  1.  In-feed videos auto-play to users, WITHOUT sound.
  2. A video view counts as three seconds, as mentioned above.
  3. Facebook does not allow for much third party tracking or ad serving within its video experience, so you are beholden to their counting methodologies and reporting.

Many of us advertisers are used to good ‘ol pre-roll metrics elsewhere on the web where we can enjoy cost-per-completed view pricing (i.e. YouTube) or 90%+ completion rates for unskippable ads. So getting the news on these inaccurate numbers stings a little.

How can Facebook Get Away with This?

This is a side effect of a bigger issue that has been both a blessing and a curse to marketers since we first heard that beautiful America Online dial up sound: walled gardens. Internet walled gardens launched with AOL by limiting or controlling a user’s environment. Of course, this is all under the guise of attracting and retaining users and engagement.

Touting 1 billion users, Facebook has been ultra successful at doing this. The downside of walled gardens are that they allow for the resistance of standardized approaches. Facebook in particular has been resistant in the area of third party measurement. While their proprietary tracking is relatively robust, they are extremely slow to adopt or allow standardized serving or reporting, so advertisers are forced to measure off Facebook-reported numbers for things like video view duration. Meanwhile they are laughing all the way to the bank because marketers can’t ignore the stellar reach and engagement potential on their platform.

Facebook Advertisers and Analysts, Unite!

What should you do about this? No, I’m not recommending boycotting Facebook or any other walled garden for that matter (maybe because I’m a social media addict?). Our responsibility as marketers is to continue raising awareness about any inconsistency or flaw in platform-reported data. As marketers who invests good money (on behalf of clients) in media, we have the power to demand transparency and accuracy. I will lock arms with my new O/g family to fight for accountability from all of our partners so we can continue to wrangle the tentacles of data to drive performance for our clients!

Facebook, it’s all about karma. Right #JenniferAniston?

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