Marketers Cautiously Optimistic After Facebook Announces Third-Party Auditing, New Measurement Tools

What: Facebook recently agreed to an audit of the information it provides to marketers and announced new and improved measurement tools for reachability.
Why It Matters: While the announcement was welcome in the industry, it seemed overdue to some. Just how much it will impact media plans across the board is yet to be seen. What executives at Walton Isaacson, Zubi Advertising and MBMG Media Group have to say.

The announcement was made less than two weeks after Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, Marc S. Pritchard, advocated for more transparency on the part of digital ad platforms. But this seems overdue to many in the industry, as an ongoing debate over the accuracy of the platform’s data (and that of other platforms as well, for that matter) ensues.

Worries were justified: last year, Facebook had to admit inaccuracies in its ad measurement tools. Now, the nonprofit Media Rating Council will conduct an audit to “verify the accuracy of the information” Facebook is providing for marketers, and will also be working with 24 third-party measurement companies.

At the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s January 29 conference, Pritchard went as far as to say that online marketing was “crappy” and that the platforms need to “grow up,” when it comes to reporting on viewability and ad performance.

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The new measurement tools may be more exciting than the third-party auditing to some. In the same blog, Facebook announced that it would be releasing a tool in the ad creation flow that shows advertisers the number of users they can expect to reach with potential ad campaigns.

Albert Thompson, a digital strategist at full service marketing agency Walton Isaacson, was interested in the tools’ appeal to those who doubt Facebook’s reach in terms of generating meaningful engagement: “Seems FB has taken one step further in an attempt to ‘jump the shark’ through promoting its estimated reach tool to support the reassurance that the social giant’s value lies in buying ‘people’ and their engagements and not just pages (noted by digital impressions).”

Others are cautiously optimistic: “I think it will be interesting to see what the results of the audit will be, and how Facebook compares to other large media outlets on key metrics, especially video completions and viewability,” said Zach Rosenberg, the president of MBMG Media Group.

Marian Lozano, Associate Media Director at Zubi Advertising, said that while she agrees that the move was overdue, the important development is that “buyers will now have the option of holding Facebook to the same standards as other partners on our plans and optimize or adjust accordingly as a result.”

She recognized that while she agreed that the move was overdue, it will inevitably have an impact: “Particularly as it relates to targeting Hispanics online, ad measurement and audience validation is critical for all of our clients’ digital campaigns,” and that “platform updates like this will be key to restore whatever degree of skepticism has crept into the minds of today’s media buying circles.”