Facebook Measurement Chief Advocates New Standard for Gauging Reach

Cotton Delo

As Facebook urges big advertisers to boost their spending, its measurement team is playing an increasingly prominent role, trying to articulate the value of paid and earned Facebook impressions in terms media buyers know, such as GRPs, or gross ratings points.

But while talking about GRPs is a step in the right direction for the social network, it’s not its end game. According to Brad Smallwood, Facebook’s head of measurement and insights, the ultimate goal is for the market to embrace a metric that looks at the unique reach and frequency of a campaign across all “experiences” — including traditional media such as TV, radio, print and outdoor, as well as online media, social media (owned, earned and paid), mobile and in-game ads.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to measure (experiences) in silos, and the more media consumption disperses across channels, it’s going to become an increasingly big problem for advertisers,” said Mr. Smallwood, who will be a speaker at Ad Age’s Digital Conference in San Francisco next month.

Last August, Nielsen debuted a product enabling advertisers to measure their online campaigns — including Facebook — in GRPs, and it’s gotten traction among advertisers and agencies, such as Unilever and GroupM, but only as a reporting metric and not for buying. (ComScore has also introduced a similar product.) However, the ultimate vision is for a media buyer to purchase, for example, 100 GRPs on TV and the equivalent of 50 GRPs on Facebook, which together might generate the equivalent of another 20 GRPs through owned and earned media on Facebook. The buyer would then have the understanding that all together he got 170 GRPs.

Nielsen also has a product in market that allows for measuring the reach and frequency of campaigns across media channels, but that kind of measurement is nascent. Mr. Smallwood said his team is working with the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Advertising Research Foundation to advocate for those metrics to become an industry standard.

“When will media agencies and advertisers demand success on those measures? I think that’s three to five years away,” he said.

While Facebook clearly stands to benefit if the measurement and media-buying standards that favor TV are upended, networks with big digital businesses, such as ESPN or Turner, could also potentially benefit.

Mr. Smallwood said he hopes to partner with some perceived rivals to advocate for this new way of measuring.

“The Twitters, Yahoos, Microsofts — and Google obviously as well — we want them all to be a part of this process,” he said. “If we can demonstrate confidence in online, we will see a good share of those dollars end up on Facebook.”