My new column is live in The Drum:
The Drum’s Promotion Fix columnist, Samuel Scott, moderated a panel discussion last week on publisher adtech trends in 2019 at the Barcelona office of adtech company Marfeel.
The participants were Marfeel chief executive Xavi Beumala, Forrester Research senior analyst Susan Bidel, Den of Geek US chief executive Jennifer Indeck and Rubicon Project’s Cayetano Chimeno. These are the highlights of their conversation.
Scott: Print, TV and radio numbers are independently audited, but ad networks such as Facebook and Google largely don’t let that happen. We saw a new lawsuit in the US last week alleging that Facebook committed fraud by not disclosing bad video ad view data for more than a year. We have seen other data corrections in the past. Should we trust Facebook’s numbers ever again?
Beumala: Facebook has given bad viewability data, but my question is, “who has given good viewability data?” Viewability and measurement in the advertisement world are screwed up all over the place – not only with Facebook.
Indeck: I think people aren’t sceptical enough about data. We do have to use our minds while we’re looking at things and think, “does this make sense?” As advertisers, marketers and publishers, we have to have a healthy dose of scepticism when we’re using any data.
Bidel: As an industry, if we really want to mature, we need to have standards that everybody abides by so that everyone is comparing apples to apples and working on the same playing field. Without that, I think it’s just never going to mature into the kind of business that marketers and publishers need it to be.
Scott: But who sets the standards, and who enforces them?
Beumala: So, we have the IAB, which has been consistently trying to get a definition of what “viewability” means. It’s just now for the last two or three months that we’ve got Google coming into an agreement with Twitter, defining viewability pretty much in the same way. Facebook now looks that it’s kind of getting closer to this, but viewability is something strange. I think that it’s not only a tech decision, it has to come as well from marketers. Let’s take the desktop. So you have a big screen, and they say that as far as there is three seconds of the full video that can be seen on the screen, that is viewable, right? That is one of the official definitions of viewability. But compare a very tiny video on the bottom-right corner compared to a massive screen – this really means that it’s viewable? There are different descriptions all over the place – they need to sit down and agree.
Scott: In 2016, Facebook’s VP for Europe, Nicola Mendelsohn, said “we’re seeing a year-on-year decline in text”. Mark Zuckerberg also said “five years to all video”. Now, we see that Facebook allegedly inflated video ad views by up to 900%. So, for publishers, was the “pivot to video” a big mistake? Should they now pivot from video?
Indeck: I still think one of the big growth areas for publishers is video. We didn’t ever really have a big play on video on Facebook. We have a presence there because you have to – it’s Facebook – but that’s not the place we’re looking to monetise or even get big reach because you can’t. They limit it. But I still think video is very much going to be a part of publishers’ businesses moving forward – you can’t ignore it.
Beumala: It’s easy to say that Facebook was inflating the numbers, but I know lots of publishers that have made a ton of money with those videos. The market collapsed a little bit because everyone was producing video, so things got worse, but people have made a lot of money with video.