If you’ve followed the news over the past weeks, you’ve probably heard that the social media platform Facebook has serious beef with tech giant Apple. To be more precise, Apple’s software update iOS14, which bans apps from sharing iPhone user data with third parties unless users give explicit consent. Of course, this directly relates to Facebook’s advertising platform, which relies on Apple’s input for targeting purposes. To help you understand the impact of iOS 14 on your advertising efforts and allow you to prepare for this update, we’ll break down the basics:
- What’s new about iOS 14?
- Updated privacy protection and the iOS 14 prompt
- How iOS 14 affects Facebook marketers
- How iOS 14 affects your Facebook ads
- How to work around and prepare for the iOS 14 update
What’s New About iOS 14?
iOS 14 is the latest operating system from Apple, developed for its iPhone and iPad lines and compatible with all devices that could support iOS 13. It was released in September 2020.iOS 14 features a redesigned interface, that now includes support for widgets that can be pinned onto the home screen in different sizes. To most users, this part of the update is the most notable change. It creates a more personalised experience for the individual, whilst still being easy and natural to navigate.Another change is less obvious, but nonetheless impactful: Appealing to the increased need for privacy, iOS 14 is not only more personalised but also more secure. Brand new privacy features include app permissions to location tracking, sharing approximate locations, accessing local networks, detecting camera and microphone access and the detection of problematic passwords.
App developers now need to ask for tracking permissions before they can access the data required to create powerful ad campaigns. Under Settings > Privacy > Tracking, users can choose whether they want apps to ask for permission or prefer to deny all tracking from the get-go. Whilst we can all agree that some of these updates were long overdue, others are a lot more controversial. Many marketers are confused and worried about the implications this will have on their industry. So much so, that Facebook released a statement in support of small business owners, who rely heavily on Facebook as a means of advertising their products and services. In the recently published post titled “Standing up for small businesses”, Facebook claims that the updates are “hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic. These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively.” According to inhouse data, small businesses could see as much as a 60 per cent decrease in online sales from their Facebook and Instagram ads.
Safari is now working hard to prevent cross-site tracking, too. A privacy report details the number of trackers prevented from profiling the user and the percentage of websites that contacted trackers.
Updated Privacy Protections: The iOS 14 Prompt
The new iOS 14 policy prohibits apps from collecting user data - unless people opt-in when they’re shown a prompt that asks for permission to track their activity outside the platform. For example: If a user were to open the Facebook app on their phone, a prompt saying “Allow Facebook to use your app and website activity?” would pop up. The user can then choose between “Don’t Allow” and “Allow” (the exact wording may vary or if you’ve already chosen an option, you can change it in your settings - see in the screenshots below). This may look quite familiar, as most websites already use a similar form to allow for cookie tracking.Now, we do agree that allowing users to decide what happens with their data, is a great win for the security and privacy of the individual. But the issue is when the majority of users do opt-out, and almost everyone expects that will happen, we can kiss personalised advertising and current marketing strategies goodbye.
How the iOS 14 Changes Affect Facebook Marketers
For the sake of this article, let’s assume that most iPhone users that upgrade to iOS 14, will indeed disable tracking on their devices.
What happens to your Facebook Ad campaigns next?
- Facebook can no longer track user behaviour. If you’re using a Facebook Pixel to optimise, target, and report on web conversion events, you can no longer rely on the accurateness of the conversion data.
- Your targeting options will be limited, hindering your ability to create personalised ads for hyper-granular audiences.
- Being unable to track user behaviour and conversions events, your remarketing efforts and lookalike generation become virtually useless.
How is it possible that clicking the wrong CTA in a little box has this much power? Well, it prevents Facebook from accessing what’s called IDFA, a device identifier for advertisers, which is unique to every iPhone and iPad. This ID allows Facebook to run hyper-targeted ad campaigns. If users opt-out of tracking, they’ll still see ads in their feeds and stories, they’ll just be a lot more random. At the end of the day, it’ll make ads a lot less effective, and potentially more expensive.Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t try to hide the fact that the new policies were designed at least partially with Facebook in mind. Speaking at a conference for International Data Privacy Day, he said: “Technology does not need vast troves of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed”.Between Australia’s new media bargaining code and the Apple software update, it’s likely that Mark Zuckerberg had quite a few sleepless nights over the past weeks. No matter what users choose to do with their data at the end of the day, whether they allow tracking or not, Facebook will respect their choice.
iOS 14 Changes And Their Effects On Facebook Advertising
Facebook has released a number of excellent tools and resources to help you make the most of your advertising budget, but the extent of the damage the iOS 14 update could cause is unclear.One thing is certain: Marketers can expect less and incomplete data, decreased efficiency and fewer website sales from ads, accompanied by a drop in Facebook app install ad revenue and greater difficulty for small businesses to reach their ideal audience.
How will the Apple iOS 14 affect your Facebook Ads?
- Facebook Pixel
Are you using a Facebook Pixel to keep track of actions people take on your website and to make sure your ads are shown to the right audience? Any tracking such as ‘Add to Cart’ actions or purchases with the Pixel is now likely to be under-reported since many people who are taking these actions might have opted out of tracking.
- Optimising your Ads
Under-reporting of actions means Pixel data used for ad optimisation, retargeting or the creation of custom audiences, now becomes highly unreliable. The Pixel is simply not ‘learning’ as much anymore, and not well enough for you to make informed decisions.
- Retargeting ads
Retargeting will no longer work for anyone who opted out. Without being able to access their IDFA, anyone who visits a website from an iOS 14 device will be simply “invisible” to Facebook. That means your retargeting audience will be significantly smaller - so much so that it might be worth looking into alternative methods of retargeting.
- Affected Ad Objectives
- Traffic Ads that are optimised around Landing Page Views using the Pixel.
- Conversion Ads are affected if optimised around Custom Conversions or Standard Events.
- Catalogue sales when they go to a website.
- App Installs and app-related conversions when targeting iOS devices.
How to Work Around the iOS 14 Update
Now, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost and whilst there are many ways in which your campaigns could be affected by this update, there’s also a bunch of thrifty ways to work around these changes in the immediate future!
- Start by taking a look at how many of your purchases and leads are actually coming from iOS devices
- Exclude iOS devices when running campaigns with conversion objectives
- Create campaigns outside of the conversion objective, such as lead generation
- For retargeting purposes, focus on growing your email marketing list and create click-worthy automated email campaigns
A crew of strategists, creatives and tech nerds, Anchor Digital is a digital agency powered by your business goals. Through close collaboration and total transparency, Anchor is your partner in the climb - from the ground up. If you’re still unsure what the recent iOS 14 changes mean for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!