In June 2020, Apple announced iOS 14 policy updates that will reduce the ability for advertisers to target and report on apps and website conversion events. These changes are set to launch at some point in January 2021 (date TBD) and will dramatically change the way we approach conversion tracking.
The announcement prompted a backlash from Facebook, who publicly denounced the update as hurting small businesses. Regardless of its stance, Facebook must comply and many Facebook ad accounts will now need to take immediate action in order to ensure a smooth transition. Read on to find out:
As of 2021, apps in Apple’s App Store will show a prompt to iOS 14 devices, using the AppTrackingTransparency Framework (ATT). This prompt will ask for the user’s permission to track them across third-party apps and websites. Certain data collection and sharing will also be prevented if iOS 14 users opt-out of tracking on their devices.
Apple has also announced a new protocol for web attribution called Private Click Measurement (PCM) that will restrict data that can be shared across platforms. PCM does not support app-to-web conversion measurement or cross-domain measurement. This means that advertisers with different product domains or regional domains will no longer have access to these metrics.
These changes will impact ad performance across various platforms, including Facebook. Ad platforms will now need to leverage new frameworks to restrict, aggregate, and delay data and event reporting.
What was Facebook’s response to the iOS 14 updates?
Although Facebook was originally on board with the plan, in December of 2020 they made a statement condemning the ATT implementation, citing it as an attack on small businesses.
“Apple’s new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.” – Dan Levy, VP of Ads and Business Products at Facebook
However, by not giving in to the new policy, Facebook is prevented from appearing in the App Store. Because of this, Facebook and Instagram have agreed to adopt the policy restrictions, although they continue to strongly disagree with Apple’s approach.
Facebook’s stance is that:
The updates will diminish user experience, with ads having less of an ability to tailor messaging to users.
Apps that rely on advertisers to support free content are also harmed by these updates.
Free apps may disappear and the cost of paid apps will likely go up.
In response, Facebook has been working on introducing its Aggregated Events Measurement (AEM) to abide by the new policy updates and help advertisers measure events from iOS 14 devices. AEM follows Apple’s policies by aggregating, limiting, and delaying data.
Aggregating: in some instances, Facebook will not measure ad results at the user level,
Limiting: Facebook will have restricted access to certain types of data.
Delaying: Facebook will only be able to report events once they are received by Apple (within 24-48 hours after they have occurred).
By using AEM, Facebook will not solve all the impacts of Apple’s new protocol. However, it will help fill in some gaps, such as app-web attribution.
In the coming months, Facebook’s team will also be working on ways to use AEM in order to solve PCM’s cross-domain measurement restrictions.
What does it mean to Facebook advertisers?
This update will affect all advertisers– not simply those running mobile app campaigns.
There will be an 8-Event limitation per domain across all Facebook Pixels. Advertisers who currently have more than 8 events, can still use the additional events for custom audience targeting. However, there will be some limited data for these events. They will need to choose 8 events (which can be swapped at any time) for their campaign optimizations and reporting.
These 8 events will need to be selected and ranked by priority in Business Manager within a new tool that Facebook will be launching. Facebook will by-default prioritize the events by spend. This way advertisers will need to access the new tool to make updates. No changes to the Pixel code are required at this time.
Optimizations and Targeting
If and when people opt-out of tracking on iOS 14 devices, the size of audiences that can be tracked becomes limited (including remarketing).
The removal of event attribution will also impact targeting, making prospecting less effective.
Advertisers will need to look at ways to grow their audience pool by broadening their targeting and conversion windows.
Reporting will be limited with the removal of 28-day attribution and reduced View Through data.
For reported conversions, there will no longer be an option to breakdowns the data by user demographics (since data is aggregated). However, the breakdowns will be available to other metrics such as link clicks and impressions.
These updates will also greatly affect the Audience Network placements since they depend on app advertising. More details on this can be found here.
How can Facebook advertisers prepare?
It is important for advertisers to follow policy updates as they are released by Apple, Facebook, and other advertising platforms. The iOS 14 update is an example of one of the many upcoming changes that will impact the way we target, report, and optimize as marketers.
Other advertising platforms outside of Facebook may have their own approach to navigate policy changes. This will be interesting to see similarities and differences in the steps they take.
Immediate action required:
All Facebook advertisers should ensure their domain is verified in Facebook Business Manager.
All Facebook advertisers should prepare and define the priority of their various conversion events (e.g. “add to cart”, “purchase”), to prepare for the limitation of 8 Pixel events per Domain.
All Facebook advertisers should anticipate changes to the attribution windows and update their automated rules if applicable.
Advertisers should all review their current optimization strategies and consider testing alternative audience targeting or different bid strategies given the updates.
All Facebook mobile app advertisers should be updating to Facebook’s iOS 14 version 8.1 (to support Apple’s SKAdNetwork API).
A handy checklist with full details can be found here.
The landscape of digital advertising is always evolving and subject to change. Although this update may seem like a blockade, it’s also an important part of your agility as a marketer. Take the actions required, run some new tests, and find out how you can use this update to continue servicing your clients effectively. Preparing yourself now means you’ll be better set up for the future.
If you have any questions about the update and how it will affect your ongoing campaigns, reach out to our team who will be happy to help set you up for success.