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David Pidgeon 

Facebook metrics debacle: Aviva's marketing boss calls for robust audits

Facebook metrics debacle: Aviva's marketing boss calls for robust audits

Aviva's group brand director has expressed her "outrage" and "anger" over Facebook's metrics blunder which saw the social media platform miscalculate video views for more than two years.

Jan Gooding, who is also chair of the Publishers Audience Measurement Company, PAMCo, and has more than 30 years' experience working in marketing, has now publicly called on digital players to be subjected to audits that match the scrutiny of traditional media.

"I felt really outraged and angry when I first [learned of the miscalculation]," Gooding said during a joint Mediatel and Magnetic event on Thursday. "And I felt it mattered massively; as an advertiser, am I getting what I thought I was paying for?"

However, despite Gooding's criticisms, she said advertisers are highly unlikely to stop spending with Facebook because the platform has become such an important part of the customer journey in a digital-first economy.

Gooding also stopped short of calling on Facebook - and Google's YouTube, which is keen to poach TV adspend - from directly joining an established media currency such as BARB. However, she said it was now essential to show "veracity" in the data as both businesses enter a new stage of maturity.

In late September, Facebook quietly disclosed that its metric for the average time users spent watching videos was inflated because it was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds.

The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, said the earlier counting method likely overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60% and 80%.

Facebook has since said it is introducing a new metric to fix the problem, but the news quickly upset big ad buyers.

Many clients have remained quiet about the problem, however, but Gooding - whose business operates in 17 markets and has 34 million customers - was keen to see the social media platform "mature" as it hoovers up ever larger amounts of adspend from other media channels.

"[Facebook and YouTube] operate completely new business models. But all businesses go through a second phase where they mature and have to grow up about the way in which they do business.

"That maturity comes about by paying taxes and by finding ways to show veracity in your data. And I appreciate that their data is proprietary, but we also need to know that it's truthful."

As chair of PAMCo, Gooding has been involved in the ambitious reform of readership measurement in the UK, overturning a system that had been in place for more than 60 years in the form of the National Readership Survey (NRS).

Part of the reform will see the launch late next year (or in early 2018) of Audience Measurement for Publishers (AMP).

Gooding said that the process, which required "fierce competitors" to come together in one room and work out how the readership currency could be future-proofed for the digital-first economy, demonstrated media industry partnerships operating at their best.

"We've created an atmosphere of partnership," Gooding said, adding that media currencies "must have integrity and advertisers must have confidence in them."

"What's been brought to bear [with AMP] is the best expertise and knowledge right now about how you continue to do face-face, demographically robust, big-sample questionnaires about readership, supplemented with a digital panel, all with de-duplicated data.

"As a client, we understand that value."

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Conor Mullen, Commercial Director, RTE Digital on 11 Nov 2016
“Reform in press measurement, but none required in Facebook or Google as they their data is proprietary and advertisers will continue to spend with them anyhow. Makes sense.”