App Advertisers Give Low Marks To Facebook’s Instant Articles And Audience Network

Apps lean heavily on Facebook for their paid user acquisition efforts, but they also want more control over how and where their ads run.

And Instant Articles? No thanks.

When Pixelfederation, a game studio based in Slovakia, tested Instant Articles, the return was nil.

“The impressions were almost nonexistent, and all of the impressions we got were ROI negative,” Matej Lancaric, Pixelfederation’s head of mobile marketing, said at the Mobile Growth Summit in San Francisco last week.

Pixelfederation has since excluded Instant Articles from its campaigns. More traditional web publishers are doing the same. Thirty-eight of Facebook’s 72 original launch partners on Instant Articles no longer use the format, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

The best results on Facebook are still found in the news feed. HomeAdvisor, a home services marketplace owned by IAC, shies away from Audience Network, which extends ad campaigns to sites and apps beyond Facebook across mobile and desktop, including Instant Articles.

“When we tested Audience Network, we saw such a decrease in click-through rate and the quality of users, it didn’t make any logical sense for us,” said Cassandra Chernin, HomeAdvisor’s senior digital marketing manager.

That said, Facebook is continuously tweaking its platform, Chernin said, so HomeAdvisor regularly revisits and retests different features.

“If we find something doesn’t work, we always turn it off,” she said. “But it might be relevant in two or three months. Facebook moves so fast, and they’re improving every day.”

That’s why FreshPlanet, a casual gaming studio headquartered in NYC, is happy to let Facebook’s algorithm do its own thing, at least when it comes to automated placement selection.

Back when Instagram ads were new, FreshPlanet wasn’t driving great results, “but Facebook figured that out, and I expect to see that happen with Audience Network,” said Shamanth Rao, FreshPlanet’s VP of growth. “It will improve over time, and with that in mind, I definitely see value in keeping one foot into all of those places, so we can be prepared.”

FreshPlanet isn’t always so trusting, though, and sometimes it needs to exert control.

For example, over the past four months, FreshPlanet has put 100% of its budget toward app event optimization, a Facebook product that lets developers target the users most likely to take a specific in-app action after a download, such as an in-app purchase or reaching a certain level in a game.

The default option for app event optimization within Power Editor claims to generate the largest possible number of purchases for whatever the budget is set for.

But FreshPlanet sees better results when it exercises more manual control over the bidding, Rao said.

“We give Facebook the bids, but we tweak and change the bids multiple times a day,” he said. “You don’t want to tell a machine to do your job.”

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