Photo from Unsplash
Apple’s highly contentious iOS 14 App Tracking Transparency (ATT) privacy update is on the cusp of being rolled out. If you haven’t heard about it already, well… it’s a pretty big deal.
Apple is taking its anti-tracking agenda to the next level. Facebook in particular has been taking a very vocal stand against it, as you can see in articles like this one, titled ‘Speaking up for Small Businesses’.
The reaction is understandable – Apple is setting an entirely new precedence in mainstream digital advertising and the implications will be far reaching.
It will mean that businesses who advertise to consumers using iOS 14 devices will see the effectiveness of their digital ad spending drop. It might even limit their business growth. And the platforms that publish adverts will also be negatively affected. Naturally, there’s concern about maintaining their revenues when they can no longer provide the same quality of ad service.
Some believe this is a concerning trend that could ultimately spell the end of the ‘free internet’, with in-app payments or subscriptions becoming a compensatory requirement.
The crux of the update? Apple users will now get an ‘App Tracking Transparency’ pop-up message, asking them if they want to opt into or out of tracking:
Apple’s new privacy pop-up asking users to opt-in to sharing their data.
The AppTracking Transparency Framework is new with the latest iOS 14 privacy update, and will appear for all iOS apps.
This will be an additional layer of privacy on top of the current tracking privacy settings already available to Apple iOS 14 users:
Existing Apple iOS Privacy Features
Until App Tracking Transparency, advertising platforms like Facebook could readily track what Apple users do across multiple third-party platforms, gathering very specific data at an individual level. This allows you, the advertiser, to run highly targeted and personalized advertising campaigns.
However, after the update, ad personalization and performance reporting will become increasingly limited for both web and app conversion events. If you use using dynamic ads for retargeting, you may also see your retargeted audience size and conversion rate decrease.
Needless to say, removing the functionality to serve ads to only those people who are most likely to need or want your services has big implications for the ROI of online ad budgets.
The truth is, at this point in time, there are still many unknowns about how the privacy update will come into play and affect the wider digital ad ecosystem. The information provided by Apple has been rather vague, mostly focussing on the benefits from a user perspective. They’ve said in “early 2021,” iOS apps that collect data for “personalized advertising” will begin displaying the App Tracking Transparency prompt.
Facebook has been by far the most forthcoming advertising publisher in sharing its preparations ahead of the update. As we probably all know, Facebook is the most popular social platform, absolutely dominating the US social media market share. Especially since Instagram’s acquisition.
Credit: Statista, We Are Social
Beyond the sheer number of regular users, Facebooks popularity with advertisers is also due in no small part to its Ad Manager product. The reason it’s such a strong advertising product is the immediate feedback on ad performance, powerful targeting, and superb click + view attribution tracking.
Focusing in on just Facebook specifically, here’s an overview of the immediate impacts for you as an advertiser, and what action you need to take.
We’re also going to focus on advertising that links to web domains. If you run app install campaigns, the implication are different. Facebook has provided information for app developers that you can check out.
Immediate Ad Manager changes
The iOS 14 update has triggered Facebook to implement the following changes across Ads Manager, ads reporting and the Ads Insights API:
Real-time reporting will no longer be supported, and data may now be delayed up to three days. Web conversion events will be reported based on the time the conversions occur and not at the time of the associated ad impressions.
Estimated results reporting:
For web conversion events, statistical modeling may be used to account for conversions from iOS 14 users. We’ll get into that in more detail shortly.
No audience breakdowns:
For both web and app conversions, breakdowns such as age, gender, region and placement will no longer be supported.
Changes to account attribution window settings:
The attribution window for all new/active ad campaigns will be set at the ad set level rather than the account level. (An ad set is a Facebook ads grouping where settings like targeting, scheduling, optimization, and placement are determined.) The new ad set attribution setting can be accessed during campaign creation. The default for all new/active ad campaigns (other than iOS 14 app install campaigns) will be set at a 7-day click attribution window.
The impact on your unique customer base?
Firstly, what percentage of your target audience are currently using Facebook on Apple mobile devices? Your audience demographics for Apple mobile device usage are key, as only mobile is affected.
According to Statistia, 96% of global users access the Facebook app via a mobile device, and only 25% on a desktop. Statistia also reports that Apple’s smartphone market share in the US has been steady at 45% vs. 53% for Android for the last 4 years. However, the percentage of US users that access Facebook on Apple is higher than for Android, and also higher than the global average.
Depending on your own unique target audience demographics, the size of your customer base using iOS 14 will deviate accordingly. You’ll need to review your customer device and OS usage to assess the likely impact for your individual business.
In terms of how many iOS 14 users will opt out of sharing their data with apps – well, we just don’t know yet. But to provide some context, when a similar prompt was introduced by iOS 13 for sharing geographic information, opt-in rates to share data “with apps when they’re not in use” nose-dived from 100% to as little as 20% in some cases.
For your own target customer base, it won’t be possible to say precisely how iOS 14 users are responding to the App Tracking Transparency prompt. But how your conversion events fluctuate over time after the update will be very telling. Of course, you’ll now be receiving limited conversion event data in aggregated format with a time delay, and paired back attribution reporting.
Let’s look at the new reporting in a bit more detail.
The dawn of ‘Aggregated Event Measurement’
The Facebook pixel is how users are tracked, assuming you’ve already activated this on your website domain. Facebook will now start reporting pixel ad conversion events from iOS 14 devices to website domains using a brand new framework called Aggregated Event Measurement.
Aggregated Event Measurement will limit website domains to 8 conversion events that can be used for campaign optimization. Reporting on the 8 selected events will be provided in aggregated data sets rather than at the individual user level, lumped in 24 to 74-hour data sets after conversions have taken place.
The 8 conversion events you select will be prioritized in order of value for reporting purposes. For example, if a user completes multiple conversion events such as clicking on an ad before watching a video and then making a purchase, it’s the purchase data you’d want to know about.
Facebook will pre-assign conversion events for you based on what they think is most valuable for your business, although you are able go into your settings and edit the prioritization as you’d like.
What happens if you have ad sets optimizing for events that aren’t among those primary eight? Those ad sets will be paused.
Learn more about configuring your Aggregate Event Measurement settings, which you can do ahead of the iOS 14 changes coming into enforce without impacting your current optimization or reporting.
(Note that for app install ads, there’s a different precedence.)
So what’s the impact of Aggregated Event Measurement? Effective advertisers optimize for a specific conversion action so that Facebook shows their ads to people most likely to perform that action. If Facebook is tracking fewer events, it will be more difficult to effectively optimize your ad sets.
How will attribution reporting be affected?
Attribution reporting is when a user sees your ad without clicking but converts within a day, or clicks your ad and converts within 7 days. Facebooks ‘attributes’ these conversions to your ad.
Unfortunately, 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through and 7-day view-through attribution windows will no longer be available. Only the following windows will be supported:
- 1-day click
- 7-day click (default)
- 1-day click and 1-day view
- 7-day click and 1-day view
Facebook state that they’ll be compensating for a reduction in iOS 14 user data:
- Statistical modeling will be used for certain attribution windows and/or metrics to account for less data availability from iOS 14 users. In-product annotation will communicate when a metric is modeled.
- Certain attribution windows will have partial reporting and metrics will not include all events from iOS 14 users. In-product annotation will communicate when a metric is partial. This will launch in early 2021.
To summarize, Facebook knows that total ad conversions will now be underreported. Modeling for iOS 14 users will help compensate for that. Read more about what Facebook have to say on upcoming changes to attribution settings.
Actions you need to take now
Open up your Manager account and complete the following actions as necessary.
Verify your website domain: This is especially important if you have pixel events owned by multiple accounts. It show which account owns the setup of the restricted 8 conversion events configuration. Read more about when to use domain verification to verify your business.
Dynamic ads set up: If you use dynamic ads for retargeting, Facebook suggests using only one pixel per catalog, and avoid links in your catalog that send users to another domain.
Export historic attribution data: If you haven’t done so already, export any historical 28-day view or click and 7-day view attribution window data that you’ll need. You’ll lose the ability to view this in Ads Manager once the iOS 14 update is implemented. Going forward, this historic data will only be available via API, so export this data now for ease of access.
Note that automated rules will also change to a 7-day click attribution window. The option to specify a different attribution window for automated rules will no longer be available. To avoid unexpected changes, Apple recommends updating the attribution window for your automated rules to a 7-day click attribution window now.
Calculate your Delayed Attribution Multiplier: Update your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) benchmarks for when the reporting switches over. Working under the new model for attribution, what will your ROAS benchmark metrics be? If you don’t know how to calculate this, here’s a video to talk you through it:
Given the size of the iOS 14 user base, your targeting capacity and ability to personalize ads will inevitably decrease to some extent.
However, you don’t need to stop running ads on Facebook (or Instagram) quite yet. The steps you can take for now will mitigate some of the negative impact until you have a chance to fully analyze how your conversion events and attribution are affected.
Longer-term impacts for the industry and how many other ad platforms will respond is yet to become clear. More emphasis on tracking your own user data, or employing email more effectively, for example, may be important strategies to help your business mitigate revenue losses from digital ads.
It’s a very real possibility that digital ads will begin to cost less due to their reduced effectiveness. That could adequately offset reduced conversion events based on your own unique customer base, making less effective digital ads a viable proposition.
If you’d like to read more, here are a couple of article’s on Facebook’s Business Help Centre to start with:
If you need any help, just get in touch with us at Half Past Nine. We’ll be very happy to navigate you through the impacts of App Tracking Transparency for your social ad strategy.