After announcing its mobile ad network at F8 in April 2014, Facebook launched “Audience Network” in October that let any advertiser buy any third-party app hosted ads powered by its targeting data. According to Facebook, Audience Network isn’t a separate ad inventory but “a simple way to extend Facebook advertising buys across mobile apps to increase relevancy for people, yield for publishers, and results for advertisers” using the same Facebook biographical, interest, and activity targeting data.
Facebook states that since the launch of Audience Network, it has provided publishers and developers with engaging, high performing ad units backed by Facebook’s two million advertisers. Facebook now has rolled out a significant expansion of ad types and formats available in the Audience Network. It’s opening up its own best-performing ad units to publishers that show Facebook’s Audience Network ads to monetize their apps.
Starting today, by upgrading to the latest SDK for iOS and Android and utilizing the new MediaView, publishers can now bring the auto-play video ads experience from Facebook directly to their apps. Video demand will also compete with native display in the same auction to maximize yield for each impression served.
Facebook is also adding three interstitial ad units to the Audience Network for publishers. Publishers using full screen interstitial will be able to deliver dynamic product ads, carousel ads and click-to-play video without any changes to their existing setups.
Dynamic Product Ads enables advertisers to create relevant and timely ads based on the products people have visited in their website or app. Carousel Ads will give the ability to showcase five images within a single ad unit, enabling advertisers to showcase compelling creatives. The third offering click-to-play video offers full screen interstitial while giving complete control over the experience.
Facebook’s spent years improving its ad user experience so videos don’t stutter when you scroll. Speaking to TC, Product Marketing Manager Brett Vogel states that getting access to the slick auto-play video ads was “the number one thing” publishers were asking for. Now Facebook’s passing this ad tech on to its partners so they can both make more money through the Audience Network revenue share. The shift is working. Eighty percent of Audience Network impressions are for native ads, up swiftly from 60 percent in March.
Facebook has been testing the ad formats over a period of six months and has seen increased publisher adoption of native ads with ~5x more apps now using native ads than the start of 2015. In fact, native ads represent over 80% of impressions in the Audience Network.
While it’s obviously beneficial for developers to gain access to Facebook’s video advertising tools, the move could actually be a bid to show less ads in the newsfeed, said Tessa Wegert, manager of marketing and communications for Enlighten, a digital marketing strategy agency.
“What’s key to note about this announcement is that it’s actually a step toward showing fewer ads on Facebook itself,” Wegert says. “Like most content publishers, Facebook has always faced some measure of consumer backlash to its ads. By upping revenue on its Audience Network, it can decrease the number of ads in the News Feed and offer a less cluttered, distracting, and invasive site experience.”
Over the time Facebook has mastered the trick of auto-play videos, with its silent auto-play in-feed videos, a format that has advertisers eagerly investing, and one that is also attracting plenty of competitors. Twitter made the same roll out earlier and even Instagram joined the party in the following months.
“Every client I know of that is creating video content is at least finishing out a Facebook version,” said Rye Clifton, director of experience at ad agency GSD&M. “This isn’t to say that people have started gaming the medium like Geico’s unskippable five-second YouTube spots, but we’re thinking about how silent video works on Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and in animated GIFs—all require a subtle difference in storytelling.”