iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency

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Where do we start with the iOS 14.5 update? This has been a contentious issue within the marketing and tech worlds for some time now. The emphasis on data protection and privacy is growing and users are becoming more aware of their online footprint. Apple are now doing something about it.

Apple have updated their operating software to include a new feature which gives users the option to block apps from tracking their online activities. This feature is called App Tracking Transparency (ATT). 1This means that if a user opts out of app tracking, then their personal data such as age, location, spending habits and health information will not be tracked.

How do these changes affect Apple users? For starters, when the new update is installed, the user will automatically be opted out of app tracking. The pop-up will serve as an opportunity to opt back in; however, it still remains to be seen what ratio of iOS users are in or out. The user may also decide which apps track them on an app-by-app basis in the privacy settings.

For those who are more familiar with ATT, then this may not be much of an issue. They will understand that, regardless of whether they have opted in or out, they will still see adverts across social media and other apps. It is a common misconception that opting out of something like App Tracking Transparency will stop someone from seeing ads completely, however this is not true. The reality is the ads will simply not be specific to their interests, perhaps in some cases making the browsing experience less enjoyable.

It is worth noting that there are three key scenarios where developers can still use the data of a user that has opted out. The first is that the data can still be used for advertising purposes provided the analysis happens on the device. This data can still be used in a way that does not identify the user.

The second is the permutations that surround the word ‘tracking’. It is not considered tracking if the data is shared for the purposes of fraud protection and security.

Lastly, it is also not considered tracking when data is shared with a consumer reporting agency to help with running credit checks or anything else along those lines.

As a digital agency, working day in and day out on ad campaigns and living in this ecosystem it is vital that we understand the detail and how it will affect the performance of our clients’ campaigns and overall strategy. Now for the techy jargon.

Facebook has been working for months to come up with a solution to abide by Apples new policy and to ensure that marketers on their ad platform are still achieving the same results before the update. The biggest impact on Facebook advertisers is the how they will receive and process conversion events from tools such as the Facebook Pixel. As a workaround for this, Facebook has made changes to its attribution settings. Attribution in Facebook terms is a finite period of time during which conversions can be credited to a particular ad and is used to inform campaign optimisation. This window was previously at a 28 day click attribution but has now been reduced to 7 day click in order to fall in line with Apple’s policy. What this means for advertisers is the conversions attributed to their ads will reduce as the window of time has reduced.

Not only has the time frame for attribution shortened, but the exact time of the reported conversion has changed. Previously conversions were reported at the time of the ad impression (when the person saw the ad), now the conversion is triggered at the time of purchase. Simply put, before the changes, any conversions that occur after ad spend has stopped would be attributed to when the person saw the ad, so past performance of the ads continues to rise after delivery within the attribution window. Now, however, conversions after ad spend stops will be attributed to the time they happen so the ads report conversions with a £0 spent in the attribution window. This can be misleading for marketers as they may believe the ads are beginning to perform well again, when in reality it is down to the change in reporting.

There are also responsibilities for marketers to ensure limited disruption to their campaigns. Aggregated Event Management (AEM) is a new protocol introduced by Facebook to combat the changes made by Apple. In short, AEM still allows for the measurement of web events from iOS 14.5 users by limiting domains to 8 conversion events that can be used for “conversion optimisation”. Advertisers must choose 8 events such as “Purchase”, “Add to cart”, or Initiation checkout, and prioritise them in the order of importance. If an iOS user is opted into ATT then the advertiser will see all of the events in their reporting post-conversion. If the user has not opted in, then only the highest prioritised event that the user got to would show in the reporting post-conversion. This change affects reporting and the marketer’s ability to retarget these consumers as there are less data points associated to them.

These are some of the changes and implications that advertisers on Facebook are now facing. With that said, this type of change was to be expected sooner or later and it is up to us as marketers to adapt much like we have always done in a constantly changing industry.

Going forward, testing will be key to finding success. It will be vital to know the difference in performance between ads targeted at Apple users and non-Apple users and monitoring the trends. Places like North America, where the percentage of iOS users is high, could see a drop off in ad performance whereas some parts of Asia, which are dominated by Android users, could see little change. For the future we predict more changes like this occurring as people become more astute to what data is being collected and how it is being used. It is up to everyone else to adapt and large corporations who rely on data as their main revenue source, such as Facebook, will implement changes and develop new protocols. We are interested to see how the iOS 14.5 update plays out!

If you have been struggling with these changes or want to start marketing online, then get in touch with our Digital Team on 02922409700 and we can discuss how we can support you!