In September 2020, Apple released the most significant iOS update to date, iOS 14. The operating system’s newest version introduced improvements to the home screen design, various existing apps, Siri, and many other tweaks streamlining the iOS interface. The software update also came with a significant policy change in favour of consumer privacy. Consumer privacy has been top of mind for the digital advertising industry for some time now. To better understand this issue, look no further than Apple’s release of iOS 14 and the privacy-driven changes to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA).
What is the IDFA?
The IDFA is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device. Advertisers leverage IDFAs to collect behavioural data without revealing any personal information, which enables brands to track user events and deliver customized advertising. The data gathered by the IDFA is used to discover information such as user interactions with mobile advertising campaigns and other in-app or website events.
IDFAs are an accurate means to track iOS users. Each device is assigned a single IDFA which allows advertisers to track event triggers for attribution purposes in a campaign; this allows advertisers’ to have greater certainty about the defining qualities of that user.
Apple’s mobile operating systems have always allowed a degree of cross-app tracking, however, since the rollout of iOS 14, apps now have to ask users permission to track certain activities. Each user is presented with the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) pop-up asking if they consent to be tracked by the app. The new consent model, which requires a user to opt in, determines whether Apple shares their IDFA. The AppsFlyer & MMA Consumer Report 2021 determined that 45% of users said they would not allow tracking despite knowing that without it ads become more repetitive, and less relevant to a users’ interests.
What Does The Rollout of iOS 14 Mean For Digital Advertising?
Campaign measurement, attribution, and audience targeting have the most impact for advertisers.
iOS 14 allows users to disable precise location tracking, which has a direct impact on measurement and attribution. With Apple’s iOS 14, users are required to opt in, allowing Apple to share precise or approximate locations with each app. Those who choose to opt out of location sharing are shielded from technologies such as in-store location tracking.
Ad measurement has seen some changes as a result of iOS 14. SKAdNetwork, a new application programming interface (API), released by Apple renders conversion data available at the campaign level but data consistency is still impacted. SKAdNetwork and the IDFA changes in iOS 14 disrupt how attribution is determined in the mobile performance marketing space. Apple has taken attribution in-house to preserve user privacy, as user clicks are no longer routed through third-party attribution providers. Without the ability to track the consumer journey, last-click attribution is one of the only attribution models left available to advertisers. Many types of ad targeting are impacted by the rollout of iOS 14, including retargeting, which is no longer available for users who have opted out of sharing their IDFA.
How Can Brands Pivot Their Digital Advertising Strategies To Combat iOS 14 Privacy Updates?
Apple’s iOS 14 update limits user information exchanged with Facebook. The hindrance to information exchange has a colossal impact on brands who run Facebook Ads and leverage Facebook Business Tools to target audiences, track conversion events, and optimize ads. As a result, brands serving ads to iOS 14 devices have limited Facebook Ads functionality available to them, which has a direct impact on ad personalization and performance reporting for both app and web conversions events.
Before the iOS 14 software release, browser cookies were the main source of information for advertisers. Web browsers would collect information to be passed to Facebook to assist in ad optimization. The latest iOS version further impedes on advertisers’ ability to gather data from browser cookies, rendering creative server-side solutions a necessity to collect data for ad targeting and measurement.
As browsers and operating systems continue to implement stricter privacy regulations, advertisers now have to rely on server-side alternatives such as Convertevent. This solution allows advertisers to avoid the Java-side of a browser, allowing user actions to be sent directly from the server-side to Facebook’s server. A server-side solution allows advertisers to better understand the consumer journey and access the information required to optimize ads and maximize performance.
Convertevent works with Facebook Pixel to get advertisers the data required to provide a more accurate analysis of ad performance and attribution. The API solution enables measurement of deep funnel events allowing greater campaign efficiency and impact.