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Preparing for iOS 14 & the AppTrackingTransparency Framework

5 MINUTE READ | January 29, 2021

Preparing for iOS 14 & the AppTrackingTransparency Framework

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

There is no doubt that we’re entering a new era of digital advertising. The release of Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework via iOS 14 will have a significant impact on the digital economy, not just across the mobile app ecosystem, but disrupting the fundamental way brands engage with customers online. Nearly every platform, ad tech partner, and app developer is busy determining the most effective approach to addressing the anticipated disruptions of ATT across audiences, ad optimization, creative and mobile measurement while advertisers prepare for a cookieless future.

AppTrackingTransparency Refresher: To comply with the new privacy-first data collection standards set forth by Apple in iOS 14, app developers will need to receive the user’s permission through the AppTrackingTransparency framework to track them or access their device’s advertiser identifier (IDFA). 

This means that upon updating their device with the upcoming iOS 14 update, users must explicitly give each app permission to track or access their IDFA moving forward (via the ATT prompt). As more people inevitably update and opt-out of tracking across their iOS 14 devices (iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs), ads personalization, audience targeting, and performance reporting will be limited across the entire mobile app and digital advertising ecosystem. 

Here’s how partners and platforms are preparing for these iOS 14 changes, as well as considerations to keep in mind when mitigating the loss of IDFA across digital programs. 

The major self-attributing networks (SAN) (Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Snap) have all committed to enabling support for Apple’s SKAdNetwork in time for the ATT release via iOS 14. 

Facebook has been, perhaps, the loudest critic of Apple’s new limits on data sharing, releasing several statements urging Apple to reconsider the ATT  framework, citing personalized advertising as a critical strategy used by small businesses online. 

Regardless of the public relations battle playing out between Apple and Facebook, Facebook and Instagram will display the ATT prompt when the time comes, with Facebook introducing solutions across event management, ad delivery, and measurement, to name a few. Though, Facebook has warned that performance and audience size decreases can be expected for Dynamic Ads for Retargeting and limited support for Ads Reporting attribution windows amid the implementation of ATT. 

Related: Google is reportedly “extremely confident” about third-party cookie alternatives.

Most agency teams across social platforms, including Snap, Reddit, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn, have been relatively tight-lipped about how ATT will directly impact ad targeting, mobile web, and optimization capabilities within their ad platforms beyond mobile-app based campaigns. Among other partners, Verizon Media is developing additional support for Apple’s SKAdNetwork and will announce the release and beta timelines within the next few weeks. Similar to Facebook, we can expect that audience sizes will decrease, optimization levers will be limited, and measurement data will be delayed and aggregated. 

Early tests indicate that an estimated 80 percent of iOS users could opt-out of tracking via ATT, thus requiring brands to find alternative solutions, such as those listed below, and mitigate losses in audience targeting, ad optimization, and mobile ad measurement. 

Brands will need to pivot from niche website custom audiences to a robust audience testing strategy, focusing on platform-provided interest targeting, large demographic groups, content targeting, or increased use of CRM audiences. Creating a testing roadmap against these new audiences will also be important as audience sizes begin to shrink, with more users opting out via ATT.

Platforms will be limited in the number of events and level of data that can be captured, as there may be limitations on platform-based optimization levers like conversion optimization, or even dynamic product ads, once ATT is live. Based on the industry-wide deprecation of signals, brands will need to do rigorous, objective testing. Advertisers will likely need to pivot to strategies based on reach or optimization against clicks, as conversion optimization may no longer have the signal power it previously did. 

In many cases, near real-time attribution will stall as measurement is delayed or aggregated due to ATT, with previous benchmarks no longer applicable. We also anticipate limitations to view-based measurement, and we recommend brands revisit their advanced measurement roadmap, begin incorporating media mix modeling or systematic testing, and proactively establish new click-based benchmarks across full-funnel tactics. 

As a result of these iOS 14 ATT changes, brands can no longer rely on a platform’s algorithm to fuel personalized ad creative for users. Brands that continue to provide value through highly engaging content and storytelling won’t be hindered by these changes, however  getting back to the basics of what makes creative connect with audiences will be critical in the months to come. 

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As we navigate this new normal of cookieless advertising and enhanced privacy, brands that take an agile approach to digital advertising will be best positioned to overcome new data privacy and measurement challenges. Applying a test and learn approach to audience targeting, ad-buying, and creative testing and measurement will provide advertisers with a better approach to connecting with users, preserving brand equity, and continuing to support the bottom line.

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