20 Apr, 2021

iOS 14 and what it means for your Digital Marketing

There’s been lots of hype in the media regarding the iOS14 update from Apple, which was rolled out at the start of 2021. It’s been called everything from “an attack on business”, “a long overdue benefit for consumers”, “a way for users to take back control of their digital footprint” and even “something that will spoil the websites you love”. The truth is, the precise impact of the update is still relatively unknown and we’re unlikely to see the true impact for some time to come as the effect is likely to be a broad one, across the entire digital marketing infrastructure. However, today we’re focusing on what we do know about the update and more importantly, what you need to do about it…

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what the update entails. To do that, you need to know about Apple’s IDFA, in other words Apple’s “Identifier for Advertisers”. This is basically a persistent ID, that mobile devices on the Apple operating system use and when it is shared with developers, it can be harnessed (often in combination with cookies) to support and improve the targeting and delivery of personalised advertising.

In the iOS14 update, Apple has essentially changed the way developers can access the IDFA. It’s changing from an opt-out approach to an opt-in approach (hands up if you’re having flashbacks to the GDPR legislation from a few years back) and that means we’re expecting very few users to take up that option to opt-in. In short, the percentage of IDFAs available going forward, is going to be a fraction of what it used to be, and that means things like app install tracking and attribution and things like ad targeting, personalistion and frequency capping are going to be heavily affected.

This is not to say that advertising will stop on iOS devices, but it does mean that the targeting power and control available to marketing teams will be significantly decreased and that will potentially lead to more inefficiencies, more negative user experiences and even a reduced return on investment.


So, what can, and should you be doing to counteract the impact?

For Facebook
  • Get your domain verified in your Facebook Business Manager account to ensure no disruption in the ability to configure conversion events
  • Choose the 8 conversions events you’re going to rely on for your Facebook advertising and rank them, as this will be the new limit per domain and any campaigns not using those events will be automatically paused – this is part of Facebook’s “Aggregated Event Measurement” protocol
  • Prepare for Facebook’s changes to their attribution window, going forward you will only have access to 7 day click and 1 day view through attribution data in Ads Manager and this will be used for conversion and performance optimisation
For Google
At present the impact of the iOS14 update looks set to affect Google less than social media giants like Facebook but that’s not say there’s no preparation to be done here…
  • Expect some fluctuations in ad delivery and performance for campaigns that run on iOS devices, especially across Display, Discovery, YouTube and most especially Google Universal App Install campaigns
  • Expect to see more conversion modelling from Google as this is their primary method of mitigating the impact of the iOS14 update
  • Expect some reductions in the size of remarketing and customer match lists as fewer iOS users are likely to be included in this data moving forward
In general
  • Focus on capturing emails as other IDs are likely to become less valuable in the future
  • Get creative and don’t underestimate the power that organic advertising campaigns may still be able to deliver
  • Where possible, transition to more First Party data collection. This ensures you can rely more on your own customer data collected via your website, email lists, apps and so on
All in all, the best response to the new privacy changes from Apple, as part of their iOS14 update, is to do what digital marketing teams have always done, keep innovating and keep experimenting. Though there are some practical steps to take, particularly in reference to Facebook Business Manager and ad accounts, to get ahead of the update, the main focus now has to be continued creativity.

If you’d like to know more about the iOS14 update overall, then here’s some recommended reading: here’s what Apple has to say about the update and this is the response from Facebook, and finally, a few notes from Google as well.