The Future of Facebook’s Audience Network for Healthcare Marketers

The Future of Facebook’s Audience Network for Healthcare Marketers

In January, we wrote about the new Apple iOS 14 update. When exploring the implications of this update, we noted that Facebook’s “Audience Network” would likely see the biggest impact from these updates. As a refresher, the Audience Network are ads bought through the Facebook ad platform, but that show up on other sites and apps.

Based on what we’ve learned since Apple’s iOS 14 update, we can confirm that Facebook’s Audience Network has indeed been the most impacted. We believe it may be time for healthcare marketers to pivot away from the Audience Network platform and stay focused on regular “in-feed” advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. 

Why Did Facebook Remove Some Audience Network Placements? 

Simply put, there were two primary reasons why Facebook has made changes to the Audience Network placements. The first reason is brand safety and effectiveness – their mobile web ad placements are risky “brand safety, ad fraud, viewability concerns — and also a space where Google and others are so dominant,” said an anonymous marketer

But the biggest reason we’re seeing changes is that Apple’s iOS 14 update will have a big impact on the reach of the Audience network.

So What’s Left of the Audience Network?

Facebook has removed a significant number of ad placements of the Audience Network platform due to the Apple update. These are the four ad formats that Facebook supports for the remaining three Audience Network placements.

  1. Native Ads: These are ads where you customize how the ad displays in your app or site so that it looks like it is an integral part of the user experience. Native ads tend to perform better than most other ad types, because they are thoughtfully integrated into your app or site.
  2. Banner Ads: These are smaller ads that appear at the top or bottom of the screen. They perform the least well of all formats, because people are accustomed to ignoring them.
  3. Interstitial Ads: Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that appear during transitions between tasks.
  4. Rewarded Video Ads: Rewarded video ads are a type of video placement for gaming apps that give people playing a game a reward in exchange for watching a video ad.

What Does This Mean For Healthcare Marketers?

First of all, it depends how often you utilize the Audience Network for your healthcare campaigns. As you probably know, Facebook always says that it is best practice to put your ads on all platforms and all placements so that you can get the biggest reach you can across multiple platforms beyond just Facebook. To a degree, this is accurate, especially when you are first starting a campaign — it’s best practice to test your ads across all the platforms and then analyze the data to see where you are performing best. 

Oftentimes, after looking at the reporting by platform breakdown, healthcare marketers will realize that a particular campaign, business, or even industry works better on the Audience Network than any other platform Facebook offers. 

With this information, it’s important now to download your information from Facebook and understand what type of device your prospects and customers are coming from. If they are majority Apple iPhone users, you can expect the results you’ve been getting from the Audience Network to massively drop off. If a majority of your customers are Android users, you still have time to take advantage of the Audience Network until Google finally rolls out the same privacy updates that we now have with Apple (this will happen in less than two years, so start preparing for that now). 

Ad Placement Alternatives Within Facebook

The most important ads to run are the primary in-feed ads in Facebook. These will continue to be the best performers for most healthcare marketers. Facebook proper remains the single highest-reach marketing platform you can buy ads on.

However, the next biggest opportunity is to run Instagram ads. We see many healthcare marketers not taking advantage of running ads on Instagram.  

Facebook does not disclose Instagram’s financials in its earnings, but this year Bloomberg reported the photo-sharing app generated about $20 billion in ad revenue in 2019, citing people familiar with the matter. Overall, Facebook generated $70.7 billion in revenue for 2019. 

In addition to Instagram, advertisers can also buy ads inside of Messenger. We’d recommend exploring this additional placement after you’ve maximized both Facebook and Instagram placements.

Alternatives Outside Of Facebook

There are multiple Audience Network alternatives outside of the Facebook hemisphere that are very similar to Facebook’s audience network if you’ve found Audience Network was working for you. Here are a couple:

  1. Microsoft Audience Network: The Microsoft Audience Network is a native advertising solution similar to the Facebook Audience Network, powered by Microsoft audience intelligence and artificial intelligence. Advertisers can either manage their native advertising spend with their search campaigns – or manager their native advertising campaigns separately from their search campaigns. The Microsoft Audience Network reaches target audiences across Microsoft properties like MSN, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Edge.
  2. Google Display Network: The Google Display Network reaches over 90% of internet users globally across millions of websites, news sites, blogs, and even Google sites like Gmail and YouTube. Like Facebook Audience network, it’s important to be careful with these placements – they often carry the same risks for brand safety and ad fraud.

The Path Forward

Whatever you choose to do moving forward, it’s important to analyze your ad performance to figure out which platforms and placements (and devices) are working, and what you should be funding even more now that your Audience Network costs will eventually fade to zero. 

Facebook has stated that the audience network will likely see up to a 50% decrease in traffic due to the Apple iOS changes. The actual percentage will be specific to your audience based on how many use iPhones vs Android phones. 

Facebook currently has no clear strategy on how to best deal with this upcoming drop in traffic from the Audience Network platform. If you’d like some expert guidance on how to update your Facebook advertising strategy for your business, call us at (214) 396-8500 or schedule a free consultation.

Bill Simpson

Bill Simpson

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