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If you advertise regularly on popular platforms such as Facebook and Google, you've probably encountered some frustrating roadblocks: Ads rejected, wild volatility in click or impression costs, and the dreaded disabling of accounts for no apparent reason (looking at you, Facebook).

Recently, Apple announced yet another hurdle. This time, it’s a shake-up that will reshape digital advertising as we know it.

In Spring 2021, the tech giant will implement major privacy policy updates to its iOS 14 software, affecting all iPhone and iPad devices. This announcement significantly affects behavioral and location tracking—both of which are vital in creating targeted and highly personalized campaigns.

With a lot of uncertainty circling these policy changes, let’s dive into what exactly Apple is doing and a few ways to navigate your advertising after these updates.

What Apple is doing in an upcoming iOS 14 update

Apple is working on an update for iOS 14 that includes a new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy. This policy will require all apps on iPhone and iPad devices to ask users for permission before using and sharing their information for advertising purposes. 

If a user denies permission, the app cannot use or share that device’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Even if a person has previously granted permissions for apps to use their information, Apple  intends to re-confirm permission to use data for personalized advertising.

How will this impact advertising platforms?

Ad platforms like Google and Facebook rely heavily on location and behavior data to group users into audiences with similar interests and behaviors. In turn, businesses can set targets within those platforms to reach people with specific interests or usage patterns.

Facebook has been the most outspoken about these changes due to the impact they will have on social display advertising. The company says the iOS 14 changes will limit an advertiser’s ability to:

  • Deliver ads to people who've engaged with your business
  • Report on conversions from specific customers
  • Ensure ads are delivered at the correct frequency
  • Attribute app installs (if you're advertising an app on the platform) 
  • Optimize ads based on targeted cost-per-action and project changes over time

Google has remained relatively quiet on the issue -- until late January 2021. The company released statements suggesting it wouldn't issue the ATT prompt in its apps. Instead, Google will stop recording advertising identifiers once the new policy is in place. 

For the most part, search advertising should remain unaffected, as advertisers bid on keywords that people are actively searching. Google Display advertising will likely take the biggest hit, as these changes will affect how organizations can group people in audiences based on unique characteristics.

Let's be clear here: Google and Facebook aren't the only two platforms that will see changes.

All advertising platforms that use behavioral data from iPhone/iPad customers will need to rethink how they can target specific audiences and report on campaign performance.

Businesses should do these four things to prepare their ad accounts

Apple's changes will affect some businesses more than others, especially if they advertise an app. Based on Facebook's guidance, we’ve identified the top adjustments brands should make in their ad accounts.

Verify your website domains & tracking pixels


A pixel is a snippet of HTML code loaded onto your website domain. By setting up pixels, you can track user behavior—also called actions or events—between your website and third-party sites. This will allow you to target audiences with ads more accurately. 

Since the iOS 14 changes will limit how data is shared, verifying your website domain and tracking pixels will be essential. 

To verify your domain, take the script from Facebook and enter it into the DNS (domain name system). Be sure to add it as a record so Facebook can confirm the connection and give you full access to Facebook Business Manager. 

Update app SDKs

Software Development Kits, or SDKs, are a collection of tools developers use to create applications for different platforms. 

Not to be confused with APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), SDKs have all of the libraries, code, documentation, and processes in one place to ensure your app runs smoothly on various operating systems and platforms. 

If you’re running an app for installation on Facebook or using any of its assets or text decks, you’ll need to update the app to comply with Apple’s new standards. Here’s Facebook’s latest Audience Network SDK for quick reference.

Consolidate conversions

For years, Facebook has offered several website conversion objectives to choose from for your campaigns. Selecting the right conversion option helps optimize your ads, helping you generate quality leads and deliver ads to the correct audiences. 

Historically, Facebook has allowed advertisers to track as many custom conversions in their ads as they like (e.g., a new conversion for different lead types, clicking on different CTAs, etc.) and optimize campaigns for these conversions. 

Apple’s new policies will prohibit how certain data is collected and stored unless users opt-in, which means Facebook will trim down the options for available conversions in Ad Manager. Many of the custom options will disappear.

According to Facebook, pixel conversion events from iPhone and iPad devices will be processed using Aggregated Event Measurement

“Facebook's aggregated event measurement is a protocol that allows for measurement of web events from iOS 14 users...Our solution is analogous to Apple's private click measurement, but is designed to solve for key advertiser use cases not addressed by Apple's proposal.”

So, what does this mean for you? 

Under the new policy changes, you’ll be forced to consolidate tracked conversions to limit the amount of data Facebook collects about users. Once Apple users update to iOS 14,  Facebook will only allow for eight conversion events per domain for optimization.

With these changes, it’ll be even more important to choose the most critical conversions for your business objectives, including all top-of-funnel, mid-funnel, and bottom-funnel conversions.

Monitor audience performance closer than ever

It’s always a best practice to monitor and adjust campaigns continually. However, this will be even more essential when the ATT policy rolls out. Not only will it be more complicated to match people, but the cost-per-conversion is going to go up.

Another notable shift with the upcoming iOS 14 changes will involve breakdown and lookback windows. Previously, you could see if someone clicked on an ad in the past 30-90 days, and you could view whether they converted or filled in a lead form. That window is decreasing to around seven days. 

With these changes, if you’re not keeping a close eye on your campaign performance, you could end up spending more with less to show for it. 

Key takeaway

Apple’s iOS 14 update will prompt a huge shift in digital advertising, but these basic steps will help you maintain compliance. It’s yet another roadblock from a major tech platform, but it’s a positive change.

Ultimately, this is likely the first of many data and tracking policies to come. Consumers want more control over their data, and it’s up to marketers to respect that. They’ll just need to serve engaging and compelling ads in new and creative ways. 

Is your advertising compliant with new platform policies? Contact Airfoil today for an audit.

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