Apple iOS 14/14.5 Updates FAQ for PPC Advertising
What is the iOS 14/14.5 Update?
iOS is the operating system on Apple products like iPads and iPhones. So, when we talk about versions 14 or 14.5, we’re talking about updates to that system. The most recent updates (14 & 14.5) came with many software features, but the one that’s relevant to advertising is App Tracking Transparency.
App Tracking Transparency is a setting that allows users to opt-out of all tracking. Before the update, apps could track many things about you, including who you are, what you do, what you like, and what you buy. While there were some things you could do to protect your data, you couldn’t always opt-out of this kind of data collection. That’s where App Tracking Transparency comes in. This update lets you change tracking permissions and hide your data for every app you’ve installed.
How does this apply to advertising?
Advertising thrives off data collection. In order to show you something relevant, advertisers need to understand what’s relevant to you. If they can’t collect data, advertising platforms like Facebook won’t be able to know what would interest you. So, that makes it difficult for them to serve you a good, helpful ad.
This iOS update means that users will still see ads, but the ads won’t be as relevant to the individuals who’ve opted out of tracking. For example, a local nursery might want to serve an ad for native plants, and those ads could still reach gardening enthusiasts. But now they might also reach the city dweller in a small apartment with no garden in sight. Without specific data, there are no specific ads. So, you should expect to see broad messages with mass appeal.
What impact does this have for advertisers?
It’s bad news for advertisers. Effective campaigns are founded on being useful, relevant, and engaging. Most advertising is targeted based on audiences, and those audiences are created from the data collected from users. Now that a lot of that data is gone, those niche custom audiences may start disappearing as platforms struggle to know which user to put in what audience. No one is fully clear on what this means yet, but many speculate that targeting based on location, gender, age, and other demographics will become a lot harder.
It’s not just about audiences; it’s about how we track success, too. Without going into too much technical detail, the updates to iOS 14 make it hard to track and record the actions you take in relation to advertising. For example: someone might click on your ad, go to your website, perhaps look at some products or browse your services, then purchase or contact you. Without the usual tracking methods, platforms will struggle to match a click/view to all the actions users take as a result of seeing an advertisement.
Don’t panic – platforms can still track events, leads, and purchases, but not as accurately or in as much detail. The update limits how much information these platforms can collect, so they have to prioritise. This is why Facebook is asking advertisers to tell them their preferred web conversion events and rank them in order of importance. Facebook will have to make some choices when it’s collecting data, and it’s asking you to tell it the priorities.
These platforms are also going to have trouble remembering interactions and putting those people in audiences. For example, before the update, you could create an audience of people who visit your website and don’t convert, and then remarket to them with ads. After the update, this will be a lot harder. Your audience lists are going to get smaller as more people opt-out of data collection. Eventually, those lists might become too small to use.
Every little click and scroll a user makes goes into the metrics for your ad reports, particularly when it comes to interactions people take with your website and with the apps they use. Platforms will use those data points to understand what someone did after interacting with an ad. With fewer data points, these platforms won’t always have a clear understanding of what has happened.
Think of it like a “connect the dots” picture. If you have many dots, you can make a clear picture without connecting much yourself. But with fewer dots, you’re going to have to draw some pretty big lines to make sense of it. Platforms like Facebook will have to stretch a lot further to connect the dots of your campaigns.
Less data means more assumptions, which means that reporting won’t be as accurate. You’ll still get an idea of what’s working and what’s not, but it won’t be in nearly as much detail.
ALGORITHMS & LEARNING
Advertising platforms will need to make more assumptions about who’s relevant and what’s working when it comes to your campaigns. Their tried-and-true algorithms may not work the way they used to.
Even the platforms themselves, like Facebook, don’t yet know the full impact this iOS update will have. Advertising platforms will go through a considerable re-learning period where their algorithms for serving ads will need to understand what’s good and what’s not good under these new rules.
Are my campaigns going to fall apart now? What about my results?
No one can say for sure what will happen, but as the update rolls out, more and more users will opt-out of data collection. Reps from platforms like Facebook predict that the next few weeks will be tough and say to expect a decline in results while their algorithm re-learns. However, reps may be downplaying the change. No one knows how harmful the effects will be for advertisers or how long it will take to adjust.
Is this just Facebook Ads or is it other advertising platforms too?
Facebook is getting the most attention because it’s a huge player and the one pushing back on Apple iOS the most aggressively. It also relies very heavily on data collecting to tailor its audiences for advertisers. However, other ad platforms like Google, Pinterest, Microsoft, Twitter & more will also be affected.
What can I do to help my campaigns?
We can’t completely avoid the changes that are happening, but there are a few things that we can do to help the transition.
PREPARE THE TECHNICAL
Facebook has recently asked advertisers to verify their domains and configure their web events. There are also some other tactics in terms of how you install your Pixel (Facebook’s data-tracking tool), but as we all know, nothing will prevent the changes from having an impact.
COLLECT FIRST-PARTY DATA
The data that apps collect from you is called “third-party data”. First-party data is when someone gives you their details directly, for example, a customer giving you their details in a contact form or signing up for a newsletter. That data is going to become more valuable and give you more advertising options, particularly around remarketing.
PREPARE YOUR BUSINESS FOR TOUGH TIMES
Facebook representatives are advising advertisers to weather the storm. Many say that results will decline for a few weeks while the platform goes through a significant re-learning phase. They’re asking advertisers to keep their campaigns going and stick it out through the downturn in the hope that learning can continue and ads will improve.
While this isn’t terrible advice, it is in Facebook’s best interest to say this. However, not every business has the cash flow to do this. Leaving your ads running for the purpose of learning is likely to result in improvements, but there’s no point in that if it’s going to be detrimental to your business financially.
If you can afford to do so, watch your campaigns and ride out the storm. But, if it’s becoming impossible to maintain, reduce your ad spend or pause your advertising. Review your budget and your marketing plan – understand how much you can manage and at what point you’d need to bring the axe down. Talk to your PPC Specialist so you’re on the same page about how to react to the change and the results coming in.
DIVERSIFY YOUR PLATFORMS
The impact of the changes will be different depending on the platform. No one knows what will happen, and each platform will need to decide how to move forward in terms of its advertising.
It’s a good time to think about what platforms you’re on and assess whether all your eggs are in one basket. There is a range of search and social advertising platforms available. Diversifying your advertising could prevent a major crash if one platform has more issues than the others.
What does the future hold?
Paid advertising is changing in a big way. Depending on who you ask, you can get opinions ranging from “this is the apocalypse” to “it’s simply a different way of marketing”. There’s a lot of uncertainty around these changes because no one knows the full impact yet.
Here at Vine Street Digital, we believe that the foundations of paid marketing are still present, but the tools are changing. Marketing isn’t going away. While it may be challenging at first, skilled marketers will come back to the core of what makes a good campaign and find ways to reach the right people with the right message.
Written by Gemma Renton