How will Apple iOS 14 impact your Facebook ads?


James Kenny

Head of Programmatic


Analytics and Data Science

Apple’s latest operating system update, iOS 14, which is due to roll out early this year, has a new App Tracking Transparency Framework which will impact app tracking, including how customer data can be tracked and used across Facebook.

There are two policies coming into effect which will have a major impact on Facebook advertising:

  • Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Prompt
  • Tracking via Apps and Browser APIs.

When downloading an app from the Apple app store, users will now be presented with information on what the app can track; they can then choose to either allow or prevent tracking from occurring. Being able to block tracking has always been available but never so easily accessible, and never as an explicit option. With data privacy a huge concern for many users, it is likely that many will choose not to opt-in for data collection and tracking.

What happens when someone opts out?

When a user opts out of tracking, Facebook (and any other similar advertiser-based app) is unable to track that user’s activity across the app and mobile web – so no conversion tracking and no targeting for these users.

Even for users who opt in, their data is not as easily accessible as it was. Apple’s SKAdNetwork aggregates, limits and delays data – meaning data is not as insightful, as accurate, as fast, or ultimately, as useful as it was prior to the update.

How does this update impact advertisers?

The main takeaway is that, following this update, targeting, ads personalisation and performance reporting will be limited for app and web conversion events – although we won’t know how much impact this will have until the update has been rolled out and in effect for a few months.

A smaller attribution window

Going forward, 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through and 7-day view-through attribution windows will not be supported for active campaigns; only the following will be available:

  • 1-day click
  • 7-day click (default)
  • 1-day click and 1-day view
  • 7-day click and 1-day view.

A shorter attribution window means that campaign performance will look worse than they did before this update, and users who engage or convert outside of seven days will no longer be counted.

Limits on event tracking

Another change is that advertisers will now be limited to eight conversion events per domain, so no matter how many subdomains you have, or how many Facebook Pixels you have, you will only be able to view eight events, including custom events. You will need to select and prioritise the eight events within Facebook Ads Manager; any ad sets optimising towards other events will be paused, and within this list, when a user carries out multiple events, only the highest-ranking event will be logged.

Loss of cross-domain and app-web tracking

iOS 14 comes with a new protocol for web attribution, which restricts what data can be shared across businesses and platforms. In particular, app to web conversion measurement and cross-domain conversion measurement are no longer supported – so if someone clicks on your in-app ad but converts through the mobile website, their conversion will not be logged, again meaning that campaigns appear to perform less well than they are.

What is the solution?

Facebook has made a series of changes that help to mitigate the effects of iOS 14, including creating a new data-sharing protocol (Aggregated Event Measurement) in the latest version of Facebook SDK for iOS that allows for (limited) measurement of web events for iOS 14 users, as well as the ability to still deliver personalised ads and measure and optimise for app install ads for iOS 14 devices.

As the effects of the iOS update become clear, it is likely that we will see more new tools (both third-party and within Facebook) come into play.

However, this update is only the latest change in a world that is heading towards tighter privacy regulations and it is possible that other operating systems will follow suit in the coming months or years. We have already seen how tracking limitations can impact paid media, with one of the big implications being lower reported performance, and others being less effective targeting, and a reduced ability to deliver personalised ads.

One thing to consider is lower reported performance doesn’t mean lower actual performance. Moving towards monitoring and reporting on performance as a whole, rather than on a channel or platform basis provides a more holistic view of performance and “irons out” issues when one channel is unable to measure and report accurately.

Another thing to remember is that, while personalising ads and sending targeted campaigns is best practice, a good creative is still a good creative, and a strong campaign with messages across the full funnel will get results.

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