Published: 29th Apr 2021

iOS 14 - Apple's war on data privacy

Jack Power - Digital Marketing Executive

iOS 14.5 is finally here, but it's not come without its entourage of noise.

For many weeks, digital marketers have been awaiting the release of THE iOS update that is expected to rock the social advertising world, causing many to predict the impact it will have on social advertisers’ campaign performance. So let's take a look at what effect it is likely to have.


So, in case you missed it, what is iOS 14.5?

iOS 14.5 is the latest Apple update, featuring a whole host of new features for compatible Apple devices, from the end of Siri's default voice to being able to unlock your phone using Face ID while wearing a facemask.

However, the update also features the hotly anticipated and well documented App Tracking Transparency feature, which is aimed at increasing the control users have over their data online. The feature allows users to opt-in to allow apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok and Pinterest to track their activity across other apps and websites using a single pop-up when a user opens the app after updating their device.


Tim Cook's original tweet introducing Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature.


But why has iOS 14.5 worried so many digital marketers?

Tracking and targeting...and the potential lack of! The update is likely to limit the ability of advertisers to accurately target users based on online behavioural trends on social apps and attribute valuable actions to specific user groups and campaigns. This is likely to have a knock-on effect when striving for gold star ROI’s and prove social’s place as an ultra-efficient direct-response advertising channel.

While it's unsure how many users will choose not to be tracked by an app, it is expected that a large proportion of users will click the 'Ask App not to Track' button - partly as a result of increased scepticism of data handling by the likes of Google and Facebook.

Even if we don't know how many users will opt-out, with 19.7 million iPhone users in the UK, it's a dead cert that many users will drop off the radar and this will have real consequences when managing social ads. So, what are the consequences and what can we do about it?


The consequences of iOS 14.5

Retargeting is one strategy that will be heavily impacted. Until now, retargeting has been relatively free from restrictions. As long as there has been a place to retarget, i.e., Facebook or Instagram, it has been possible to retarget vast swathes of your previous website visitors to re-engage and entice users back to your site. However, with many choosing to opt-out of tracking, these retargeting audiences are likely going to shrink, leading to a reduction in the effectiveness of retargeting campaigns in the future.

Advertisers promoting app downloads will be restricted as a result of the newly introduced SKAdNetwork API This will mean:

  • They will only be allowed to run a maximum of nine campaigns using five ad sets per campaign for each ad account,

  • Reporting will be delayed for up to three days from the point at which the app is downloaded.

  • Uplift measurement will be unavailable for iOS 14 App Install and App Event campaigns.

There is also the potential for CPM's, CPC's and CPA's to increase as a result of an overall reduction in the number of users advertisers can target based on behavioural trends and therefore an increased level of competition when trying to place ads in front of specific audiences is likely. While we can’t know exactly how much costs will rise, we advise keeping an eye on performance over the coming months to ensure you maintain control over your ad spend.

Since Apple announced their App Tracking Transparency feature, Facebook have been at panic stations working on ways to minimise the impact this will have on advertisers. Facebook’s answer is the introduction of a bunch of different measures that have already been put in place.

One element of the changes is that Facebook and Instagram's attribution windows are shrinking, meaning that click-through attribution has moved from 28 days to 7 days, and view-through attribution has moved from 7 days to 1 day. With a smaller attribution window, the number of conversions Facebook takes credit for will be reduced, meaning overall results may be down if consumers generally take longer than 7 days to convert. This is usually experienced by brands selling products that have a greater amount of consideration attached, typically being big-ticket items.

Facebook has also introduced a limit on the number of conversion metrics advertisers can track, moving from an unlimited number to just 8 conversion metrics per domain. Facebook are also requesting that all advertisers verify their domains to protect the integrity of publishers’ content.


What can we do about it?

  1. Focus on your CRM data to build out your own remarketing lists. While this has always been best practice, putting emphasis on building your database of first-party data will only set your business up for long-term success.

  2. Verify your website that your ads are delivering traffic to. As part of Facebook's changes to advertising, Facebook is requesting that all advertisers verify the domains accounts are using for their adverts. Although this doesn't seem to be critical, this could pose problems in the future regarding your adverts' legitimacy, so we advise getting your domains verified as soon as possible.

  3. Monitor ad frequency and therefore the efficiency of ad spend specifically for retargeting campaigns and campaigns targeting small target audiences. As audience sizes begin to shrink for those using online behaviours to build out their segmented audiences, monitoring frequency to ensure it does not rocket above an efficient level will be vital to ensure ad spend does not go to waste.

  4. Find new ways to target users that you're missing out on. As users must specify their preference to tracking on each social app, there may be irregularities that could pose opportunities for brands to target users that have, for example, opted out of tracking on Facebook and Instagram but opted-in on LinkedIn and Pinterest. Linking to the previous point, monitoring ad spend across social ad platforms could allow advertisers to divert potentially wasted spend from one channel to explore opportunities on a different channel.

  5. Understand that a drop off in conversions in your Facebook Ad Manager account does not necessarily mean a drop off in your ad’s effectiveness in driving users to your site and eliciting a conversion. Although the iOS 14.5 update will affect how many conversions Facebook will be able to track, conversion trends from previous ad campaigns will likely remain the same, even if your data doesn’t show it. We recommend comparing the results from your first three months of ads after the release of iOS 14.5 to compare it to your historic data of ad performance prior to the update. This will provide you visibility on how the update has affected your perceived conversion performance and allow you to factor in the difference when reporting on your social ads’ performance going forwards.


What are we doing here at true?

While we are ensuring all the above points are covered, we will be ensuring that all of our marketing plans are aligned to minimise the impact iOS 14.5 will have on our day to day running of our client's paid social as well as website performance. We will also be ensuring that we adhere to our social partner's recommendations and will continue to monitor the effect the update has on performance to ensure we can be as agile as possible to make adjustments where necessary.

To find out more about the impact of iOS 14.5 and how to deal with the continually changing world of digital, please get in touch!

Jack Power - Digital Marketing Executive