The core of Apple’s targetable ad system, Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is one of the most accurate means of tracking iOS users. This randomly-generated and generally anonymous tag allows advertisers to track and identify users as they interact with mobile advertising campaigns on Apple devices; however, it has come under increasing scrutiny amid consumer privacy concerns. As a result, Apple’s recent iOS 14 launch included a major privacy update that limits tracking across apps and websites. Designed to improve transparency and control, the new privacy features require users to opt-in to data tracking. This profound shift from the traditional model of requiring users to opt-out will affect all advertisers and every digital platform.
The new privacy features include three policies for apps:
- Apps must submit information about their app’s data collection practices through Apple’s App Store Connect.
- Apps must ask users permission to track them across third-party apps and websites through Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) Framework. ATT is a prompt that will pop up asking users for their permission. The prompt will be configured by the app, not by the advertiser.
- Apps without user opt-in will need to use a new framework adhering to Apple guidelines which will restrict data, aggregate some data and cause delays in event reporting for advertising purposes. Each platform will have variances in the data they can capture and report on due to the limitations required by Apple’s new policy. Like the ATT prompt, the new framework will be implemented by the app, not the advertiser.
Each social platform will have a different approach for how advertisers should move forward. This is a massive industry change, and while the platforms have been able to provide next steps for advertisers, there are still unanswered questions. Below is a summary of how some of the most popular social platforms will address the policy rollout based on what we know today. Our social, planning and analytics teams are working closely together to assist clients through the transition.
Facebook has outlined an initial roadmap to help advertisers navigate impacted areas. Both Facebook and Instagram will be adopting Apple’s ATT prompt requesting permission to track and will also enact Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM). This will align with Apple’s policy which restricts, aggregates and delays data usage. These changes will impact Facebook Business tools and event setup, optimization, targeting and measurement.
ATT Prompt Implications
If a user opts in through the prompt, there will be no change in data use. However, if a user opts out, then Facebook will use AEM which will restrict, aggregate and delay event attribution. This will also apply to advertisers using the Software Development Kit (SDK) to track and measure in-app actions. If a person opts into BOTH Facebook and the third-party app there will be no change in data usage. However, if a user opts out of one or both apps, the conversion data shared through Facebook’s business tools may be restricted, aggregated and delayed. Facebook will be applying these prompts on all operating systems and not just iOS 14. If a user opts out, it could potentially exclude them from being included in a custom audience.
Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM)
AEM helps advertisers measure campaign performance while complying with consumers’ decisions about their data. Advertisers will need to prioritize eight conversion events per domain to collect data. If a user opts out, the highest ranked conversion event, per the prioritization, will be recorded. For example, if an advertiser has “purchase” as the top priority and “add to cart” as the second, when a user makes a purchase from an ad, only the purchase conversion will be recorded. As a result, campaigns will need to be optimized to one of the eight priority conversions.
On January 19, the default attribution window in Facebook changed from a 28-day click/1-day view to a 7-day click/1-day view. The 28-day attribution window will be accessible for past campaigns until the iOS 14 ATT prompt goes into effect. Although it will vary by advertiser, Facebook has stated this attribution change could cause up to a 10 percent decrease in conversions. Our social and analytics teams are working together to forecast the expected impact for each Mindstream client.
Snapchat will also support Apple’s SKAdNetwork, an API that helps advertisers measure the success of ad campaigns while maintaining user privacy. A closed beta was completed in the fourth quarter of 2020 and should be available soon. Reporting will be provided in Ads Manager and Mobile Measurement Partner dashboards.
Efforts are currently underway to create more, but two tools are currently available to help advertisers maximize their efforts using their own first-party data.
Snap App ID
The Snap App ID is a unique code that authenticates ownership of the app to ensure control and privacy of the data. It will unlock new features such as self-serve mobile app custom audiences, app re-engagement goal-based bidding, tracking toggle and dynamic ads with more coming soon.
The conversion API will allow advertisers to pass web, app (if Snap App ID is enacted) and offline events to Snapchat via a server-to-server integration. Depending on the information shared via the API, there are solutions for custom audience targeting, campaign optimization and dynamic ads.
Although Android audiences will not be affected, Pinterest does anticipate a decline in Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) available for measurement and targeting due to iOS 14; however, they do not expect any immediate impact on conversions passed through the Pinterest tag for web-based events. Rather than relying on IDFA, Pinterest is suggesting advertisers use emails for audience targeting lists. The Pinterest Conversion API or Conversion upload solution can also be used to pass mobile conversion events through.
For App Install campaigns, Reddit will only target users who authorize Reddit to use their information for advertising purposes. For ad groups targeting iOS 13 or lower, Reddit will proceed with their current method for reporting. For ad groups targeting iOS 14 and above, Reddit will use the SKAdNetwork implementation. The internal team at Reddit is still evaluating how non-app install campaigns will be affected and what next steps should be.
The new privacy regulations featured in Apple’s iOS 14 will significantly impact advertisers’ ability to target campaigns to specific user groups. This combined with the phase-out of third-party cookies by Safari, Firefox and Chrome has created a challenge for digital marketers and marks the end of the way many measure performance. At Mindstream Media Group, we’re working diligently to identify alternative solutions, assist clients with configuration updates and define optimization strategies to ensure efficient campaign management.