- Facebook and Google are often referred to as ‘walled gardens’ by advertisers since they typically restrict usage of their data by advertisers to their own platforms.
- On Thursday Facebook said it would be willing to bend on how some of its data is used in advertising campaigns outside of its own walls.
- The company said that such theoretical data sharing would have to be facilitated by a third party. And it wouldn’t be willing to make such a move alone.
Facebook said it’s willing to knock down some of the walls from its garden. But it won’t go it alone.
The social networking giant, along with Google, gets hammered a ton in ad circles for hoarding its data behind “walled gardens.” The complaint among ad buyers is, as much as each company possesses incredibly powerful data that can be used for ad targeting, that data is kept inside each company’s walls to a degree.
So an advertiser that wants to figure out how many customers its signing up from ads on one platform can’t easily match that data up with how their ads are performing on the other.
To date, neither company has budged much on this stance, as data is such a strategic advantage for each.
But at a press event on Thursday morning, Brad Smallwood, VP of measurement and insights at Facebook, said the company would be willing to deliver some of its ad data to a neutral third party. With the help of an independent player, advertisers could then theoretically reconcile which consumers are responding to which ads across Facebook, Google, and any other data rich platform – and be a lot more strategic about how they spend their ad budgets.
The operative word being: theoretically.
Smallwood told reporters that breaking the data silos is something Facebook is working on. “It’s the biggest ask we get,” he said. “The challenge is how to do it … you need an independent third party.”
So does that means a data-sharing plan is plan is in the works and a third party has been tapped to help? Not quite. When pressed by Business Insider, Smallwood said that while Facebook is willing to tackle this issue, nothing is imminent. And nobody, including Facebook, wants to take such a leap without assurances that others are on board.
“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We think it would be better for the industry, including us … I can’t speak for Google.”
Beyond a potential data collaboration initiative, Facebook announced a number of measurement-related moves on Thursday. The company is paring down the number of metrics that are automatically available via Facebook’s Ads Manager product.
The company is also adding more language to that tool to make it clear what metrics are absolute, which are based on estimates, and which are “in development” and subject to being changed over time. Facebook has gotten some rough press of late after uncovering some errors in its metrics dashboard, as well as an embarrassing report last September that showed how Facebook’s ad planning tools was promising advertisers that the platform can reach more people than actually live in the US.
In response to these issues, Facebook put together a measurement council roughly a year ago that includes representatives from big ad agencies and marketers. Ed Gaffney, who heads up research for the ad buying firm GroupM, said that those gatherings have been illuminating, and Facebook has been more responsive to advertiser needs.
“Understanding what data you’ve got, and how it was calculated, is the key thing going forward,” he said. Of course, when it come to data, “We always want more,” he said.