A research group analyst claims that Facebook inflates the number of people that their ads reach by millions.
CNBC reports that Brian Wieser, a research analyst at the Pivotal Research Group, claimed that Facebook has been inflating their ad reach numbers by millions in order to give the appearance of improved advertisement reach. Facebook claims that their advertisements can reach 41 million 18-24 year-olds and 60 million 25-34 year-olds in the U.S. However, according to census data, there are only 31 million 18-24 year-olds and 45 million 25-34 year-olds in the entire U.S.
When questioned about the apparent discrepancy in population numbers, Facebook stated that their advertisement numbers are “estimates” of how many users are “eligible” to see advertisements and “are not designed to match population or census estimates.”
Wieser commented on the implications of Facebook’s overestimation, saying, “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.”
Facebook’s ad reach estimation is based on a number of factors such as Facebook user behavior, user demographics, and location data collected from devices. In September of 2016, Facebook informed advertisers that their advertising metrics had been artificially inflated as Facebook was only counting videos that had been watched for more than three seconds by users, Facebook’s benchmark for what counts as an advertisement “view.”
Facebook attempted to be more transparent in their reporting of metrics in November 2016, launching a blog called Measurement FYI which shares updates on the website data collection and corrects previous data reports.