iOS 14: How will it affect marketers & advertisers?


To protect the privacy of its users, Apple will limit the amount of data that it shares with advertising platforms and apps in its latest roll out of iOS 14. 

Whilst it has been slated for some time now, the new privacy changes are set to be released in the coming weeks and has caused a flurry of discussion amongst digital marketers with its purported ripple effects across several channels. 

Those that rely heavily on apps as the primary channel for presenting ads to users, will see the most disruption to performance and attribution. Read on to find out what this means for you as marketer and how tracking performance will likely look quite different moving forward.

What are the changes that come with iOS 14?

Apple will require all users to give permission to other companies through the App Tracking Transparency framework. Essentially, apps musts explicitly ask users for their permission to track their device’s advertising identifier as well as their behaviour within the apps.

In addition, users will now be prompted to opt-out of tracking for each app they download. This has a number of impacts but in short means that an advertiser’s ability to track user behaviour, serve personalised ads and manage ad performance is going to be significantly limited.

It also means that businesses now need updates to work within a range of new privacy requirements from Apple.

What does it mean for advertisers & marketers?

Most platforms that rely on apps will be affected including Google, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Mobile Measurement Partners (e.g. AppsFlyer) and Demand Side Platforms (e.g. Criteo).

The key ways in which the new iOS 14 roll out will affect how digital advertising is conducted boils down tothe limited amount of data being passed back to platforms:

  1. Attribution windows will be shortened so that you can only track conversions that happen within 7 days of a click (previously this was 28 days).
  2. Overall, less data will be available to serve personalised ads meaning retargeting is likely to become less effective as a marketing strategy (this includes both targeting and excluding).
  3. Performance data will also be delayed by 1-3 days to help protect the privacy of Apple’s users.
  4. There will be a portion of iOS users who will entirely opt-out of tracking. This is to be expected given how explicit the asking of consent to track their data is and advertisers will ultimately lose out on audiences.

How is Facebook responding to iOS 14?

Arguably, iOS 14 has the biggest impact on Facebook Ads if users choose to opt-out with significant effects on optimisation, attribution and targeting. In response to iOS 14, Facebook is adopting Apple’s SKAdNetwork API but this will come significant limitations:

  1. Facebook has set a limit of tracking 8 conversion events per domain including pixel events and custom conversions and will be ranked by priority.
  2. Conversion windows have been scaled back to: 7day click (default), 7 day click & 1 day view, 1 day click & 1 day click and 1 day view.
  3. While Facebook will track users using aggregated data, you will be unable to serve personalised ads, build lookalike audiences from events and accurately retarget users based on first party data i.e. demographic breakdowns.
  4. Through Aggregated Event Management, Facebook will only report one event (the highest value event) even if multiple actions were taken by the user.
  5. A runoff effect will be the efficiency of advertising will be reduced as the Facebook algorithm has less data to optimise towards. 

So what next?

As you can imagine, you might expect to see a drop in performance in your advertising – particularly reported performance.

For example, you will still be able to serve ads and drive people to take actions on your website, however, you won’t be able to report all of the sales that come through as a result. This means keeping in mind that there are conversions that will be underreported and will mean adjusting your performance targets and KPI’s accordingly.

Key takeaway

To recap, Apple are planning to roll out a privacy update to iOS 14 which is going to impact how ad platforms track customer behaviour and ad performance.

These privacy changes will affect marketers’ ability to personalise, optimise and track the results of our marketing activity. This will result in changes to reporting (attribution window changes), and campaign performance may be impacted due to fewer signals being received.

Whilst it isn’t clear how the iOS tracking 14 opt-outs will affect different platforms long term, we do know inefficiencies will be felt by many marketers when it comes to overall personalisation, optimisation and campaign reporting.