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Diving into in-app bidding: Q&A with Facebook Audience Network

Following our announcement to add Facebook Audience Network as a bidder to LevelPlay in-app bidding, we sat down with Amit Bhojwani, Head of Partnerships for Facebook Audience Network, to discuss the future of monetization, bidding's impact on the gaming industry, and tips for optimizing the bidding waterfall.

Continue reading for a transcript of the conversation with Amit on all things in-app bidding.

What does in-app bidding mean for mobile game developers?

Amit Bhojwani: For mobile game developers, app bidding enables every demand source to bid in an open and fair real-time auction. This increases competition for every impression opportunity and creates better value for the publisher’s inventory. 

App bidding presents developers and publishers with opportunities for incremental gains in both monetization revenue and operational efficiency. 

On the financial side, developers have experienced a significant increase in their ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user) when switching from waterfall to bidding. For example, Pixel Federation saw an 11% increase in ARPDAU after adopting bidding on their TrainStation 2 app.

The benefits of app bidding go beyond growing revenue though. By removing the burden of maintaining complex waterfalls, bidding helps developers and publishers increase operational efficiency. This enables teams to focus on driving more impact where it matters most. We’ve seen this translate into key efficiency gains for developers, including having more time to improve ad experiences, introduce new titles and focus on UA to grow their player base. 

These benefits are why we are seeing strong adoption of bidding. In fact, in the last year alone,  the number of apps using bidding with Audience Network is 7X larger. Further, of all publishers that have adopted bidding with us, half now earn the majority of their Audience Network revenue via bidding rather than through waterfall mediation.

How will in-app bidding impact the mobile game industry as a whole? How do you think it will impact mobile game operations beyond just the monetization teams?

AB: In our recent report, The New Era of Ad Monetization: How App Bidding is Transforming Businesses, we spoke to leading game developers and publishers from around the world to find out how bidding impacted their businesses with an in-depth look at the operational benefits. 

For the publishers we spoke with, we learned that replacing the waterfall with bidding meant they had more time to improve app experiences, the freedom to integrate more demand partners easily, and more resources to focus on UA and the customer experience

In the highly-competitive game industry in particular, freeing up more resources to focus on UA can be hugely impactful to driving game growth. More users lead to more monetization opportunities, revenue, and options to reinvest gains to expand their footprint and gaming portfolio even further. 

What are some of the advantages of using app bidding with Facebook Audience Network?

AB: We see bidding as a way to foster a more fair and open ecosystem and it is an approach that provides real benefits for developers and publishers. Using bidding with Audience Network enables access to our advertiser demand, the highest price for each impression, and significantly reduces the burden of maintaining complex waterfalls. 

Since 2017 when Audience Network launched our first impressions via bidding, it’s been a priority for us to make bidding accessible for publishers in the best way that works for their business. This is why we have bidding solutions for publishers that manage their monetization technology in house as well as for those managed by a select group of companies through our partner program - which includes ironSource. Our partners agree to our code of conduct, with the goal of supporting the long term health of the ecosystem for people, publishers and advertisers. 

Should we expect the waterfall to be history in the future? What’s needed from the industry to make that happen?

AB: We’ve seen bidding gain tremendous momentum over the last year, as more publishers, demand sources and mediation platforms are making it a priority for their businesses. It’s where the industry is headed and we are excited for what lies ahead in a bidding-first and bidding-only future. 

Publishers should make sure that the demand partners they are working with either have a bidder or are in active development of building one. Brian Truman, Executive Director, Digital Ad Revenue and Operations at GSN Games, recently stated in our webinar: "We will get to where a majority of the networks or the best networks are supporting this (full bidding) and I am taking the position that if you are a network not supporting bidding for GSN by the end of the year, you are not going to get access to the inventory."

This is a clear signal to the market that bidding is becoming the new normal in ad monetization and the pace of change is set to continue. 

What are some best practices to make sure developers are leveraging bidding to maximum effect? 

AB: There are five key best practices that developers should keep in mind when getting started with app bidding. 

  1. Establish auction density. Ensure that a sufficient number of demand sources are bidding in every auction to help you garner the highest bid.
  2. Build a smart hybrid setup. While publishers migrate to bidding, some will need to maintain both waterfall and bidding simultaneously. For an optimal hybrid bidding integration, merge the bidding auction and the waterfall so they run in parallel. The two winners should then compete for the impression.
  3. Test on a stable app. This means an existing app with stable metrics and a significant volume of impressions. Ideally, publishers should also test on high-performing formats, such as rewarded video.
  4. Use A/B tests. Since outside variables are less likely to influence the outcome, A/B tests make it easier to learn the amount of revenue attributable to bidding and are preferred over pre/post tests.

ARPDAU is the key metric. When measuring performance, look at ARPDAU and not individual network CPMs. ARPDAU provides publishers with a holistic metric to measure the revenue generated from each user and accurately determine bidding’s impact.

Let's put these tips to good use

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