Does Apple's New 'Opt-In to be Tracked' Automatically Opt-Out MMPs?

No doubt marketers across the world let out an audible gasp when Apple announced at their annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that they were changing the way users grant tracking permissions. At present, if you don't want your activities on your device to be tracked or shown targeted advertisement, you enable something called 'Limit Ad Tracking', which can be found in the Privacy settings on your iPhone or iPad. Didn't know that? No, I doubt many do and perhaps that's why Apple has decided that users have to grant tracking permission for each app. Yep, that's right, on an app-by-app basis. So, does this mean Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) and Ad Networks should be worried? I don't think so, IDFA isn't everything.

So, what have Apple Changed?

In a nutshell, Apple are bringing the Limit Ad Tracking functionality out of the Privacy settings and pushing it into the limelight. On iOS 14, you will be asked whether you would like to 'Allow Tracking' or to 'Ask App Not to Track' for each app before it is due to start tracking; meaning that for many apps, this question will need to be asked before the user even opens the app. Developers will need to use Apple's AppTrackingTransparency framework to request the permission of the app user to track their behaviour within the app or to access their device's IDFA. Like when Limit Ad Tracking is enabled, if a user chooses to 'Ask App Not to Track', the IDFA will be changed to a string of zeros, rendering the ability of MMPs to attribute installs to a campaign using the IDFA, impossible. Not surprisingly, this announcement has caused some concerns in the marketing world with outlets such as Forbes, accusing the move of 'crippling the IDFA' and 'sending an $80 Billion Industry into upheaval'.

What is an IDFA?

An IDFA, otherwise known as Identifier for Advertisers, is a randomly-generated number unique to the device and is pretty much what it says on the tin. It enables advertisers to match up an install (and subsequent post-install events) to a paid marketing campaign. Some Ad Networks also use IDFA data to target users that are similar to an app's current user base.

What does this mean for MMPs?

The move is going to, undoubtedly, lead to more and more IDFAs being 'zeroed'; requiring MMPs to develop creative solutions to fairly attribute installs to Ad Networks. Since Apple's announcement, there has been quite a bit of talk around the option of the SKAdNetwork. By using the SKAdNetwork, registered advertising networks can attribute app installs to a campaign and allow networks to identify which app the download should be credited to, even if the network doesn't own that app. One MMP wasted no time in announcing the 'first-to-market SKAdNetwork support to replace the IDFA'; Singular are supposedly ready for this move by Apple. Other MMPs, such as Adjust, have taken a more cautious approach to what the SKAdNetwork could mean for the solutions that they offer.

When reading Apple's description of SKAdNetwork, one thing that struck me, as a Product Owner of an application that manages Apple Search Ads campaigns, was: is this relevant for Apple Search Ads? Mainly since it doesn't advertise within another app. The Ad Network instead gives developers a chance to display their app at the top of the App Store's search results. Could there be a different solution for Apple Search Ads?

But More Importantly, what does this Mean for Managing Apple Search Ads Campaigns?

Well, we're not entirely sure. Apple Search Ads have yet to post anything on their News page to explain how the iOS 14 Privacy Policy update will impact the ability of advertisers to measure the revenue generated by the campaigns. Let alone announced how it will affect their partners. Apple Search Ads not only has Campaign Management Partners but Measurement Partners too. Surely for Adjust, AppsFlyer, Branch, Kochava, Singular and Tenjin to retain this status, they need to be able to measure the performance of Apple Search Ads campaigns. So, it seems unlikely that Apple have left them high and dry without a solution. Could the ID for Vendors (IDFV) be it? According to Apple's Developer page on User Privacy and Data Use, the IDFV “may be used for analytics across apps from the same content provider'. Does Apple Search Ads count as a content provider?

Admittedly, even if Apple Search Ads is deemed as a content provider, it's not a perfect solution since the IDFV is different for each vendor so they would need a different metric to deduplicate users across media sources that adheres to Apple's new policy. Perhaps, this is the first sign that Apple Search Ads may report what happens after a download within their own UI.

We're expecting more news to emerge over the next couple of weeks, particularly from the MMPs who no doubt will want to reassure their customers that they still provide a solution for their marketing needs.

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