iX POV: What does the iOS 14 update mean for advertisers using Facebook Ads?

James Mortimer

Paid Social Director

In June 2020, Apple announced that iOS 14 will contain an update that prompts users to opt in if an app on their device wants to use their data. Until now, users would be automatically opted in by agreeing to the app’s T&Cs, but the new update will make it clearer to the user that their data, such as their location and browsing history, is being used, giving them the option to say no.

This will impact a lot of app developers but it’s particularly challenging for Facebook whose entire business model is dependent on acquiring user data for ads. Facebook’s unique ability to accurately attribute conversions relies on cookies which it then matches with user ID’s. The platform also uses data from apps and browsing to understand what users are interested in so that advertisers can accurately target people who’re relevant to them. The update to iOS 14 will make both actions much more limited since it’s likely that more users on Apple mobile devices will opt out of giving their information.

The social media company is taking the update so seriously that they even ran several newspaper ads around the world to protest against it.

Further to this Facebook announced they will be reducing the attribution window that advertisers will be able use to match revenue from their ads. Currently a 28-day view or click window is the maximum option but this will be reduced to seven days. This reduction is down to their reduced access to user data.

Due to these new restriction’s advertisers running mobile app install campaigns targeting users on iOS will need to restructure their accounts and even open new ones as they will only be able to run nine campaigns with a limit of five ad sets with the same optimisation objective.

What can brands do to limit the impact of the Apple iOS 14 update?

In the short term there are a few quick fixes that advertisers can put in place to minimise the disruption that this will create.

The first thing brands should do is benchmark their level of sales using the seven-day attribution window. This will enable consistency in reporting going forward as they’ll be able to understand what the 28-day revenue would have been based on the seven-day figure.

In addition to this ad professionals should utilise Facebook’s Conversion’s API to take data from their servers and send this back to Facebook directly where the platform will be able to attribute sales.

Following on from these two hacks there are more long-term strategies that advertisers can use.

It’s likely that Facebook's own targeting options will become less accurate and potentially less valuable because the platform relies on data from user behaviour on other sites to build them. However, the update won’t impact audiences that are built inside Facebook which includes groups like users who engaged with organic content such as watching videos or followers on Instagram. Targeting these groups will remain just as effective because Facebook can identify these users.

This will give brands who run a strong organic strategy an advantage as they will have a bigger and more accurate group of users to target.

Tracking and optimising for conversion ads via data collected by the pixel will become harder so advertisers need smart alternative strategies to get around this. One solution to better join the dots could be to use lead ads. By collecting data from lead ads advertisers will still be able to build custom audiences and reach these users on other channels. With the data stored in a CRM brands can easily attribute future conversions and understand the true lifetime value of their customers.

At iCrossing we’ve worked with brands that offer products that have a very long lead time, such as financial services, and we’ve found that using lead ads can be a very effective strategy.

Data modelling and econometrics will become more important for Facebook advertisers that want to run on a large scale while also heavily investing in other channels, such as FMCG brands. As mass marketers try to better understand how to shift the dial with increased media exposure, reporting on reach and frequency for brands in retail sectors will become more significant. Understanding the link between reach and impressions and increased sales demand will become even more important for mass-market advertisers.

Creative will also become even more crucial. With an increased focus on the direct action taken from ads, effective creative will need to persuade users to convert right away. Brands that develop more effective creative drive more direct conversions will see benefits of cheaper costs in the auction, as that system will prioritise them ahead of brands with lower conversion rates.

In summary although the iOS update will provide disruption initially it should benefit brands that focus on long term organic strategies as well effective creative. There are hacks that advertisers can use to minimise the initial problems faced but in the long term the creating engaging organic content and effective paid creative will pay dividends.

Brands that have long term strategies in place should still see strong results on Facebook as testing with trial and error is a key element of successful holistic planning. Whereas advertisers looking to dip their toes or cut corners on creative and proper planning are much less likely to see good results from Facebook going forward.

We are proud to be two-time winners of Best Social at the Drum Recommends Digital Awards and specialise in helping clients connect authentically with audiences with effective social strategies. Please contact us if you have any digital marketing questions – we would love to help!

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