By Alexandra Bruell
Facebook is trying to clarify and simplify the metrics used to gauge the performance of advertising on its platform after coming under scrutiny for a series of measurement mishaps and learning that some people are confused about its data.
On Thursday, the company announced plans to more clearly label certain metrics after confirming that some advertisers were confused about which metrics were estimates based on sampling and modeling, versus actually counted data. "Estimated" labels will now appear on ad products in the company's Ads Manager system to alert advertising clients.
Other metrics that are still in development will be labeled as such to make it clear that they are new or in testing and could change.
"We want to be transparent around how things are calculated," said Brad Smallwood, vice president of marketing science at Facebook.
The company also announced plans to get rid of 20 metrics -- amounting to about 10% of its metrics -- that weren't frequently used by or useful to advertisers. Mr. Smallwood described these metrics as redundant and outdated.
Facebook is taking steps to appease advertisers after acknowledging over the past year and a half several discrepancies or flaws in its data, which undermined marketers' trust in the company's data-reporting practices. In the wake of those errors, Facebook agreed to undergo audits by the media industry's measurement watchdog, the Media Rating Council, a year ago.
Facebook said the new metrics changes were spurred, in part, by the discovery that advertisers aren't fully aware that some metrics are estimates or may be still be in the development phase.
Mr. Smallwood said the company's decision to refine its labeling was also influenced by news reports last year that Facebook claimed to reach millions more users among specific age groups in the U.S. than actually reside in the country, according to official census data.
"We always said it was estimated," but "people didn't know it," he said. "We realize we need to do a better job and be super clear when things are estimated."
Ad industry folks were also confused, Facebook found.
For example, a number of ad buyers and marketers thought the company's reach data, which measures the number of unique individuals who saw an ad, was an actual count rather than an estimate, he said. It's easy to count how many times an ad is viewed, but calculating the number of unique individuals exposed to the ad is complicated, he said.
Facebook's reach estimate is mainly to help marketers plan their ad campaigns and doesn't affect how advertisers are billed by Facebook.
Facebook recently quizzed advertisers and agencies that make up its measurement council on what metrics are estimated versus actual. When the reach metric came up, around half of the attendees were uncertain, said Ed Gaffney, director of implementation research at WPP ad buying network GroupM and a member of Facebook's measurement council.
Write to Alexandra Bruell at [email protected]