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Apple iOS14: What it Means for Advertisers

Insights / 04.28.2021
Red Door /

The time has finally come. On April 26, Apple released its iOS 14.5 update, which prioritizes and enforces its new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policies. In short, the move is a game-changer for advertisers.

WHAT IS THE APPLE IOS14.5 UPDATE?

In September 2020, Apple announced sweeping changes to its mobile operating system, iOS 14. Eventually it became known that it would happen with the iOS 14.5 update, which includes a variety of data and privacy changes. The most notable is Apple’s decision to require mobile apps to ask users for permission to collect and share data using Apple’s device identifier, also known as app tracking transparency (ATT). Rather than the traditional “opt-out” option for data collection, users will now have to “opt-in” to data tracking on each website or app. 

FIRST, SOME HISTORY TO SET THE STAGE

To this point, Apple has used iPhone Identifiers for Advertisers (IDFA) to assign a random number to each device. Apps, including publishers of online content such as Facebook, Google, and many news outlets, reference these numbers to tie together user activity and behavior to target users. In the past, IDFAs have made it easy for marketers to create targeted ad placements and product recommendations. But with this update, IDFAs will not be applied to a device unless the user has chosen to opt-in. 

WHY APPLE MADE THE UPDATE

A critical aspect of free app marketplaces is the ability to collect and sell data to advertisers. If you’re not paying for a product, you (the user) — and your data — are likely the product. This privacy feature Apple has added has the potential to severely weaken the ad targeting business. The short of it is that the update is bad for hyper-targeting, but good for most users.

Here are some notable implications for marketers:

  • Apple's update potentially impacts ad effectiveness and limitations on ad measurement for  advertisers.

  • If we assume that 50% of users are iOS and 50% are android, we can expect up to 25% of the total data collected from IDFAs by platforms such as  Facebook and Google will be  affected. 

  • When an IDFA is not present, advertisers cannot leverage a frequency cap on media. Additionally, without an IDFA, advertisers cannot segment or target users behaviorally, making it even more of a challenge to show users relevant ads.

  • If you are only using IDFA, you won’t be able to retarget ads to users who visited your website from an iOS 14 device. Facebook and Google have other identifiers, such as email addresses and phone numbers, that can help to identify devices when an IDFA is not available.

  • Data that includes demographic breakdowns for app installs will be unavailable and any reporting surrounding app installs will be delayed 24-48 hours.

TACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ADVERTISERS

With changes of this scale to a pillar of ad tracking for a whole category of mobile devices, there will be a wide-range of potential impacts. Possibilities include the following:

  • Conversion reporting, especially in Facebook, will now be reported at the time of conversion, not the time of ad interaction and it will be aggregated at the campaign level. This shift to time-of-conversion reporting will have varying degrees of impact. Facebook suggests metrics like cost-per-conversion will see small fluctuations. However, the degree to which metrics shift will be highly dependent upon the campaign objective and audience. Longer gaps between spend and conversion will have an exponential, negative impact on the reliability of spend efficiency metrics. 

  • Campaign optimization will be less agile, requiring longer periods (of less efficient spend) to reach statistical significance and eliminate date-offset bias when comparing campaign performance. We recommend conversion modeling to determine conversion predictors, and tracking solutions that can reduce bias presented by the offset of spend and conversion data.

ACTIONS FOR MARKETERS

With iOS 14.5 now live, it’s important for advertisers to closely monitor performance across all channels to determine if additional optimizations and/or shifts are required. Generally speaking, advertisers should keep the following in mind:

  • As noted earlier, we recommend the implementation of conversion modeling to mitigate some aspects of this update.

  • In light of these shifts, we also expect the growing trend towards “incrementality” over traditional attribution modeling will accelerate.

  • It is important to know that the SKAD (StoreKit Ad Network) window will not have an attribution window and will, instead, be "last-click."

Recommended Updates for Google Platform Campaigns

As a Premier Google Partner, Google has shared the following recommendations with us. Additionally, Google has created a new ATT-compliant parameter and conversion modeling solution for their platforms.

Apps-focused updates:

  1. Consolidate to 8 or fewer app install campaigns for each of your iOS apps to maintain optimal performance

  2. Implement SKAdnetwork by upgrading to the latest version of Google Analytics for Firebase

  3. Migrate App campaigns off tROAS to tCPA

Web-focused updates:

  1. Ensure you have implemented a first-party Google tag on your website, such as gtag.js or deploying GA, Floodlight, or Google Ads via Google Tag Manager. (If deployed via GTM, you *must* deploy a Conversion Linker tag to ensure data continuity in some browsers.)

  2. Check to ensure that your website allows arbitrary URL parameters

  3. Enable audience expansion or targeting expansion on Remarketing and Customer Match campaigns and/or include similar audiences to recuperate any lost reach

Additional iOS 14 Google resources:

Recommended Updates for Facebook Platform Campaigns

  • Capture user emails whenever possible to get around the removal of IDFA, at least for platforms where data can be joined. On your website, when user emails are known, these can be hashed and sent within the Facebook pixel. Facebook can then join this data to provide similar targeted advertising without reliance on IDFA. 

  • Facebook has asked advertisers promoting their own mobile application to update their app with Facebook's SDK (Software Development Kit) for iOS 14 and to utilize the Facebook SDK API to further help personalize ads to users with an iOS 14 device. This will also allow for advertisers to review how many leads or purchases come directly from iOS.

  • Prepare to verify domains  to operate with a maximum of 8 pixel events per domain based on your business objectives in Facebook. When verifying domains, it's important to rank the top 8 events that are relevant. Events  left unranked will stop collecting  data. How domains are structured matters. CCTLDs such as example.com, example.de, example.ca, etc. will get 8 events each. However, sites that use directories to separate out country versions (example.com/fr, example.com/uk, etc.) will get 8 events total. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

We’ll begin to see exactly how things will be impacted over the next few weeks and will continue to update this post as more information becomes available to us. Still not sure what this update means for your media efforts? Reach out! We’re here to help navigate the impacts and determine the appropriate platform updates required for your media program.

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