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iOS 14 privacy changes: What will this mean for in-app mobile campaigns?

iOS 14 is one of Apple's biggest iOS updates to date, introducing Home screen design changes, major new features, updates for existing apps, Siri improvements and many other changes that streamline the iOS interface. A series of privacy updates to iOS 14 coming into effect early 2021 essentially eliminated an important element of in-app mobile advertising and measurement — the Apple IDFA.

The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user's device. Advertisers use this to track data so they can deliver customised advertising. The IDFA is used for tracking and identifying a user (without revealing personal information). With the release of iOS 14, developers and publishers must get permission from users before using the IDFA, Apple's proprietary mobile ad ID, for ad tracking or measurement.

Currently, AdTech platforms use a device’s IDFA to help them identify users across different apps. Mobile IDs are also used to run cross-device targeting and attribution by creating user profiles containing data collected from smartphones and laptops.

In devices running iOS 14, AdTech companies won’t be able to collect the IDFA and use it to identify users, unless they choose to opt in. If iOS 14 users opt out, they will still be shown ads, but they’ll be based on other methods like contextual targeting rather than based on their IDFA.

Although Apple has essentially killed off IDFA-based ad targeting it has offered up a replacement for ad measurement and attribution via its SKAdNetwork. Apple’s SKAdNetwork aims to provide conversion data to advertisers but without revealing any user-level or device-level data. It’s Apple’s version of a privacy-friendly way to attribute app installs.

To give you an idea, at a glance, what will this will all mean for in-app mobile advertising…

Ad Account Restructures: With Facebook and Twitter deciding to use SKAdnetwork (SKAN), you’ll need to restructure iOS 14 ad accounts to adopt the changes. There’s only 1 ad account per iOS app on Facebook, 9 campaigns all have 1 ad set and creatives below them. You’re limited to 70 ad groups on Twitter, exceeding this limit will cause the campaign to be automatically paused. If Google UAC or Snapchat begin using SKAN, it’s highly likely campaign structures will also be restricted thanks to the 100 SK-campaign ID ceiling.

View-Through Attribution: When targeting iOS 14 devices, it’s probable you will lose view-through attribution, leading to reporting reduced returns for the likes of Facebook, Google UAC, Snapchat and Twitter. Data drawn from previous iOS versions plus opted-in iOS 14 data will become the actual measurement used but this is anticipated to be less effective.

Delayed Data: iOS 14 data will no longer be provided in real-time but delayed by days. It would be best not to make spontaneous changes due to the previous day after Apple implements these changes as you may find performance levels out a day or so later.

Performance: Instability could occur as channels like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat become accustomed to the iOS 14 changes and alter their algorithms accordingly. While the dust settles, it may be worth taking this moment to consider moving a little of your budget to Android campaigns…

Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs): Using a Software Development Kit (SDK) as provided by MMPS such as Appsflyer or Adjust for live tracking of events and user behaviour will now require user consent with the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. While Facebook shares SKAN data with MMP’s for Mobile App Install (MAI) campaigns with Business Manager permissions, there is no data being returned for App Event Optimisation (AEO) campaigns unless the Facebook SDK is utilised. Twitter, Snapchat and Google App Campaigns have all yet to confirm if they will return SKAN data to MMP’s.

Facebook Marketing Partners (FMPs): Facebook campaigns that need an FMP or that use an internal proprietary tool with Facebook’s marketing API are no longer able to run iOS 14 campaigns. Going forward, you will have to run campaigns with Facebook Ads Manager.

Lookalike Audiences: The use of Custom Audiences to create Lookalike Audiences targeting iOS 14 devices on Facebook is no longer possible. Lookalike Audiences on iOS 14 will have to be built using in-app events. You will need to establish what these events are with your product team.

Post-Install Behaviours: Limiting the amount of post-install events you track will be required if you want to circumvent delays to reports on channels using SKAN. It’s essential to work out which events create retention and increase revenue then concentrate on tracking only those.

Facebook Audience Network (FAN): Without IDFAs on iOS 14, FAN performance will decrease. Once iOS 14 changes have been made, you may wish to walk away from FAN and in the future, it is highly likely to become unnecessary.

Apple Search Ads (ASA): While iOS 14 has not altered much, it’s important to maintain a steady grip on top keywords, even if they are expensive currently that will only increase as advertisers attempt to exploit the full potential of ASA. The benefits of exploring ASA now will be magnified when ATT and SKAN have become commonplace. We expect to see growth in this channel.

Contextual Targeting: Contextual advertising, the practice of placing ads on web pages based on the content of those pages, is staging a comeback. With the changes iOS 14 brings with it, now could be the time to investigate more contextual targeting opportunities as opposed to just user-level targeting for your brand.

For a comprehensive review of how iOS 14 could impact your event tracking, please speak with one of our specialists..