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Susie Hood

What iOS 14 Means for Facebook & Instagram Advertising

Apple’s latest updates to iOS (which includes iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and TVOS 14) has introduced new privacy permissions that users need to explicitly opt into for apps, in order for these apps to access their device’s advertising data and other tracking information. A prompt will appear for users when using all iOS apps to ask if they want to allow tracking or not.

iOS 14 has already rolled out, but the full impact of these changes won’t be visible until existing Apple devices have been updated to the new version, or new devices that use this new operating system as standard are more widespread. This is thought to be likely to happen in the first few months of 2021.

How does this affect Facebook and Instagram ads?

This means that users can very easily opt out of allowing any apps in the Facebook family (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp) along with apps using Audience Network (which is a placement option in Facebook advertising) to, amongst other things:

  1. Display targeted ads to these users
  2. Share data (like location, advertising profiles or email info) with third party advertising networks for retargeting or audience lookalike type ads

Essentially, this could mean that a significant portion of the population who could previously be advertised to on Facebook, Instagram and via third party sites on their iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices, will simply no longer be part of the audience that businesses are able to reach on these ad platforms.

Facebook themselves have spoken out about these changes, with Dan Levy, Facebook’s VP of Ads and Business Products, saying that the “new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free Internet that we all rely on more than ever”. Facebook have indicated that the changes in iOS 14 could mean that:

  1. Businesses need to turn to in-app payments and subscriptions to reach these users, which can be very costly in comparison with current Facebook and Instagram ads
  2. Advertising will become less effective and less efficient for many small businesses that currently make a large proportion of their revenue from Facebook advertising
  3. There will be a loss of personalisation for ads, which could mean a dip in sales from this platform by up to around a 60% reduction for sales and 50% for app install ads
  4. Growth for small businesses will be limited, as it’s much more difficult for them to now reach their ideal audience with the limited budget they are working to

In general, opinion from experts in the online marketing industry tends to lead towards this being a shift in policy by Apple to an attempt to increase their profits (by pushing in-app payments and subscriptions, which they receive a cut of) rather than actually being about privacy for end users, which seems to be their party line. In a similar way to when Google removed keyword data from their analytics platform and cited privacy reasons, which then pushed more marketers towards paid search in order to effectively target the most relevant audience, many people believe that this is the start of a move by Apple to force marketers to spend with them rather than lose sales or other revenue.

Hit Search’s Head of Paid Media, Paul O’Connor, says,

“Whilst the decision by Apple is well within their rights as a platform owner to implement, the change is conspicuous given Apple’s own ad platform is not subject to this change. However, by the same token, privacy is an increasingly front-of-mind topic amongst consumers where there is a general push towards more control over consent. In any case, it is therefore incumbent on the industry to manage this change and adapt accordingly.”

Who will be affected by this?

Any businesses that promote mobile apps via Facebook and Instagram will be affected by these changes, along with any that use pixels for tracking events, such as sales that come in via an advert. The changes mean that users who opt out of tracking can’t be measured effectively, making it more difficult for advertisers to accurately attribute revenue generated by this platform.

What can businesses do to mitigate the impact of iOS 14 on their Facebook advertising?

  1. If you haven’t already done this, verifying your domain in Facebook Business Manager should be a priority for any brand using pixels now or planning to do so in the future. This should help ensure there is no disruption with your ability to configure events.
  2. There will be a limit of eight conversion events that can be tracked per domain. This includes both pixel events and custom conversions. Any domain trying to use more than eight will find that the ad sets using additional events will be automatically paused. That means that businesses who currently use more than eight conversion events will need to prioritise what they want to continue tracking so make sure the data needed is still available. It might leave some knowledge gaps in the user journey and paths to sale, but at least you can help ensure you have tracking data for the most important events for your business e.g. completed sales.
  3. You will need to have one pixel per catalogue when using dynamic ads
  4. You may need to tweak your attribution model as some of the options currently available will not be supported in the future (e.g. 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through and 7-day view-through, amongst others), although you may be able to access historical data via the Ads Insights API.
  5. You should identify campaign optimisation strategies that might need testing, such as different audience options or alternative bidding strategies. App marketers might want to split their audience network activity out into separate ad sets and segmenting ad sets by device and operating system could be a worthwhile exercise.

Being aware of a potential hit to revenue coming from these paid social avenues isn’t the news we all want to hear at the moment, but by taking the steps above and preparing as well as is possible, the hope is that most businesses that use the Facebook and Instagram advertising platform will be able to minimise the negative impact that the iOS 14 changes will have.

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