If you haven’t heard much about Facebook’s “Audience Network,” you’re not alone – Facebook has been quietly rolling-out an aggressive move into the mobile display arena since early 2014 and the latest milestone is just now showing up in advertisers’ Facebook targeting options. The update was under the much-needed improvement to ad sets. For further background on these changes, we recommend reading Jon Loomer’s article.
Partner Mobile Apps = Facebook Audience Network
App developers, Facebook, and Marketers — Rejoice! Previously, Facebook only allowed use of its data within a walled garden. The garden walls have now expanded into a broader domain, with Facebook Ad reach branching out onto non-Facebook mobile apps. This move is in direct competition with Google, Yahoo! and Twitter (more on that in an upcoming blog post). At first scent, it stinks of arbitrage. It appears that Facebook is leveraging the high demand of their mobile Newsfeed with a fragmented dime-a-dozen mobile app ecosystem. Downside? Less transparency. Less control. And dirty, brand-hating-Google Display Network quality creative.
App developers have another source of monetization. Marketers can leverage Facebook’s targeting capabilities and can reach their “who” all the more effectively.
What’s the Catch?
Advertisers are automatically opted into the partner network on any new mobile campaigns. Heck, Facebook will do you the favor of retroactively opting-in legacy campaigns starting Jan 1, 2015. We’re still testing performance on the expanded mobile network, but needless to say we are a bit uncomfortable with being auto-opted into an untested display inventory on tactics that may not align with mobile-app placement.
Data without Transparency
Advertisers don’t know where mobile ads ran. No app list. No blacklist possible. This lack of transparency may be a tradeoff some advertisers are willing to make, but given the continual shift towards programmatic display, this seems like a limited short-term wager into untested waters. Media without creative placement control is a hard pill to swallow in 2014.
With “Audience Network,” Facebook holds a unique position in the mobile advertising market, because it’s one of the largest data networks (on par with Epsilon and Axiom). This move demands a re-assessment of the value and approach of leveraging custom audience segments onto an ever-expanding and competitive mobile display marketplace. Accepting the tradeoffs, we believe this is ultimately a positive first step forward for Facebook.
Co-Authors: Doug Harrington and Maggie Grignano