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Limit Ad Tracking: A Limiter on your Advertising?

What is Limit Ad Tracking?

Limit Ad Tracking, which is often referred to as just ‘LAT’, is a setting that can be enabled within a device’s Privacy settings. When a user enables LAT in their settings, they prevent targeted advertisement from being shown and their activities being tracked on their device. So, their device is effectively opted out of displaying adverts that target users based on personal information.

What has this got to do with Apple Search Ads?

Apple Search Ads adverts will still show on devices that have LAT turned on but adverts from campaigns with demographic targeting set, will not show on these devices. For example, if I’m a 45-year-old man with LAT enabled on my iPhone, I will not see adverts from campaigns that are targeting users aged between 40 and 50 years old nor from campaigns that are targeting male users only. However, if a campaign doesn’t have age or gender targeting set, I may see adverts from that campaign. Unsurprisingly, even if I didn’t have LAT turned on, I wouldn’t see adverts from campaigns targeting female users, 20 to 30 years old.

So, as you have probably – or rather, hopefully – worked out, adding demographic targeting can limit the reach of your campaign and not just as a result of excluding users outside your target audience. Apple Search Ads campaigns that target a gender or an age range will show adverts only to users registered within that demographic with LAT turned off in their Privacy Settings.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only way LAT affects Apple Search Ads campaigns. Apple’s Privacy Policy prevents Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) from using user data from LAT On devices to attribute installs. Since iOS 10, Apple has sent a string of zeroes in place of a user’s IDFA (stands for Identifier for Advertisers and is usually used for attributing installs to campaigns) through the Apple Search Ads Attribution API. In reality, what this means is that any LAT On install (and all subsequent post-install data) generated from an Apple Search Ads campaign is often attributed as ‘Organic’. Apple note that this can result in the number of installs reported in your MMP’s dashboard being lower than the number in Apple Search Ads. We have campaigns where the proportion of LAT On installs is almost 50% of the total installs, meaning that the installs reported in the MMP will be at most half of the number reported in Apple Search Ads.

So, what can I do about the LAT On Discrepancy?

Well, what you can do is estimate how many installs and post-install events should be attributed to your Apple Search Ads campaigns. Within the Apple Search Ads dashboard, Apple tells you the number of LAT On installs as well as your total number of installs and therefore, allows you to calculate the proportion of installs that are likely to be wrongly attributed as Organic.

If you are happy to make the assumption that users with LAT enabled generally behave in the same way as users with LAT turned off, you can assume that the events recorded in your MMP are only the ‘LAT Off proportion’ of your total events generated by your Apple Search Ads campaigns. Therefore, you can estimate the total number of events by using the following calculation:

Estimated True Event Count = MMP Event Count / (1- (LAT On Installs/Installs))

Where both the LAT On Installs and Installs counts are taken from the Apple Search Ads dashboard. Taking this approach allows you to estimate the true performance of your campaign without limiting your audience reach by applying demographic targeting. The calculation can be applied to events such as registrations and purchases, and also to revenue shown in your MMP.

If you're not happy making the assumption above, your best bet is to add demographic targeting to your campaigns to minimise the discrepancy between the Apple Search Ads data and the MMP data. The best demographic targeting to apply if your sole purpose is to reduce the MMP discrepancy, is to target 18 to 65+ in the Age Range settings. Just remember, adding this targeting can severely impact the number of users who will see your app advertised. So, you have to decide which is more important to you: greater attribution confidence or a campaign with greater reach.