With IOS 14.5 rolling out across Apple devices this week, it means a major shakeup for advertisers across Facebook (and indeed any other platform). But what does it really mean for marketers and small business owners and what do advertisers actually do about it ?
The IOS 14.5 rollout has been a confusing situation for many people, so we’ve put together a handy guide to simplify things and show you the steps to take to minimise the impact.
So… what’s this all about then?
Well, if you listen to the expertly crafted spin, it’s the classic battle between one multinational company fighting to preserve it’s right to sell advertising space to small businesses (by relentlessly harvesting user data) and another multinational company fighting the good fight to protect user privacy (by blocking said access).
Can you see where Apple stands on the issue?
The reality is a little more complicated. Yes, Facebook has become one of the most sophisticated data harvesting machines on the planet, but equally, Apple’s motivations are a little less virtuous than they may appear at first glance. Apple is introducing its own advertising platform soon and there are reports they won’t be playing by the very rules they’re setting up for others.
So, how did we get to this point?
How did we get here?
IOS 14.5 first launched on Monday April 26, rolling out across Apple devices in the 2 weeks following. During this time users, will be prompted to upgrade their software which contains a number of updates. The most important update for advertisers is the new iOS App Tracking Transparency (ATT) protections.
There is a request that requires permission from users to track activity across other apps and websites (which in Facebook’s case, it achieves via the Facebook Pixel). The big change is that in the past, users had to OPT OUT of tracking whereas now they have to explicitly OPT IN.
Sooooo, this means that once IOS 14.5 rolls out, everyone using the new version of the software will be opted OUT by default until/unless they specifically change their settings.
What does this mean for advertisers?
The changes mean that Facebook has an incomplete picture of what users are doing once they click off Facebook. With the Facebook Pixel installed across millions of sites around the world, Facebook had a pretty accurate picture of what users were doing, their interests and clicking data. After all, advertisers needed the pixel installed so they could get insights into the performance of their ads so Facebook just soaked up all the data from the millions of installed pixels across the web.
Now, with users being able to opt out of tracking, it means that Facebook is not able to see what happens after users leave the site. It will affect interest-based custom audiences and a range of other targeting options that Facebook advertisers have taken for granted for some time now.
Of most importance, this means that advertisers will lose the ability to retarget a big chunk of their audience, one of the most powerful tools in marketing. By some estimates approximately 30% of users will not be able to be retargeted. You can take these claims with a grain of salt though, as most of these numbers are just speculation. Until it is fully rolled out, we won’t be able to get an accurate meaure of the full effects, but it can be assumed that we can expect smaller retargeting audiences.
What does this mean for users?
The end result for users is not really as rosy as the glossy PR campaigns would make it appear. For one, it doesn’t mean there will be less advertising on the platform. It just means that the advertising that users see will be less relevant and less targeted towards their interests.
If you have an avid interest in hip hop or trail running you may find yourself targeted by products, events and groups around these passions. With the reduced targeting options though, the products you see will be more random. Will this be enough for people to opt back into tracking?
What does it look like?
In IOS 14, this function will be switched to off by default
Once turned on, Apple will start asking users if they consent to requests to track from individual apps.
Facebook, Instagram and a few other platforms have taken some steps to control the fallout by managing the narrative. Before they see the prompt to opt out of tracking, some iPhone users are reporting seeing a screen like the one below. The rationale is that users that are told about the implications of opting out of tracking (for both themselves and ‘small businesses’) will consider the issue from a different perspective.
Will it work? Who knows, but take note of the differences between the language in the two notifications.
Instagram softening the blow
Before Apple puts it rather bluntly
As mentioned, the number of people that will opt out of this is still very much up in the air but there are a few things that you can do in order to handle the changes around IOS 14 in the meantime.
So, what do we do now?
Take a deep breath. If there’s one thing that is consistent in digital marketing it’s that nothing stays the same. Advertising and marketing existed before the Facebook Pixel and it will exist after iOS14.5 fully rolls out. It’s how we adapt to the changes that determines our success and out of adversity comes opportunity.
Whilst we won’t go through the full strategy we use with our clients, there are a number of things that we recommend to reduce the impact of IOS 14 on your ad account performance so you can set yourself up for future success. First things first:
Follow Facebook’s Recommendations
1. Verify Your Domain
This is the first step in being able to advertise on Facebook. All businesses should verify their domain as a best practice. When you verify your domains with Facebook, this means that you’re officially set up on the platform.
There are several ways of verifying domains with Facebook. You could add a DNS TXT entry to your DNS record and confirm that you are the owner of a particular domain. You could also upload a Facebook-provided HTML file to your web directory to do this.
Adding a meta tag to the <head> section of your domain home page is also an easy way to verify domains.
2. Set up Conversion API (CAPI)
CAPI (once called server to server tracking) improves the quality of your data and ad performance overall. This is the best way to make sure you’re getting information from the server rather than from cookie based tracking. This will become increasingly important in the future.
3. Prioritise your 8 events (for each domain)
You can only configure up to 8 unique conversion events per website domain that can be used for campaign optimisation. Ad sets optimising for a conversion event that’s no longer available will be paused. You can configure these 8 conversion events in Events Manager
What else can I do?
Build your own lists using Email, SMS or Messenger
It’s never been more important to have diversified traffic. You can use Facebook Lead Forms and Lead Magnets to gather emails as quickly as possible for retargeting and future marketing efforts. Email marketing is still an incredibly powerful tool and tool of influence. Best of all, with email, you own the data and are not reliant on any given platform to reach them.
Consider splitting ads by placement
If you are building out complicated funnels that require multiple touch points over a longer period of time, consider running Desktop / Android only campaigns. This can be especially important if you have a longer funnel where retargeting is essential.
Integrate Facebook/Instagram shops
When a hardware manufacturer effectively cuts off Facebook’s ability to track users off the platform, the natural response will be to lean in to ways to keep the user ON Facebook. This way they own the entire conversion journey rather than sending clicks off the platform to advertisers’ websites. We will assuredly see more of a push towards Shops and there will likely be an ad product to promote shops in the very near future.
Look at expanded tracking tools
Don’t rely just on Facebook Ads reporting. There are a number of third party tools that can be used for tracking, and ideally a combination of a few can get an even better source of truth.
On a smaller scale, by setting up a consistent UTM tagging structure can help you use Google Analytics to get a full picture of where your revenue is coming from and the effectiveness of your advertising. You can use this to establish standard UTM queries so Google Analytics can track specific ad performance.
Beyond Google Analytics, there are tools like Anytrack, Hyros and Wicked Reports that focus on tracking the complete buyer journey. For any companies or agencies that deal with large budgets, these can be a powerful way to get more
Keep a close eye on your account over the coming weeks
There is bound to be some volatility in performance based on the scale of these changes but try not to get caught up on the daily peaks and troughs. Given the changes, it’s a better strategy to zoom out a little and focus on averages across 3-4 days or even a week.
Look into other channels to diversify your traffic
Consider investing in demand-led channels like Google Ads, specifically around Search marketing. Snapchat, Pinterest and Tik Tok all have their own ad platforms too, so depending on your audience, you may wish to further explore these options.
Double down on your creative
There are some things that are outside of your control in digital advertising. The content you create is not one of these things. It always pays to work continually on improving your content, building engagement and interest from your target audience. Having scroll stopping content that speaks to your core audience will always outperform and it’s never been more important.
Use more video content and Instant Experiences
If a user opts out, tracking off the platform is not possible but on-platform engagement is fully tracked. By doubling down on content and making engaging video and instant experiences, you can build warm audiences.
Whether we like it or not, data privacy is a hot button issue and as we move closer to a cookie-less future, advertisers will need to adapt. One thing is for sure and that is that ATT is here to stay so as marketers, it’s important that we stay on top of new changes to the marketing landscape.
Unfortunately, when there are so many other things to stay on top of, it will often be small businesses that will suffer the most out of these changes. This is why we created the Click Engage Convert Academy. The Academy has been designed to help small businesses and marketers to stay abreast of changing landscapes and best practice within the digital marketing space. Find out more here.
IOS 14 Frequently Asked Questions
What happens when a user opts out?
Basically this person will become untrackable except for the event which you state within Events Manager to be your most important. They will also fall out of any custom audiences, limiting your ability to re-target them off the back of pixel-based events.
You’ll only get the reporting for it if they complete the action within 1 day of clicking and only in ad sets actually optimised for 1 day clicks.
How many people will opt out?
That’s the million dollar question. Well, by default everyone will be automatically opted out. The real question is how many people will opt in? Numbers have been bounced, speculating it could be around of 40% of users, but it’s really hard to know. When people are getting pummelled by completely irrelevant ads, will this change people’s likelihood of opting in to advertising or will it just mean that people spend less time on the platform? We’ll have a much greater understanding of this over time.
Will the Conversions API (CAPI) help mitigate iOS14.5 changes?
Sorry, but unfortunately not. This is not to say CAPI isn’t useful, but it is not a secret pathway to tracking user events. If a user is opted out, CAPI won’t make them trackable.
Facebook Pixel Updates for Apple’s iOS 14 Requirements https://www.facebook.com/business/help/126789292407737?id=1205376682832142
How the Apple iOS 14 Release May Affect Your Ads and Reporting