February 18, 2021

Bracing for Impact: iOS 14, Advertising and App Privacy

iOS 14 and the New App Tracking Transparency Framework

The marketing industry is bracing for what could be the biggest change in the advertising world in over a decade. Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework will soon be enforced and this post covers how Apple, Facebook and Google are moving reluctantly together to move marketers into a more privacy centric world.

Mobile apps track consumers using software development kits or SDKs. These tracking SDKs typically record every movement and keystroke a device makes sometimes even listening to conversations. This is all to understand what type of advertising should be shown to that person. On iOS devices this is done using Apple’s Device Identifier for Advertisers or IDFA. Currently, consumers need to opt-out of tracking via IDFA.

The key change in iOS 14 is that apps must now ask for permission to track when the app installed which has big repercussions for marketers and the industry. First, let’s consider the highlights of the new ATT framework.

iOS 14 ATT Overview

iOS 14 and the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) Framework for Privacy

Here are some key highlights that are important for marketers to remember:

  • ATT moves IDFA tracking from an opt-out model to an opt-in model.
  • Any app that wants to use the IDFA or share it with another company for advertising will now need to ask for permission.
  • All apps need to disclose in detail which data is being tracked across apps and websites and how that data is being used.
  • Marketers and developers need to take stock of how the SDKs in their apps use and share data and which of those SDKs will become obsolete or less valuable.
  • App installs are now tracked and verified through the App Store and Apple is enhancing its own ad attribution capabilities in relation to apps, websites and app to web conversions
  • This new environment casts doubt on the value of today’s popular 3rd party attribution solutions and SDKs commonly used in apps.

When consumers learn about what their apps are tracking and how the data is being used, they may be quite alarmed. Opt-in rates are expected to be less that 20% and therein lies the problem.

Low opt-in rates for tracking results in drastically less data to work with when trying to reach like minded consumers that will click an ad, install an app or buy a product. The move will make many tracking SDKs obsolete or far less valuable including those commonly used today for app attribution.

To understand how to reach audiences and continue growing app installs, it’s important to connect the dots with what Facebook and Google are doing in reaction to Apple’s latest privacy move.

Facebook and iOS 14 ATT

Facebook has been very vocal in their disagreement about the new privacy policies but the company is complying with the ATT framework. The Facebook app will continue using the IDFA for tracking. The app’s disclosure notice reveals 14 screens of information. All eyes in the industry will be Facebook’s opt-in rate.

Whether your ad goals are awareness, app installs or sales, performance of your campaigns will be negatively impacted because it will be more difficult to reach targeted audiences:

  • Retargeting and lookalike audiences will get smaller.
  • The Facebook Pixel will lose important data points.
  • Ads served through Facebook Audience Network will lose significant personal targeting capabilities.
  • Web activity of iOS 14 users will be unavailable to Facebook’s ad delivery algorithms.
  • Attribution windows are decreasing.
  • App marketers must upgrade to the Facebook SDK for iOS 14.

To offset the loss in data, Facebook will use statistical modeling predict results at the ad set and ad levels. It remains to be seen what Facebook’s opt-in rate for tracking will be and how accurate these models will be in their effort to predict performance.

Google and iOS 14 ATT

Google’s apps will no longer use the IDFA for advertising purposes. Users will not see the ATT prompt on these apps, in line with Apple’s requirements. Similar to Facebook, however, the reduction in iOS 14 data will negatively impact performance of your Google advertising campaigns:

  • Advertisers should expect performance fluctuations due to reduced visibility into key metrics.
  • It will be less clear how ads driving conversions including app installs and sales.
  • Weak conversion data will affect how advertisers value and bid on ad impressions.
  • App publishers can expect a significant impact to their Google ad revenue on iOS.

Like Facebook, Google is planning expand modeled conversions to reach targeted iOS 14 traffic. App publishers are being advised to upgrade to version 7.64 of the Google Mobile Ads SDK for new features including support for Apple’s SKAdNetwork for verifying app installs and other attribution metrics.

What Marketers Should Do Now

Marketers should closely follow the guidance given by Apple, Facebook and Google about how to optimize campaigns in this uncertain environment. It is also the time to challenge your team to find ways to strengthen your brand’s first-party data. Discuss these key questions:

  • Is your brand too reliant on paid media strategies that use a weakening data set?
  • Are the SDKs used in your app truly needed or do the costs to maintain to them in the future outweigh their value?
  • What are the strategies your brand is not thinking about today that will help you reach targeted audiences cost-effectively?
  • Are you linking to your app from every marketing channel?
  • Are you effectively using QR codes to open your app and website?

Whether your goals are increasing brand engagement or app installs, there are new innovative, organic campaign techniques that exist today that do not require SDKs and do not put your company at risk for a data breach or a privacy backlash.

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