Our Head of Paid Media, Lucy Whittaker, has been taking a look at some of the key implications of the iOS14 roll out. Whilst we’ve taken a broad view here, please get in touch if you have any questions on more specific cases.

As you have no doubt been reading about, Apple is rolling out some changes with iOS14 that will impact digital tracking across all channels. In summary, users that download apps (including Facebook) from the Apple store will now be explicitly prompted to opt-in or out of being tracked by the app. This is instead of the onus being on the user to switch-off tracking in their settings. 

While Facebook is making big noises about the impact this will have, it's worth noting that roughly 20% of iOS users already opted out of this tracking before the explicit prompt.

Nevertheless, Facebook (and your campaigns) are likely to be among the worst hit by the changes, given their reliance on in-app traffic. Direct programmatic campaigns running extensively across mobile networks will also likely see a significant impact. Google’s use of separate tracking- with the GAID; their own OS; and the widespread use of Firebase SDK tracking - make them relatively immune to the changes. They are, however, likely to see some small depreciation in the effectiveness of their own datasets on in-app actions. We’ll therefore be primarily focusing here on Facebook tracking.

UK Facebook users by devices

We don’t know what the opt-in rate will be, with conjecture flying anywhere from 1% to 60%, but what we do know is that 50% of Facebook activity across the UK and North America comes from Apple devices.

What does all this mean for your advertising?

  • Advertising platforms that either run on Apple apps (e.g. Facebook), or that place ads within Apple apps (programmatic display, Google Display Network, Facebook Audience Network) will lose some visibility over the user journey for customers that have opted out.
  • Some metrics will change or become unavailable to those advertising on Apple apps. For Facebook specifically, we know the following:
    • Audience sizes will be reduced. Starting with the worst news first: We’ll have less of a clean division and more overlap between audiences. This means it will be harder to ensure exclusion of all previous convertors from prospecting campaigns. This is one of the key changes that will require more agility in actions, and adapting to the data as you get it. It’s key to rethink your audience strategies and revise best practices to accommodate the changes here.  
    • 28-day post-click attribution is disappearing, with seven-day post-click becoming the default attribution window. One day post view will still be available. Although this might mean a change in reporting (fewer conversions might be reported if you were on 28 days), it won’t actually change the efficacy of advertising too much, or your ability to analyse and optimise. Based on current differences between 28 & seven-day click attribution, you should be able to estimate this reporting difference in advance to inform key stakeholders.
    • Each domain is limited to eight conversion events. This is not eight events per pixel, it is eight events across all activity on one domain, including subdomains. It also includes custom conversions as well as pixel conversions. For brands with multiple business units or objectives, this will require a large amount of collaboration between internal teams and all external agencies to prioritize events. It’s not clear how this is linked to the iOS14 update, but it’s certainly going to be a headache either way.
      • You will still be able to track some additional custom conversions to use for audience targeting.
      • If you are tracking value, you will need to create a value set, which takes up four of your eight events.
  • If more than one pixel event is completed by a user, only the highest priority one will be reported. So if a user adds to cart AND purchases, you will only see data for a purchase. This will have some implications for mid-funnel campaign objectives, e.g. optimizing towards cart additions. On the back of this, you should look to make adjustments on a campaign-by-campaign basis. These would generally fall into the same bucket as the regular testing and adapting and updating your best practices. It will also impact reporting, e.g. understanding drop-off rates from one event to another.
    • Delivery and action breakdowns (such as demographic, platform, geographic) will be unavailable for off-Facebook conversions.  This certainly is a blow because as Facebook advertisers we have become accustomed to this level of insight. However, platform data has always been imperfect, and they’ve always had blind spots. You’ll need to adapt to this as with previous updates and look to find new ways of inferring or understanding these metrics again.
    • Off-Facebook conversions will be reported at the time of the conversion, rather than the time of the ad impression/click. One positive is that this will more closely match how Google Analytics reports, so we’ll gain a level of consistency. It will require a change in mindset on how you report and understand the data, but as with many of the other shifts that have occurred, it should feel like second nature six months in.

Immediate actions needed

First and foremost, Facebook will now require you to verify your business. This is something that will need to be done directly from your own Business Manager rather than your agencies (if you use one). It is a relatively straightforward process, but needs to be done immediately.

If you have an app, make sure that your tracking is ready for these changes, and likewise if you are bulk advertising via programmatic in the iOS app network.

If you have more than eight conversion events, start working with all relevant teams both internal and external to document which pixels and events are being used where, and on what domains.

Verify your business for Facebook - iOS14 paid media

Where are we heading?

A cookie-less future means that the importance of implementing server-side tracking will become ever more pressing. This still isn’t absolutely effective, and Facebook has confirmed that it will face all the same limitations as client-side tracking with iOS14. It will, however, be the focus of new functionality. This is a larger undertaking, which would require advanced dev input, but is worth looking into your options sooner rather than later.

Key takeaways

  • With all of the above, keep in mind that even in our discussions with Facebook themselves, they don’t know exactly how things will pan out and have told us to expect updates throughout 2021 
  • Take a step back and have a think about your marketing being placed across app networks and their potential vulnerability to these changes 
  • Keep a close eye on how data is being processed, and keep the other eye on each platform’s updates to changes
  • Ultimately, platform data has always been imperfect. Recently, we’ve survived ITP, GDPR and CCPA. We’ve learned to live without Google’s average position. We’ve suffered through the ever-decreasing visibility of search terms within Google Ads. That’s to name but a few, all without seeing insurmountable changes to performance. We will also overcome any additional changes by challenging ourselves as marketers and developing tools to fit the current landscape. 

As always, we’re more than happy to talk further on this and answer any questions you might have - you know where to find us!

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