Marketers who have been pouring huge sums into digital advertising are wrestling with several recent events that add to a troubling picture: some are finding they can't be sure how well that money was spent or what they've received in return for it. The lack of transparency that plagues the advertising industry was on stark display this week. Revelations that Facebook Inc. FB -1.63 % overestimated by up to 80% the average time people spent watching video ads on its platform shocked the media and marketing world. Meanwhile, Japanese ad giant Dentsu Inc. 4324 -4.79 % admitted on Friday it overcharged at least 111 companies for internet ads. The mea culpa was prompted by a complaint from Toyota Motor Corp. TM -2.60 % that its internet ads weren't having the promised impact.
When Hallmark Channel makes its annual pitch to advertisers Wednesday at New York's Rainbow Room, the network plans to emphasize how it offers brands safe, high-quality content compared to the unknown risks of the web. For two weeks, digital juggernaut Google has been on the defensive over its placement of ads alongside objectionable content, including videos promoting terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism. The imbroglio, which has spurred big brands like Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola to withhold ad dollars from Google, is giving TV networks ammunition as they prepare to pitch their upcoming programming in the annual Madison Avenue bonanza known as the "upfront" marketplace. "We don't like to go after any competitor but in a case like this it's so egregious and so obvious," said Bill Abbott, chief executive of Crown Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. "We would be foolish not to lean into that in some way," he added, especially given the family-friendly nature of the company's programming.
Big ad buyers and marketers are upset with Facebook Inc. FB 0.11 % after learning the tech giant vastly overestimated average viewing time for video ads on its platform for two years, according to people familiar with the situation. Several weeks ago, Facebook disclosed in a post on its "Advertiser Help Center" that its metric for the average time users spent watching videos was artificially inflated because it was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds. The company said it was introducing a new metric to fix the problem. Some ad agency executives who were also informed by Facebook about the change started digging deeper, prompting Facebook to give them a more detailed account, one of the people familiar with the situation said. Ad buying agency Publicis PUBGY 1.27 % Media was told by Facebook that the earlier counting method likely overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60% and 80%, according to a late August letter Publicis Media sent to clients that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.