Apple Change Policy Details Impacting Mobile Ads
In June, Apple announced product and policy changes that will impact data sharing across iOS and Apple device users. The proposed changes will significantly impact the way marketers and advertisers can run ads, measure performance, and engage their customers.
Although these changes will have the most impact on mobile app advertisers, these new policies may also force many online advertising platforms to adjust some of their best practices and tools available for online marketers. These changes are expected to impact the overall ecosystem of the free internet and how businesses grow online.
Apple announced three policies to take effect as soon as the end of January 2021. Apple believes apps in their App Store should be held to a high standard for privacy, security, and content because nothing is more important than maintaining users’ trust. With this in mind, Apple is applying the following policies to the iOS14 update to support their “Increased Privacy for People” approach.
Data Nutrition Label
This will require all Apple Store apps to submit information about their app’s privacy and data collection practices via Apple’s App Store Connect. Apps will soon be required to include specifics on any third-party coding used for data tracking and collection, as well as reveal where and how that user data is shared and used for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes.
Tracking via App/Browser APIs
Facebook and other platforms will need to use a new framework that restricts, aggregates, and delays event reporting. This limited measurement solution, also known as SKAdNetwork API, will need to be implemented for mobile app and app-based business tools. The new Apple API validates advertiser-driven app installations while maintaining this new level of privacy for the user.
Apple’s AppTracking Transparency Prompt & Framework (ATT)
This framework will now require Apple Store apps to request permission to access the device’s advertising identifier, track users, and collect data across third-party apps and websites. The user will soon have to provide prior authorization to access app-related data from their device.
This authorization request is presented to the user with a prompt, allowing them to either select to opt-in or opt-out of being tracked by that particular app. The prompt also provides the app’s tracking authorization status and an explanation from the app as to why the user is being tracked and how their data will be used.
Apple’s goal is for their App Store to help users understand an app’s privacy practices before they download an app and grant access to their IDFA. IDFA refers to Apple’s “Identifier for Advertisers,” a random device identifier ID assigned by Apple to a user’s device. Advertisers use this to track data so they can deliver customized advertising.
The IDFA is used to track and identify a user without revealing personal information about that user. Like the Android Advertising Identifier (AAID), the IDFA is often used in tandem with cookies on a computer web browser to create rich and accurate user analytics used for informed ad targeting across multiple advertising platforms.
Also referred to as Mobile Advertising Identifiers (MAID), these user identifiers also allow advertising platforms the ability to enforce frequency capping, attribute app installs and conversion events to ad platforms, measure campaign performance, provide accurate ways to target potential customers, and more.
With the release of iOS 14, Apple is changing how app developers can access the IDFA from an opt-out approach to an opt-in approach. This is a significant change from how IDFA sharing worked in earlier versions of iOS, wherein the user has to manually opt-out of sharing his or her IDFA. Before the update, IDFAs were available for most users, unless a user were to manually change this in their device settings. With iOS 14, we expect to see very few users choose to opt-in when given the option to up-front at the time of app install.
Why it is Important; What Should Advertisers Expect to See
Obviously, Apple’s policy changes do not affect all users, devices, or data the same way. For example, any user data coming from an android device or web browser computer may not be subject to the same data limitations.
However, Apple’s policy updates will change advertising processes and best practices across many online advertising platforms and impact the online marketing community’s overall landscape. These data collection process changes are likely to impact overall campaign structure and set up processes, conversion tracking, Facebook pixel configuration, ad targeting, ad optimization, performance measurement, and attribution windows, as well as performance reporting tools.
Advertisers are likely to have access to a small fraction of the previous IDFAs available for data collection for Apple device users as a result. Despite Apple’s efforts to ensure quality privacy for their device users, Apple’s policy changes may significantly limit marketing efforts across many third-party marketing platforms.
Some of these limitations may affect the ability to effectively reach, understand, and engage people on mobile devices and across the web in personalized ads. Additional limitations may also include:
- Limited ability to understand performance and make informed decisions about campaigns.
- Advertisers will have less control over the targeting of their users. Limitations will be set on retargeting, remarketing, and similar audience targeting, as well as tracking by gender, age, device ID, etc.
- Limited ability to deliver ads to people based on their engagement with your business.
- Limited conversion data available to measure and report from certain customers, as well as a decrease in data available for measurement and performance reporting.
- Advertisers will see fewer reported conversions and dips in overall campaign performance due to less data being collected.
- Expected decreases in conversion numbers and performance metrics across campaigns.
- Limitations placed on the number of conversion actions and pixel events advertisers will be able to track in campaigns, as well as delays in pixel event configuration processes.
- Delays in campaign performance reporting up to three days, real-time performance reporting will no longer be available.
Fewer insights provided from smaller attribution windows and limited ability to accurately attribute app installs and other conversion events being tracked.
- Limitations on ad relevance and ad frequency.
- Limited ability to predict and optimize cost per action over time and efficiently allocate budgets.
- Limitation on the number of mobile app campaigns and ads a client will be able to run at one time.
- Limitations and changes in buying options, bidding strategies, audience exclusion abilities, A/B testing, and other ad optimization tools.
As additional limitations are set on data collection via mobile apps, website browser cookies, and third-party data, the ability and scope advertisers have on their targeted audience becomes smaller and smaller.
The less access advertisers have to user data makes it harder to identify and retarget customers and prospects across devices, platforms, and mobile apps. This, in turn, can lead to a lower level of precision and lesser ability to tightly control costs. Small businesses with a lower-paid advertising budget will make it harder to reach their target audience.
This loss of user-level targeting across the audience network will likely change how we advertise on the open web. As a result, we will most likely see an overall decrease in ad performance and personalization and an increased cost per action on mobile and app advertising.
It’s not that advertising will stop: rather, it’s likely that we will see a decrease in targeting power and control that will ultimately create more inefficiencies and poor ad personalization leading to negative user experiences.
With this in mind, advertisers should expect to see some of the following changes take place across platforms such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads when it comes to mobile web and mobile app advertising:
Google vs. Facebook Effects
Changes will have less of an effect on the Google Ads platform and Google Analytics tracking and reporting. Google has announced a new consent mode to utilize within Google tags and Google Tags Manager.
This allows advertisers to build a mechanism where Google’s tags parse, react, and respond to the consent status of your site visitors. In short, consent mode is a new Google beta feature, which lets you determine whether or not Google’s advertising tags and analytics tags for Universal Analytics, App, and Web can utilize browser storage when sending pings to Google’s servers.
We can expect Apple’s policy changes to also have an impact when advertising on Google’s platform across mobile devices, Google’s Chrome browser, websites, and applications. There will be changes to how Chrome will handle cookies, which are another way for advertisers to track and identify users.
As a result, we will begin to see less web traffic from web browsers when looking at analytics data. This is not because of any dramatic shift in where or how people are operating the internet, but because of the limitations being set on the ability to track cookies. This is already being seen on Safari, and the same will begin to happen with Chrome as Google begins to stop the support of third-party cookies, eliminating this powerful tool for digital advertisers as well.
What this Means; Response from Online Marketing Platforms
Overall, Google is in support of proactive privacy measures and data transparency. Google says they are “committed to ensuring users should have the choice whether or not they allow an app to track them.”
Facebook believes that free, ad-supported businesses have been essential to the growth and vitality of the internet and that personalized ads and user privacy can coexist. Facebook has voiced its concern about the harmful impact Apple’s policy changes may have on small businesses moving forward and is deeply invested in solutions that increase privacy while still enabling businesses to thrive online.
Advertisers today can agree that the internet has fundamentally changed the trajectory of so many businesses and the people behind them. Because of the internet, an entrepreneur is able to turn an idea into a business with just their mobile device. One of the big reasons this is possible is because the internet has made marketing accessible and affordable. Dozens of platforms exist to support small businesses with setting up websites, payments, logistics, financing, etc. However, as Facebook points out, you need to find customers to grow a business.
In this pandemic, many businesses have turned to digital advertising as an outlet for growth. Facebook fears that these changes coming through the pipeline from Apple may end up hurting some small businesses as they will directly affect small businesses’ ability to use their advertising budget efficiently and effectively.
What Does This Mean for Advertising and How Should You Pivot
Who is likely to be most impacted by these changes? Small businesses, start-ups, local businesses, entrepreneurs, game developers, and content creators rely on personalized ads to grow. Small businesses have small budgets. For these small budgets to work, they have to be targeted at the customers that matter to small businesses to drive overall revenue, get the best overall return on investment, and drive the best possible results from ads.
The removal of personalization from the mobile app and mobile web advertising may lead to drops in overall revenue. When advertisers can’t rely on efficient and effective advertising to make money, they could be forced to turn to other ways to stay afloat.
Some ways you should plan to pivot in your digital marketing efforts to accommodate these new changes and offer recommendations of how to adapt include:
- You should be auditing each client’s paid advertising efforts and tactics across all platforms to determine updates or shifts that need to be made in campaign structure, objectives, and strategies. This will allow you to determine alternate practices and provide specific recommendations on a client-to-client basis that support new privacy policies. You will also need to make adjustments to ad targeting, tracking goals, bidding strategies, mobile app settings, ad attribution settings, and more.
- You should review any ad accounts currently running app install campaigns with our clients to work on consolidating budgets and restructuring campaigns where needed and prepare to operate with one ad account for any iOS 14 app install ads.
- Facebook is introducing Aggregated Event Measurements (AEM) as a way to address Apple’s Private Click Measurement (PCM). This will attempt to fill some of the gaps in conversion data that will occur with Apple’s new prompt. You should plan to adopt Facebook’s new source measurement, where needed as well. AEM will not eliminate all the limitations mentioned previously. However, AEM will help better support app-web attribution, enable more flexibility, and better support critical advertiser use-cases.
- You will need to double-check the correct setup for new tracking parameters and conversion schema configuration. You can then ensure that all you are using the right “Advertiser Tracking Enabled” flag that will soon be required to instruct Facebook on how to restrict data on a per-event basis.
- As you begin to anticipate changes to attribution windows, you should work back to make sure that automated rules are updated when necessary. You can then ensure that updates are made to attribution model settings on campaigns to the new iOS 14 attribution settings before old attribution windows become unavailable.
- You should walk-through some of the needed action items or next steps at a more in-depth level to ensure understanding of the processes needing to take place moving forward.
Advertiser Recommended Steps to Take
Apple announced the end of January 2021 for when these new policies will take place. With this in mind, we have some action items that our clients can start working on now to help us all prepare for these new updates. Advertisers can take the following steps to help prepare correct app event setup and management for these changes:
- If a client uses the Facebook SDK for iOS, they must update to version 8.1 or above, or they won’t be able to create iOS 14 app install campaigns. This can be done within Facebook Events Manager.
- Advertisers will need to re-configure new 8-limited events to be tracked for their Facebook Tracking Pixel. Advertisers will need to prioritize their top eight events by importance in Events Manager.
- Some clients may need to verify their website’s domain in Facebook’s Business Manager to help avoid any future disruption of website campaigns. Domain verification should be prioritized for domains with pixels used by multiple businesses or personal ad accounts. This will enable you to configure pixel conversion events when Aggregated Event Measurement becomes available. This four-step verification submission process can be found in the settings of the account’s business manager under DNS Verification in the Brand Safety section.
- Expect additional changes and adjustments to best practices when it comes to business tool setup, targeting, delivery, measurement, reporting, and more as these changes continue to roll out, and we begin to adjust and pivot accordingly.
Key Takeaways & Conclusion:
Data use in personalized ads and user data privacy is a careful balancing act and will continue to be discussed within the online marketing world.
To summarize, by dramatically limiting the effectiveness of personalized advertising, Apple’s policy will make it much harder for small businesses to reach their target audience, limiting their growth and ability to compete with big companies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have used personalized advertising to find customers and help them survive. V Digital wants to ensure that Apple’s policy changes do not take away one of small businesses’ key tools to thrive and grow.
The real impact will likely hit apps and programmatic placements across the open web the hardest. However, we should expect minor impacts across all cross-domain advertising and data collection sharing between platforms for comparison of user analytics.
Paid advertising will still remain an essential tool in many advertiser’s tool belts. However, there will need to be a transition period moving forward, allowing us to adopt new products and processes, change workflows and strategies, and in some cases, establish new best practices.
Contact Vdigital Services today to learn more about how we can improve your advertising efforts.
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Updated December 2023