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Now that the iOS is officially in-place, what are the initial implications marketers are experiencing? As we discuss this topic, let’s revisit where we’ve been, where we are today, and evaluate next steps to continue to get the most out of their paid social marketing. 

When did we learn about Apple’s iOS 14 update’s implications to Facebook and other social app-focused advertising mediums?

Apple first introduced their new data policies regarding iOS devices at the Annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2020. Through their App Tracking Transparency feature, consumers have the ability to opt in or out of paid advertising tracking. Prior to this roll out, apps within the iOS platform had been able to automatically target and track the effectiveness of ads across mobile apps, mobile apps, websites, email and more using a unique identifier (IDFA) associated with the device being used. As described above, this was officially phased out in April 2021. 

With the feared expectation that most consumers do not understand the value exchange of sharing their data with brands, it was expected that there would be major implications to scale on audience targeting and lost precision in terms of event tracking and attribution. As a result, marketers had to begin preparing for changes in performance and conversion metrics that could potentially cause concerns about the effectiveness of their advertising on Facebook and Instagram. 

What are some of the “need to knows” for the changes on iOS?

  • Social v. Programmatic: The iOS14.5 update is impacting social advertising much more so than programmatic. This is because social platforms are primarily app-based whereas programmatic advertising (such as display and video) also relies heavily on web-based traffic. Thus far at Coegi, we haven’t seen major differences in performance on the programmatic side but have begun to see the implications with regard to social conversion tracking and scale. 
  • Measurement: With IDFAs no longer being tracked by default, users who have opted out will no longer pass the information needed to attribute conversion to that device and therefore, any conversion will simply be measured as ‘organic’ rather than being tied to advertising initiatives, This will make it more challenging to assess return on marketing investment.
  • Targeting: When apps are able to track user activity across the web and physical location, the networks that own them are able to develop profiles that can be used in targeted advertising. With a high percentage of opt-out users on the iOS14.5 platform, the availability of this data is severely limited for some networks, thus reducing the scale of targeted advertising opportunities. Additionally, location-based targeting is impacted as users now have the ability to share “approximate location” rather than precise location, which will impact the ability to execute highly effective geofence campaigns. 

So will we not be able to rely on audience targeting?

While changes are inevitable, advertisers still have several options to continue targeting niche audiences. Walled garden publishers will have an advantage due to readily available data from logged in users; however, there are several targeting options available:

  • 1st and 2nd Party Data-Based Audiences: This data is not dependent on 3rd party tracking and represents the most valuable consumers for your brand. By using data onboarding technology, these audience segments can be pushed to practically any platform for a holistic activation of marketing across channels.
  • Affinities: You can work with data partners to identify other social pages that index highly for users with affinity to your brand, a competitive brand, or a brand persona’s lifestyle, and target those interests across social media platforms with device data.
  • Custom Target Sets: Audience lists can be created by data scientists that are custom curated for your brand. 
  • TV Audiences: If your brand is running TV ads, or your competitors are, you can serve ads to those who have a specific ad or a program on a smart television. 

How can brands implement effective measurement and attribution given these changes?

Even outside of the iOS update, attributing the appropriate value to mobile traffic has had its challenges. While research has shown that many customer journeys are initiated on mobile devices, mobile traffic often looks less likely to convert than desktop traffic due to users switching between app and mobile web browsers. As a result, stitching together the path to conversion has been difficult and some have struggled to justify spend on mobile due to their inability to evaluate influence on purchase or conversion activity. The upcoming iOS 15 update will further complicate this measurement challenge. 

Because of this, Coegi recommends adopting a directional approach to measurement as opposed to one that is solely deterministic. This is necessary not only for iOS but also in preparation for the deprecation of third-party cookies. Here are some recommendations on how to develop your own model for holistic measurement and attribution:

  • Benchmark your current performance: You can start modeling the impact of device opt-outs and cookie deprecation by recording metrics from the recent past (prior to the iOS 14 rollouts and the cookie deprecation) and monitor changes to performance.  Establishing benchmarks by operating system and browser will enable you to most accurately calculate the potential impact. 
  • Apply business intelligence models to your analytics: Predictive analytics can be used along with your data to provide deeper insights for the best performing marketing tactics and identify macro and micro trends that influence your business outcomes
  • Further consolidate media activation to fewer platforms: Platforms are developing their own internal frameworks to accurately track and measure marketing performance outside of third party trackers. The more platforms you execute your media through the more disparate measurement systems you have to take into consideration. There is also the likelihood that you will have duplication across platforms and consolidation will reduce that occurrence.

If you have any questions about the iOS updates or the upcoming deprecation of the third-party cookie, reach out to Coegi to set-up a discussion on how to address these changes.