Nov 16, 2022
Growth Strategies
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 min read

What iOS14 Means For Mobile Advertising

After writing my first article on the predictions I had for growth marketing in 2021, I started to ponder what I should write about next. It didn’t take long for me to realize that iOS14 was the ever so glaring topic I should cover. Every app owner that’s running mobile advertising on Facebook, Snapchat, Google, etc will all have to deal with the implications of iOS14. But how exactly will this impact the landscape of mobile advertising as we know it today? And what can be done to best mitigate these effects?

First, let’s talk about the IDFA

Apple introduced the identifier for advertisers or IDFA in 2012 as the way for advertisers to target and accurately track users on iOS devices. You can think of an IDFA like a cookie that’s tied to an iOS device instead of a browser. This allows advertisers to get notified when users of an iOS device take specific actions such as — clicking ads in their browser, installing apps, interacting with apps and more.

It was a great eight year run for the IDFA but its time remaining looks grim. In 2020 alone, 30%+ of iOS users opted out of tracking which shows the increased demand for privacy. Apple is now speeding up the clock by moving from an opt-out to an opt-in tracking model.

…moving from an opt-out to an opt-in tracking model.

So with iOS14, the most prominent change is that Apple is now requiring an explicit IDFA opt-in for all apps. This means that all apps will need to ask for user permission to use this identifier for tracking. An example of what the pop-up asking for permission will look like is below.

Apple’s iOS14 required app pop-ups that ask for tracking permission.

If a user allows tracking, app owners will have to use the AppTrackingTransparency framework to access the IDFA. This can then be passed to MMPs such as AppsFlyer or Adjust. On the contrary, if a user declines tracking, the IDFA will be zeroed out and effectively obfuscated for any marketing purposes.

How does this impact mobile advertising

There’s tons of uncertainty — from what percentage of users will opt-out of tracking to when Apple will set the hard cutoff for requiring the tracking pop-up. Luckily, what we know is that our alternative will now be SKAdNetwork which is Apple’s API being released to help with attribution post-IDFA-death. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but we’ll probably see IDFA become nearly useless in the next year. You might be asking how SKAdNetwork works, so here’s a diagram and explanation:

SKAdNetwork diagram via Apple.

1. The installed app is launched and calls the registerAppForAdNetworkAttribution() method.
2. If Apple determines an attribution applies, a timer starts ticking down from 24hrs (timer 1).
3. If the user completes a pre-selected conversion before timer 1 expires, the app can call the updateConversionValue() method. Calling this method resets timer 1 back to 24 hours and sets a conversionValue. This resetting can continue up to 64 times or until timer 1 expires.
4. After timer 1 expires, a random time period between 0 and 24 hours, called timer 2, must expire before a postback to the winning ad network can be triggered.

What this means is that the conversion signal that was once instantaneous could be delayed between 24 hours and ~63 days. On top of this, the data that is being sent to ad networks will not be user or device-level — instead the data will be aggregated at the campaign level.

Best practices moving forward

1. Implement AppTrackingTransparency framework

If you’re running any mobile advertising campaigns, the first step is to implement Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework. This will allow you to prompt users upon install for permission to track them. Without implementing this framework, attribution will be lost for iOS14 users.

2. Update platform SDKs

To make sure you’re ready to utilize SKAdNetwork, have all platform SDKs on the latest version.

3. Incrementality Testing

Start taking advantage of incrementality testing to measure the impact of the channels you’re running. I can write more specifically on this topic if enough people are interested.

Uncharted Territory

If two words sum up the changes we’re about to experience, it’s uncharted territory. In 2021, we’ll probably continue to see increasing pressure on privacy from the likes of CCPA being enacted to companies such as Google potentially following suit and implementing their own guidelines. I’ll be writing more on this as more unfolds. Until then, stay tuned and subscribe to be informed first when my articles hit the web!

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