Facebook Audience Network to Go Bidding-Only for iOS in Q2 2021

The transition was accelerated by impending updates to iOS 14 preventing it from collecting IDFAs

Apple's iOS 14 is forcing Facebook Audience Network to speed up a move to bidding Apple
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Facebook responded to impending changes in Apple’s iOS 14 operating system by saying Friday that its Facebook Audience Network mobile application monetization platform will exclusively use bidding to fill ads in iOS apps beginning in the second quarter of 2021.

The social network said its goal when it first began testing bidding on Audience Network in March 2017 was to eventually migrate the platform to a bidding-only demand source, and Apple’s iOS 14 updates accelerated the process.

iPhone identifiers, or iDFAs, are at the center of the conflict between the two tech giants, as Apple’s updates will prevent Facebook from collecting them.

Facebook explained in a blog post Friday, “As past network performance becomes less relevant, waterfall management on iOS 14 will become more complex. Bidding can help publishers ensure that they are getting the best price for every impression—even as networks adapt to improve performance—and will help reduce costly time spent managing waterfalls.”

The social network said in August, when details on iOS 14 began emerging, that if Audience Network was unable to collect IDFAs, its ability to serve personalized, in-app ads to iPhone users would be severely constrained, preventing it from charging higher CPMs (cost per thousand impressions).

Facebook sees upcoming versions of iOS 14 implementing a two-tier system for developers—higher-valued impressions and averaged-out, less predictable, lower-valued impressions—and it believes waterfall-powered systems are “poorly placed to maximize earnings for publishers in this environment.”

The social network said Audience Network was on track for bidding to represent roughly one-half of transacted revenue before the end of the year, admitting that Apple’s moves greatly accelerated its timeline.

Publishers and developers must migrate their iOS apps to bidding by March 31, 2021, in order to continue monetizing via Audience Network, and they should contact their Audience Network representatives to do so.

Once this is done, bidding can be accessed via Audience Network’s in-house solution or by working with its app ecosystem partners.

Facebook wrote, “We’ll continue to support waterfall and bidding for Android apps for the time being. However, we recommend migrating to bidding to take full advantage of the revenue maximization and operational efficiency. We passionately believe in-app bidding delivers a more efficient system for publishers, and we expect to move all of our demand over.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.