Facebook fudges the numbers again, claims to reach more people in U.S. than U.S. census data shows exist

Facebook have stepped in it, their ad-buying website tells advertisers that the world’s largest social network has a potential reach of 41 million 18 to 24 year olds in the United States. Meanwhile Brian Wieser, a Pivotal Research Group senior analyst noted that the U.S. census data shows that last year there were 31 million people living in the country between these ages. It is thus impossible to reach people who do not exist. Once again, with feeling, Digital media is a fraud (&2), where you are the product, and we've been saying this about Facebook since 2007: "Do you have a Facebook?"

Brian Wieser, is the analyst who famously quipped;

"Never trust a number unless you're sure the number you're working with is provided by someone who could go to jail if that number is wrong. This is so important because people will take numbers and pas them for facts without understanding where they came from."

Facebook excused themselves in a statement, claiming that its audience estimates did not match census data, but added that this was by design; "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."

Brian Wieser adds; "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."

Videos on facebook that were watched for at least three seconds were counted as a full "view." Couple that with autoplay as you scroll past a wall full of junk, and you may have been counted as viewing several ads you never even noticed. Recently Facebook have introduced other types of media buys, where you can elect for completed view buying; a video ad that has been viewed in its entirety for any duration up to 10 seconds, two-second buying; where at least 50% of an ad's pixels are in-view for two continuous seconds, or sound-on buying.

The census data mismatch is another embarrassing moment for Facebook, who earlier this year had to agree to be audited by the Media Ratings Council after a misreporting scandal.

Pressure mounted on the platform last week when Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for Procter & Gamble, called for more transparent measurement practices by big tech companies.

It quickly extended its third-party verification partners to include 24 globally, including ComScore, Integral Ad Science, Visual IQ, Nielsen, Quantium, Moat, Kantar Millward Brown, Acxiom and more.

In a blog post announcing the updates, Facebook wrote that it wants to “provide transparency, choice and accountability” to all of the four million advertisers buying across Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network.

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Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.