iOS 14 disrupts the Facebook Ads ecosystem
It's been a few years now that browsers and regulators have been bringing increasing complexity to the collection of user data. With Chrome's planned 2023 retirement of third-party cookies announced , the countdown to the cookie apocalypse is well and truly on – and well underway.
In this war of identifiers bearing the banner of privacy (rightly or wrongly), it was Apple who led the latest offensive with the announcement of the release of iOS 14 and its functionality surrounding the management of private life. Main victims of this update? Mobile application developers. Here we will focus on the impacts surrounding the Facebook app family.
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out a 10-year road map in 2016 Source: Facebook
According to Apple's App Tracking Transparency framework (ATT) the information collected and used to track the user via the IDFA (in simple terms, the Apple IDFA is used for user identification by measurement tools like a cookie on the web) must now be clearly shared by the application developer on the App Store before downloading (figure 1).
When launching the application, the user has two choices (figure 2)
- Accept that the application collects information about him
- Refuse that the application collects information about him
We clearly see here that it is no longer possible for applications to hide the information used for user tracking and that the vocabulary surrounding the pop-up is very explicit. We are moving from an old situation where the collection information was watermarked with a prominent opt-in button to a situation where the user clearly sees the collected information. He has the choice in one button, when launching the application, to accept or refuse that the application tracks him .
But what is considered tracking and affected by ATT? Here are some examples according to Apple :
- The display of targeted advertisements in your app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies;
- Sharing location data or email address lists with a data reseller;
- Sharing a list of email addresses, advertising IDs, or other identifiers with a third-party advertising network that uses that information to retarget those users in other developers' apps or to find similar users;
- Placing a third-party SDK in your app that combines data from your app's users with data from other developer apps to target advertising or measure advertising effectiveness, even if you're not using the SDK to these purposes. For example, using an analytics SDK that reuses data collected by your app to enable targeted advertising in apps from other developers.
The notification appears when using all iOS applications including also applications from the Facebook family (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp) but also applications monetizing their platforms via the Audience Network .
In the United States in 2020, more than 30% of iOS users already had the “Limit Ad Tracking” (LAT) feature activated without even this new feature of iOS 14 according to a Singular study. Alex Austin, CEO of Branch Deep Linking, told Ad Exchanger that he expected no more than 5% opt-in on iOS 14.
The cookie and IDFA apocalypse is underway and Facebook's advertising ecosystem will pay the price.
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Apple's ATT is undoubtedly a major step forward in user privacy management – from the user's perspective. However, Apple is notorious for its one-sided decision-making and the release of iOS 14 is no exception, as Allison Schiff mentions in her column on Ad Exchanger . By forcing such a change, Apple's announcement sent an earthquake to players in the mobile advertising industry.
If we look at the back of the advertisement stamped “Vie Privée” of Apple's ATT, it is important to underline that Apple is in full phase of expansion of its activities related to advertising services with in particular Apple Search Ads . As Eric Seufert points out very well on Twitter, by blocking the collection of user data for mobile applications, but by exempting itself from these limitations for its own advertising network, Apple is building a real competitive advantage.
In response to these announcements, Facebook tried to find common ground with Apple, without success. In December 2020, they published a press release on behalf of small businesses (which, by the way, will not be the only ones affected by these changes) to present the impacts caused by iOS 14.
Like other players in the industry, Facebook criticizes Apple for its privacy protection discourse when these decisions are rather motivated by profitability. With potential reductions in monetization through the Audience Network, Apple is forcing companies to switch to subscriptions or in-app payments, subject to a 15-30% Apple tax.
When it comes to advertisers, advertising will be less effective and efficient. Facebook studies show that without personalized advertising powered by 1st party data, small businesses could see their website sales attributable to advertising drop by more than 60%.
On the publisher side, the loss of personalization could lead to a 50% drop in advertising revenue through the Audience Network. In August 2020, Facebook mentioned that Apple's updates could make the Audience Network so ineffective that it might no longer make sense to offer it on iOS 14. The changes imposed by Apple will have a significant impact on Facebook , but also on all companies using Facebook as revenue generators.
Facebook therefore finds itself with a dilemma (which is not really a dilemma):
- Get banned from the App Store or
- Adapt its advertising capabilities to advertisers.
Facebook therefore has no real choice to adapt its advertising capabilities to comply with the new regulations of the Apple Store. It's important to note that all of the changes outlined below impact all web and app traffic , not just iOS (unless otherwise noted).
So here's a recap of the changes Facebook has made to Facebook Ads. Here's a recap of the upcoming changes , and then we'll outline the next steps below.
ADVERTISING TOOLS: A NUMBER OF EVENTS LIMITED TO 8
- Advertisers will be limited to using 8 conversion events per domain name , including standard events AND custom conversions, for optimization purposes.
- Advertisers will receive partial reports in Ads Manager and Events Manager for additional events outside of priority 8 events. This does not preclude advertisers from being able to use events outside of the 8 events to build audiences personalized. The choice of events will be done in a new dedicated section on the platform called Aggregated Event Measurement.
- The 8 conversion events per domain will be ranked by campaign spend over the past 28 days. In the event of refusal of tracking, if several events are carried out by a user (for example a page view, an addition to the basket, then a purchase), only the event with the highest priority will be reported. The analysis of certain ratios (ex: Cart to buy rate) will have to be questioned and the data will have to be analyzed in a more holistic way.
- Using Value Optimization, each purchase event will count for a minimum of 4 events up to a limit of 8.
- When an event is changed, it triggers a 72-hour pause period before campaigns can be relaunched using the changed events.
TARGETING AND DELIVERY
- Default attribution windows changed from 7 day click and 1 day view to 7 day click only . This concerns all conversions and catalog campaigns. Advertisers should expect delivery to be less efficient compared to historical performance. The efficiency and profitability of campaigns will be strongly impacted.
- Custom Audience size and performance will decrease due to the loss of some user events from iOS 14.
- New iOS 14 campaigns will no longer be able to use custom audiences based on in-app mobile app events.
- New iOS 14 app install campaigns will no longer be able to use app connections targeting
- Facebook maintains the ability to create app install campaigns using mobile app install optimization, in-app event optimization, value optimization, and app install optimization. app installation with optimization at events through automated app advertisements.
- Given the limited measurement capability of Apple's SKAdNetwork API, Facebook expects a performance impact on all app campaigns, which will likely drive up costs per action.
MEASUREMENT AND REPORTS
- The account-level attribution window will be replaced with a new ad set-level attribution setting that can be selected during campaign creation. This setting will ensure that the conversions measured will be the same as those used for campaign optimization. It will provide more flexibility and clarity when analyzing ad performance.
- Conversion events on websites will be reported based on the time conversions occur, not the time of ad impressions. Additionally, there may be a 24-48 hour delay when a conversion is reported by iOS users.
- Facebook will no longer be able to support attribution windows of 28 days for clicks, 28 days for views, and 7 days for views. Some conversions will be modeled to compensate for data loss.
- Segmentation by delivery (placement, device, etc.) or action (product, carousel card, etc.) will not be supported for conversion events on the site. This includes demographic segmentation such as age, gender and region. Here we lose a large portion of reporting granularity.
- Apple's SKAdNetwork API will be the reporting source for app install campaigns targeting iOS 14.
- Due to reporting limitations of Apple's SKAdNetwork API, advertisers should expect complications in their ability to measure iOS 14 ad campaign performance. Ad group and ad level metrics will be estimated . Facebook will not be able to use its own attribution windows for measurement, which will result in lower conversions.
The steps advertisers should anticipate will be subject to change, but here are the main ones you should follow today:
CHECK YOUR DOMAIN NAME IN YOUR BUSINESS MANAGER
Knowing that the number of events will be limited to 8 per domain name . The purpose of this action is to avoid any conflict between different company managers who would use the same domain name by exceeding the limit of 8 events. For more information on the procedure .
DEFINE AND RANK THE 8 MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
For the majority of companies, the limitation of 8 events will be easily applicable. On the other hand, in the case of international sites for example, if events have been created by region, the event architecture will have to be completely reviewed.
Example: (4 regions: US, CA, FR, DE) x (8 events) = 32 events
The pre-selection of the 8 events will be made by Facebook according to the volume of investment made on each one, but it is essential to anticipate this change to proactively modify the selection on the day of the change in the Aggregated Event Measurement.
IMPACT ON AUTOMATIC ATTRIBUTION AND RULES
If you're doing your conversion reporting within the Facebook platform and 28-day click attribution data is important to you, consider downloading a historical report. After the date of the change, historical data will no longer be accessible via Ad Manager (it will remain so on the Ads Insights API).
If automatic rules have been put in place based on rules including the notion of 28 days click , it will be necessary to update these to avoid any unwanted impact in the campaigns.
REVISION OF AUDIENCE AND BID STRATEGIES
With so many changes to the core of the Ad Manager advertising platform, it's worth taking the time to analyze its campaign architecture on an account-by-account basis. The audiences used as well as the bidding strategies could be questioned.
INTEGRATION OF CONVERSION API (SERVER-SIDE-TRACKING)
The ATT is just another piece in the jigsaw of regulations surrounding tracers (IDFA, AAID and cookies). The volume of constraint and the velocity of novelties will only increase in the coming months. New generations of tracking will rely on server-side integrations. Starting today, advertisers using server-side integration have more control and drive more performance than with a client-side pixel. Facebook will undoubtedly put more emphasis on server-side integrations of its Conversion API with new related products and services.
The adaptation of the technological stack of players in the advertising industry is underway and 2021 will be the year of its acceleration. Facebook is here forced by Apple to take a leap forward towards a future where user tracking as we know it today will be transformed. As a marketer, it is essential to adapt your activities and strategies to the upheavals caused by legislative changes (GRGP, CCPA, etc.) and changes in browsers (ITP, ETP, ATT, etc.).
Personally, I think these changes are a good thing and will make the next few months and years all the more exciting. By redefining the ultra-quantifiable, ultra-traceable side of digital marketing and reshuffling the cards between the big players in the ecosystem, we are going to have to go back to the basics of marketing and measurement.
If you ever have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us . The changes of the next few months will be major for the digital advertising industry and the brands that can adapt quickly to the changes will be strongly rewarded!