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Meta asks court to intervene in $7 billion lawsuit over Facebook audience numbers

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Meta asks court to intervene in $7 billion lawsuit over Facebook audience numbers


Meta is asking an appellate court to overturn a ruling granting class-action status to a lawsuit claiming Facebook inflated advertising numbers. 

The company filed papers on Friday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to immediately appeal a decision by U.S. District Court Judge James Donato granting class-action status to the plaintiffs, DZ Reserve and Max Martialis.

Donato ruled on March 29th that the companies could proceed with claims on behalf of U.S. advertisers who used Facebook’s Ad Manager or Power Editor to purchase ads on Facebook or Instagram after August 15, 2014.


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Meta says that, left unchanged, the class would total more than 3 million advertisers. In court papers the company argues Donato’s decision is not in line with other decisions about class actions: “That conflict is of exceptional importance, because class actions brought by online advertisers are a fast-growing category of putative class claims, and often involve millions of class members, seeking billions of dollars in damages.”

In his decision, Donato rejected the company’s argument that the class was too diverse, because it included “large sophisticated corporations” as well as individuals and small businesses. The judge said it made sense for individuals to sue as a group because “no reasonable person” would sue Meta on their own to recover at most a $32 price premium.

Meta’s filing indicates that it may settle the case if its appeal is not granted, as the plaintiffs are asking for over $7 billion in class-wide damages: “Claimed damages in that amount almost never proceed to trial before a jury,” adding that the possibility of a nine-figure verdict creates “inexorable settlement pressure.”

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The suit, originally filed in August 2018, claims Facebook induced advertisers to purchase more ads — and pay higher prices for them — by inflating the number of users who might see the ads. It pointed to a report by the Video Advertising Bureau, which said in 2017 Facebook’s estimates of audience reach in every U.S. state were higher than the states’ populations. The suit was later amended to include the allegation that Facebook employees had been aware of complaints about the metric since 2015.

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Meta’s court papers claim estimates about the potential reach of campaigns aren’t guarantees, and don’t have an impact on billing.

Why we care. Facebook is the biggest fish when it comes to social media in the U.S. Audience size is one of the foundational metrics for determining ad prices. While other media have third-party certification of these numbers (Nielsen, Audit Bureau of Circulation, etc.), there is no such cerification for Facebook. Given that, lawsuits like this seem all but inevitable. 

Read next: Facebook finally hits a brick wall


About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.



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Closing your team’s technical gap without hiring

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Closing your team's technical gap without hiring

It’s no comfort knowing you’re not the only one having trouble finding tech talent. Demand is high, supply is low. And everyone has teams and projects stuck in limbo.

What would be comforting is a solution. Well, here you go.

I’ve helped many marketing teams close the gap in their technical capabilities without writing a single job description. The reality is you have many more options than you can envision right now. All you need to do is expand your frame.

Expand Your Frame

When making a decision, framing helps you focus on the proper outcomes. The hard part may be setting the frame to the right size. Make it too small and you miss big chunks of the panorama. Too large and you lose the details. 

It’s also a fantastic way to think more strategically. While others are getting up in tactics, e.g., hiring, you can think of the outcome you’re hoping to achieve and determine the fastest way to get there. 


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The frame here is not that you need to hire someone, it’s that you need a certain set of tasks completed. Instead of hiring you should consider two other options: automation, i.e. no-code, and adjusting your team’s priorities. Looked at that way, you may already have all the skills you need.

No-Code & the New Engineers

The rise of no-code software tools is one of the most significant developments in the marketing world. No-code tools are meant to be used by non-technical folks. They have drag-and-drop interfaces and tend to be highly user-friendly. Examples include Zapier, Tray.io, and countless others.

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A huge problem for marketing teams is their technology is too complex. Doing anything significant means getting an engineer. Even sending emails requires technical help. With multiple no-code options in every category, there’s no need for this.

Instead of hiring someone to support marketing automation, find a software solution anyone can use. In practical terms, it means avoiding options like Salesforce, which requires in-house expertise, hundreds of pages of documentation and the proper alignment of the moon to make it work. Other solutions are drastically easier to use, though they may have less functionality. 

I tell my clients to prioritize the ability to connect their tools rather than just their raw capabilities. You may have the best email marketing solution, but it’s not as valuable if you can’t easily export data to a CRM. Be biased towards no-code, and you can avoid hiring.

I recently helped clients connect their Hubspot, Google Sheets, and a website using only no-code tools like Zapier. We were able to get everything done in a matter of weeks with no involvement from their engineers. In addition, the marketing team could send better-targeted emails and measure their performance better. All they needed were the right tools.

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Adjust Your Priorities

Think over how your team spent their time over the past week. Were they working on the highest impact tasks? Unfortunately, there’s a good chance the answer is no. It’s easy to fall prey to “busy work” or get stuck doing jobs that should be automated.

Bill Gates once said there’s no point hiring someone to do an inefficient process. You’re just scaling bad habits. Instead, clean up your processes before adding more bodies. You may discover plenty of time to research software tools and tackle new tasks.

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Read next: Broaden your marketing ops talent perspective

The fastest way to adjust your priorities is to run a time audit of your team. Ask each member to record how they spent their time over an average week. You can then work with them to figure out how to remove tasks from their plates. Low-hanging fruit includes manual input, work that no one sees or failure work—where tasks are redone multiple times. 

After running an audit for one team we found they spent way more time cleaning up data rather than using it. We figured out what was causing the errors and duplication, solving them through formulas and other measures. They were able to shift around 20 hours to other tasks. Many teams have similar hidden opportunities.

Digital-First Means Being Lean

Being digitally savvy isn’t about hiring as many people as possible. Digital channels offer the ability to be lean as you scale. Think of influencers who run channels with millions of views out of their parent’s basement. They have a lean but effective production. Years ago, the Instagram team had less than 100 people before being acquired by Facebook.

As you shift into digital, you have the opportunity to restructure your marketing teams and take advantage of trends like no-code. The first step is to expand your frame. After that, you might see more opportunities.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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About The Author

Ruben Ugarte is the global expert in Decisions, Strategy, and Data and author of the Data Mirage and Bulletproof Decisions. He helps executives at the most innovative medium and large enterprises find their hidden treasures and use them to dramatically boost performance, increase profitability, and make their teams world-class. He has done this across five continents and in three languages. His ideas have helped hundreds of thousands of people make better decisions.

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