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If you’re running ads on Facebook (and frankly any kind of online ads) then you should be aware of Apple’s iOS14 ATT framework.

This is a full guide on what’s happening and what you can do about this as the true impact unfolds researched over many weeks with contributions and insights from sources across the web, at Facebook and peers.

Key Highlights (plus link to free 40+ page eBook)

(updated 13th Jan 2021)

This section is intended to give you the tl;dr. If all you read is the highlights here, you should be much more informed on the high-level of what’s happening with the option of deep-diving into the areas that make most sense for you to do so.

  1. What’s happening: In June 2020, Apple announced an upcoming change to their (at the time) new iOS14 iPhone and iPad operating system. Apple would prompt users on whether they were willing to allow the app developer to track their personal usage of the app via their ‘AppTrackingTransparency’ (ATT) framework (explained further below).
  2. Why is this happening? The truth is somewhere between Apple wanting to protect users’ privacy and Apple being a for-profit business that is potentially looking to monetize a new opportunity (the latter is directly from Facebook).
  3. When is this happening? iOS14 has now rolled out and the impact of ATT on businesses and advertisers will be felt once a large number of Apple users either upgrade their operating system on their iPhone or iPad, or have bought new devices with the new operating system. This is expected to be towards the middle of 2021 by when apps will be able to measure the impact.
  4. What’s the overall impact going to be? As of now, the impact is not completely known and isn’t expected to have a significant impact until such time as:
    1. there are enough users on iOS14
    2. there is quantifiable data on how many people accept/reject the apps from tracking them
    3. the impact on the apps’ ability to deliver a personalised experience and advertising, if relevant; for example if an app relies on collecting user data to serve in-app or email based personalisation, or ads, this could cripple core monetization opportunities which ‘free’ apps rely on.
  5. What’s the impact on Facebook advertisers? If the Facebook (and Instagram, Messenger) apps cannot track users on iOS14 because of mass opt-out the concern is 3-fold: can I retarget users? Can I track the performance of campaigns effectively? Will top of funnel audience targeting still be as effective without data from users on iOS14? In most cases all 3 could be negatively impacted and we’ll know the extent better towards mid/late 2021 as more users adopt iOS14 and the apps lose more and more valuable user-level data. (updated 13 Jan ‘21) Facebook has also confirmed a few other potential impacts: your ad set optimizations will be negatively impacted based on the default 7day click, 1 day view optimization (ad set level) not having as much data to look back on. Plus custom audience sizes will drop from not having iOS14 users where they may have existed in your audiences prior to opting out of tracking.
  6. Is it just Facebook that’s impacted? No. This update from Apple impacts ALL apps, not just Facebook, so this includes TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, Amazon and any other app that relies on collecting user data in order to build advertising and/or personalisation services.
  7. Are all advertisers equally impacted? The update impacts mobile app advertisers far more than non-app advertisers with sweeping changes coming in to restrict the data they can see.
  8. Does this update impact website tracking? This does not change or impact what you can or cannot track from websites via pixels, whether using cookies or server-side tracking from non-iOS14 users. As far as a mobile browser running inside an app (i.e. like Facebook’s in-app web browser), the advice from Facebook so far has been this DOES impact for those opting out of tracking on iOS14 in what Facebook calls Aggregated Event Management. (updated 13th Jan ‘21) If someone opts out of tracking, Facebook may still collect some data, but it will be aggregated and not linked to an individual user’s action.
  9. Will server-side tracking solve this issue? The Conversion API (cAPI) is not a straight up solution to the above issues caused by Apple’s update – cAPI is designed to help advertisers collect data through their website without relying on cookies and so has no impact on tracking in-app activity, which is the main concern here and explained further below. However, Facebook have rightfully advised this should still be priority for your business ahead of further browser and cookie based changes coming up.
  10. Is organic Facebook marketing impacted? This could impact organic performance on Facebook, since the newsfeed relies on signals from users (whether in apps or websites when browsing Facebook, Instagram or using Messenger) in order to see who you interact with, the items you’re interested in, groups and Pages you visit and more. Facebook would need to confirm or deny this – my personal opinion is that this will be impacted through fewer signals over time (thinking 2022 onwards) from iOS14 (or higher operating system) users.
  11. What actions can/should we take? There are some things that Facebook are putting in place now and recommending we take note of and there are items we (SM Commerce) will be implementing and sharing soon to ensure our agency clients create new opportunities for the path ahead. Few additional notes (which will be expanded further below in this document):
    1. Be prepared to potentially receive less accurate data from Facebook than ever before – to what extent will be revealed later in 2021.
    2. We already use eROAS (estimated Return on Ad Spend) and eCPA (estimated Cost per Acquisition) to fill in some blanks and create some assumptions, together with Offline Conversions and attribution tools to track multi-channel behaviours. This will become even more important.
    3. This is a good wake up call to how good we’ve had it with Facebook having access to so much personal data. Now’s the time for agencies and marketers to earn their keep with well thought-out marketing campaigns and multi-channel strategies (i.e. beyond just Facebook).
    4. There are also some additional items to consider regarding verification and tracking that need to be actioned explained further below.