Q&A with Meta Audience Network: Charting the Course from Waterfall to Bidding
Shifting from the inefficiency of waterfalls to bidding has created a more fair, open, and efficient ad ecosystem and is one of the most impactful changes we’ve seen in mobile app monetization over the last few years.
Have you been on the fence about bidding adoption? In this Q&A, we explored the topic with Katherine Gilbert, a Strategic Partner Manager at Meta Audience Network. She offered some helpful implementation considerations for publishers.
We discussed the challenges associated with transitioning from waterfall to bidding, how shifting to bidding has changed in-app performance for publishers using Audience Network as a demand source, and a few tips for those getting started with bidding.
Q (Digital Turbine): Audience Network officially switched to in-app bidding in 2021. What are some of the key trends you’re seeing in publisher performance?
We’ve seen a few key performance trends as bidding has helped publishers maximize their yield and increase operational efficiency. In fact, we recently commissioned IDC to survey more than 500 mobile game business decision-makers worldwide to get a stronger sense of publisher performance. Those surveyed reported these benefits, among others, since adopting in-app bidding:
- Increased revenue (improved ARPDAU): 61%
- Time savings (not having to manage waterfalls): 54%
- Higher fill rates: 53%
- Lower ad latency: 41%
As for a few real-world examples . . . When Voodoo’s user acquisition and game monetization team became aware of our new app bidding solution, they started testing bidding across various games. To evaluate bidding performance, they ran an 18-day A/B test across both rewarded video and interstitial formats and platforms, mainly monitoring ARPDAU. After this test, Voodoo saw a significant ARPDAU uplift and a positive impact on reducing latency, and their team has since decided to shift 100% of their inventory to bidding.
Additionally, with the operational efficiencies associated with shifting to bidding, we’ve seen many publishers gain more time and resources to focus on user acquisition. Hypercasual publisher Supersonic Studios had been struggling with the complexity of managing dozens of waterfalls and decided to adopt in-app bidding with Audience Network. This has enabled them to maximize the results of their user acquisition, creative testing, and monetization activities.
Q (Digital Turbine): For many, the biggest hill to climb is moving from waterfall to bidding. What did Audience Network do to make the publishers’ transition as smooth as possible?
Since we launched our first bidding impression, it’s been a priority to make bidding accessible industry-wide. We have developed a comprehensive “getting started with bidding” hub where publishers can integrate bidding through one of our app ecosystem partners, including Digital Turbine. We also have developed a bidding kit solution for those who manage their monetization tech in-house. And through this process, we’ve continued to see app bidding adoption grow globally. In a recent survey we conducted with IDC, 99% of developers using ads noted that they already use bidding, while just 1% used waterfalls only.
Overall, our publisher education initiatives have played a role in helping game businesses shift their mindset to a more transparent and efficient approach through bidding. We’ve spoken to several leading app publishers from across the globe to understand how bidding has impacted their businesses, both financially and operationally, and sharing these success stories has helped inspire others.
True to our original vision of supporting the long-term health of the developer ecosystem, becoming a bidding demand source has become a key milestone.
Q (Digital Turbine): Any tips for game businesses getting started with bidding?
Absolutely. Here are five best practices that game businesses 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 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 to run in parallel. The two winners should then compete for the impression. Mediation platforms, like DT FairBid, can help streamline this type of integration.
- 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.
- 5. 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 revenue per request.
Q (Digital Turbine): What key takeaways should publishers remember as they consider the shift to bidding?
Sure, a few things:
Increased operational efficiency can have a tremendous impact on their growth trajectory.
By not having to manage complex waterfalls manually, publishers tell us that they are thrilled to be able to reallocate their time and resources to more impactful areas of the business. With bidding, teams gain more time to optimize their app experience, introduce new titles and optimize in-app engagement, all of which are important to building long-term sustainable businesses.
Additional resources can be allocated to focus on user acquisition.
Bidding can also help publishers prioritize user acquisition by ensuring ad monetization runs smoothly. Growing an app’s audience base is a critical business goal of any publisher, and more users lead to more monetization opportunities, revenue, and options to reinvest gains.