Facebook 'exaggerates' numbers who view ads on the platform

Revelation could restrain Facebook’s growth in video ad sales on the margins, say analysts

Facebook's vice president for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, poses for a photograph at Estacao Hack on Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo's financial centre, Brazil August 25, 2017. Picture taken August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
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Facebook inflates the number of people who can see the advertisements on its platform, a Pivotal Research Group analyst said.

Facebook’s Ads Manager claims a potential reach of 41 million 18 to 24-year-olds and 60 million 25 to 34-year-olds in the United States, whereas US census data shows that last year there were a total of 31 million people between the ages of 18 and 24, and 45 million in the 25-34 age group, the analyst said.

“While Facebook’s measurement issues won’t necessarily deter advertisers from spending money with Facebook, they will help traditional TV sellers justify existing budget shares and could restrain Facebook’s growth in video ad sales on the margins,” said the research analyst Brian Wieser, who maintains a "sell" rating on the stock with a price target of US$140 for year-end 2017.


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Facebook said, “they [reach estimates] are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run. They are not designed to match population or census estimates.”

The estimations are based on several factors such as user behavior, user demographics and location data from devices, Facebook said, in response to the research analysts.

In September last year, Facebook told advertisers that the average time users spent viewing online ads was artificially inflated, because it was only counting videos that were watched for at least three seconds, its benchmark for a “view”.

In November 2016, Facebook launched a new blog on its website called Metrics FYI, to share updates and corrections for its data.