"Who will watch the watchers?" This paraphrasing of a famous line from the ancient Roman poet Juvenal came to mind as I was reading the news about Facebook’s video metrics snafu. To put it simply, Facebook admitted that it has been miscalculating the average duration of video views on its platform for the last two years(!) Rather than include all views in its calculation, it excluded any views less than three seconds in length. That practice left out millions of views and skewed the average viewing time higher by “between 60% and 80%,” according to Facebook.
For any digital advertiser or agency, this sort of error is scary. We rely on reporting from the platforms we use to buy ads to tell us how well those ads performed. We then make crucial decisions to change our strategies (or not) based on that information. If the data coming out of these platforms is erroneous or incomplete, our decisions will be based on fallacious assumptions, which leads us to make bad choices and costs us business.
So, what’s at stake? In the case of a single dealer, it might mean a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars in advertising. This doesn’t even account for spending money on campaigns that the dealer thinks are working well, but which are instead being over-reported. Overall, in the case of Facebook’s video advertising business, we’re talking about billions of dollars.
In the case of Facebook’s error, this was only one metric – albeit an important one – that was incorrect. To me, this is an important lesson for anyone making data-driven marketing and advertising decisions: Like Juvenal’s quote above implies, if we don’t scrutinize our vendors, partners and advertisers, then who will?