SYDNEY: Australian media buyers have expressed concerns over Facebook's viewability metrics, which appear to be well below what is expected, but the social media giant believes that advertisers need to look beyond current standards.

AdNews reported that only 31% of ads shown on Facebook meet the widely accepted MRC standard of having 50% of pixels in view for two seconds; if one applies the tougher standards demanded by some brands and agencies of 100% viewability, the score drops to around 10%.

Adding in other factors reduces the score still further: one media buyer explained that "if you try to replicate TV dollars, which is audio and visual across a big screen, the viewability on Facebook is about 2%".

And that attempt to grab TV dollars is the problem, according to one media executive. "They've shot themselves in the foot," he said. "They've gone after TV dollars with these massive claims of reach but nobody is going to watch a 15 or 30 second ad video on Facebook."

Nor is it just about watching: people scrolling through their newsfeeds on a bus or train while listening to music or radio, for example, won't interrupt that activity to listen to a Facebook ad video. "That's why alongside its low viewability, it has a low penetration on audio."

However, if brands and agencies are prepared to develop suitable content for the platform – a five-second video with captions, for example – then Facebook appears a much more attractive option than the above viewability figures suggest, especially when allied with its targeting capabilities.

Eric Johnson, Facebook's global head of client measurement, told AdNews that outcomes were what were important: "You shouldn't assign an artificial boundary which is, 'well, the ad was viewed more or less than one second, two seconds, whatever,' as a good or a bad ad.

"Rather than saying we will confirm that every ad you buy hits this standard and that standard, we are going to say instead you have an option to buy on this standard or an option to buy without that standard," he added.

"The key is to let advertisers decide so giving them the data around impressions, what percentage is viewable, how long and let them make that decision."

Facebook's regional product marketing manager Tim Egan has also suggested that a new viewability standard could be created for social media newsfeeds that better represents consumer behaviour on these platforms.

Data sourced from AdNews; additional content by WARC staff