Facebook Doesn’t Charge For Ads Unless A Real Person Sees Them

Today Facebook provided a rare glimpse into its philosophy for counting ad impressions, revealing that the company doesn’t believe ads should be charged for unless seen by a real person.

While it’s common practice for advertising industry groups to measure ‘served’ impressions, Facebook instead measures ‘viewed’ impressions.

Here’s the difference between served and viewed impressions:

  • Served impressions: As long as an ad renders somewhere on the pages it’s counted as an impression, even if the ad ends up somewhere on a page that a user never sees, like below the fold.
  • Viewed impressions: It only counts as an impressions if the ad ends up being displayed on a user’s screen.

Facebook explains why it counts viewed vs. served ad impressions:

“At Facebook, we agree that viewed impressions are a better way to measure ad delivery. The reason is simple: if an ad is viewed it has a greater chance to drive value for an advertiser. That’s why we use viewed impressions to measure ad delivery across desktop and mobile.”

The company goes on to explain that an ad is considered viewed the second it’s displayed on a desktop or mobile screen. If an ad is technically served, but not viewed, it’s not counted. Those same conditions will soon apply to organic content posted by businesses.

While measuring viewed impressions is an improvement over measuring served impressions, it’s still not perfect. For example, just because an ad is on a user’s screen doesn’t necessarily mean it’s getting viewed.

Anyone who uses Facebook regularly can attest to the fact that numerous ads get scrolled over each day, so there are still many ads being charged for that are getting ignored.

However, it can still be argued that this is a better approach than charging for ads that are never seen at all. The company adds, “Our research shows that value is created as soon as ads are seen by people, even if only a portion of the ad was seen for a brief period of time,”