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Published: Sat, September 09, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Facebook under scrutiny for inflated ad reach in US

Facebook under scrutiny for inflated ad reach in US

For advertisers trying to target Facebook users in the United Kingdom, the company promises it could potentially reach 5.8 million 20-24 year-olds, 6.4 million 25-29 year-olds, and 5.2 million 30-34 year olds.

"While we think the company is positioning itself to compete for TV budgets with TV-like content, we think that the large marketers who dominate TV advertising will only do so after applying significant scrutiny to the metrics associated with Facebook campaigns".

FACEBOOK HAS BEEN ACCUSED of grossly exaggerating its user numbers and usage.

Facebook says that it has 236 million monthly active users in the USA and Canada, as Consumerist notes, meaning that, according to the company, two thirds of all Americans and Canadians are active on Facebook every month. The estimations are based on several factors such as user behavior, user demographics and location data from devices, Facebook said in a statement, in response to the research note.

In layman terms: Facebook's numbers can account for more than simply US citizens - it can also include visitors or even undocumented individuals in the region.

In a statement, a Facebook rep said the audience-reach estimates in Ads Manager "are not created to match population or census estimates". "We are always working to improve our estimates", the company said in a statement. Ads online typically fall into two buckets: ones on the open web, where they can more easily be tracked, and ones within "walled gardens" like Facebook, where the owner of the platform has to be trusted to provide reliable metrics. Because it was only counting videos that were watched for at least three seconds, Facebook was overestimated average viewing times by between 60% and 80%.

Eleven-year-olds may want to be on Facebook like their older siblings, so instead of waiting until they turn 13, they register accounts claiming to be 15 years old to skirt Facebook's minimum age requirement. This artificially inflates the number because, as many users know, many videos will automatically play for an equally brief time when scrolled over. Regardless, businesses were likely provided with false data that could have affected decision-making processes.

"This isn't just a small media company or small seller of advertising that has a gap in their numbers", Kint said.

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Some organizations and business are so perturbed by this massive, dual control that they are petitioning the public and lawmakers to do something about it. NMA, which represents more than 2,000 newspapers in the USA, says that due to competition rules on the books, they are are not allowed to work together, thus indirectly enabling an ad revenue hegemony to transpire and persist.

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