Apple iOS 14 Update – What does this mean?

By Jon Harrison,

Apple has always had a mind of its own, if Google does this, Apple does that, such is the nature of competing at the top of the tech table for so long. However in 2021 it’s not a hardware battle between some of the biggest brands in the industry…it’s about data and Apple have Google and Facebook firmly in their sites. 

So back in late 2020, Apple promised a software update in the form of iOS 14 which incorporated Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA). While generally a company like Apple creating a new software update is nothing out of the ordinary, this is something very very different. Thankfully this release was delayed until 2021 giving advertisers an opportunity to get their Facebook Business Manager in order for a release that can be expected any day now. 

At Core we have noticed over the previous few months, those pesky yellow flags are starting to pop up with brand new warnings and it’s time to brace yourself and your accounts for the iOS 14 Facebook tracking update. So what is the story with this update and what can you do?

Explaining the landscape

Essentially the IDFA or Apple ID For Advertisers was created to help advertisers measure the true effectiveness of their ads as well as allowing tracking of devices and people. When a user updates to iOS 14, they will be prompted with a pop up to give or deny permission to apps such as Facebook or Instagram to whether they want to have their online activity tracked. Being realistic most people will say no, especially with data privacy and protection becoming more important over the last number of years it’s understandable that most people will have the mindset of “I don’t want my phone listening to me” even though that is not the case.

While Apple see this as a positive, and on one hand rightly so it gives their users a choice, Facebook on the other hand have been less than amused by these developments. This change and allowing people to opt out of advertising tracking is going to have implications on performance tracking for agencies and companies, this includes how you target, how you optimise campaigns and how you report on conversion event results. This has meant that Facebook has had to move quickly to make some changes. No longer will 28 day attribution be supported, with 7 day click attribution now the standard attribution model. This means that you will be effectively reporting on ¼ of the amount of data that you would have previously, thus causing decreased in audience sizes, delays in reports and a general change of approach to get the results you expect from your advertising campaigns.

While this can all sound a bit negative, look at the flipside, as agencies we are now being challenged to create better ads, target better and create tighter audiences which will in turn improve performance using the 7 day window. Short term pain for long term gain is the order of the day.

ios 14 facebook tracking update prompt

Why is Facebook Tracking Affected?

facebook ios 14 update

This is a bit of an odd one but, with the iOS 14 update you will be able to track your paid social activity, while a user can choose to not share their data, you will still be able to track the most important of conversions….the purchase event. Basically it means that you set a hierarchy of events and the most important one will be tracked. 

To make this make more sense let’s look at an example, let’s say you’re running ads for an online shop, an iOS 14 user will be able to say no to data tracking, this means Facebook won’t be able to track each single conversion event, let’s say Add to Cart or Add Payment Details but will just track the purchase which is the highest priority event. This will retain all the sales information such as the volume of purchases, revenue generated and cost per purchase which are ultimately the end goals of any campaign. 

What Can You Do To Be Ready

Here’s the thing, starting conversion ads from scratch means you will have very little audience data to work off and essentially this change to tracking and attribution window brings you back to day one. While not ideal there are a few things you can do to be in the best possible position when the update does happen. So let’s take a look:

Use Own Brand Data

Sure these changes means personalising ads are going to be harder to achieve than before but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a way. But it means a change of mindset from short term profits to long term value. You will need to really focus on your owned data, this could mean using your email database to create custom audiences, using your pixel and catalogue sales to generate purchase based lookalike and value based lookalike audiences and then using video where possible to increase overall engagement. In essence you can still differentiate between ads that brought good results and ads that are not working. It also means leveraging and embracing Facebook automation to get even more creative with Facebook advertising.

Use UTM Tracking

I personally feel UTM tracking should be used as a set standard but it’s something that is usually and easily overlooked. However with iOS 14 there are going to be gaps in your understanding when it comes to campaign performance. While Google Analytics and Facebook will never speak to each other with 100% accuracy the use of UTM tracking can help big time. This little piece of tracking that you can put together easily enough here: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

UTM tracking can help bridge a gap between Facebook & Google to help you get more insights and gather additional information on your target audience. This you can then use in your overall targeting, such as:

  • Landing Pages
  • Clicks
  • Sales Funnel
  • Demographics 
  • & More

Google Analytics & Goals

When using UTM tracking it is also highly important to be tracking goals in Google Analytics, these should be inline with the goals you are tracking on Facebook. The idea is that you should in theory see any additional goals completed. Again Google and FB don’t exactly match up and they tend not to but you will get more visibility which will help you improve long term campaign performance. 

Going Forward

In essence this new update from Apple will force you into customising your conversion and remarketing campaigns on Facebook. If these changes start to effect the outcomes of your campaigns what we will see in the long term is a reduction in cost of Paid Social Advertising and in turn your Cost Per Impression. Short term pain for long terms gain and while for now it may be tough, think that getting to the other side with better quality audiences and stronger data you will in time see:

  • Reduced costs to advertise
  • Less competition as “it’s too hard”
  • Better client relations
  • Tighter audience data

What’s going to happen if the changes actually begin to affect the profit and outcomes of your campaigns? Well, for one thing, it’s going to reduce the cost of paid social – it’s going to reduce CPMs. 

Brands that utilize paid social for short-term benefits will most likely bail if they cannot cope with these changes. However, those who stick around, are probably going to reap the benefits: 

Lower cost  

Less competition  

Better relationships with clients 

About the author

Jon is our Inbound & Social Media Marketing Executive specialising in working with our clients to deliver growth through social media advertising. Coming from a sales and content background, Jon has a passion for delivering a high level of customer service with a focus on driving sales and increasing online revenue for our customers.