How iOS 14 May Affect Your Paid Performance

by | Jan 21, 2021

How iOS 14 May Affect Your Paid Performance
11 min read

Apple’s release of iOS 14 is expected to be a game-changer for privacy for users and paid performance for online advertisers. There are still many questions to be answered by the powers that be, along with the full impact on performance once the global rollout is complete, but we wanted to get you one step ahead of the game and update you on what we know so far (or at least what we think we know).

This story will continue to develop and we will continue to update you on how iOS 14 will affect your paid performance.

What is happening?

In June, Apple announced a number of changes coming to iOS 14. Without making a fuss, Apple revealed a simple notification that will fundamentally change how we advertise online.

These changes are set to be rolled out imminently, with no explicit deadline provided by Apple, and will change the way that we manage ad accounts across all platforms, report on ad performance and attribute revenue.

Keep in mind that this news is developing and nothing is set in stone. While this change will affect you it will also affect your competitors, other agencies and all industries. We’re all in this together.

App Tracking Transparency

In brief, iOS 14 will require all apps on the App Store to show an App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt (as above) asking users to either opt-in or out from allowing the app to collect and share their data and track usage. Yes, this includes Facebook, Instagram, etc. where you serve your ads.

The ATT affects the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), the way which devices assign identification to an Apple device that allows them to be tracked and advertised to, without revealing personal information. IDFA is essentially how the current Facebook pixel placed on sites and apps reports back user events.

Lastly, it will also affect the SKAd Network, which is how developers measure an aggregate of all mobile ad campaigns for iOS apps and attributes success back to the ads shown.

Why this is a big deal

Right now, iOS users probably represent a large number of your customers and conversions. Facebook has already issued a statement indicating a potential severity of more than a 50% decrease in Audience Network Publisher Revenue

Facebook said that despite not agreeing to Apple’s approach, that they will fall in line with the ATT policy. Facebook is setting a major precedent here which will surely encourage other platforms and developers to follow.

How iOS 14 Will Affect You

Right now Facebook advertisers have extreme granularity in data and user actions after a click action is taken. With the Facebook pixel installed on a website, advertisers can track certain actions like Add To Cart, Initiate Checkout, Purchase, etc. Based on these actions, advertisers can then create audience segments to serve with more specific ads and in near real time report events that help optimisation and decision making.

In the future with ATT, to stay compliant Facebook will stop tracking customers who opted out on iOS. This hugely limits their ability to receive web conversion events and your ability to report on and optimise your campaigns.

Aggregated Event Measurement

Facebook will implement Aggregated Event Measurement. While we still don’t have all the answers on exactly what this looks like, we understand it to mean that they will receive unique consumer information, randomise it and create an algorithm that…

“… helps us to measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data.”

Sure, but what exactly does the future look like for Facebook advertising? Here’s what we know so far:

  • Advertisers will be limited to using 8 conversion events per domain.
  • Advertisers will receive partial reporting in Ads Manager and Events Manager for additional events outside of the 8 priority events. Facebook will initially configure the conversion events it deems most relevant to your business.
  • The 8 conversion events will be ranked by campaign spend within the last 28 days. When multiple events are completed by a unique user “purchase” will be prioritised for reporting purposes.
  • When you change an event it will trigger a 72 hour cool down period before it takes effect.
  • Default attribution windows are moving from 28 day click to 7 day click-through only for all conversion and catalogue sales objective campaigns.
  • 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through and 7-day view-through will disappear (to be replaced by 7-day click as default).

Targeting and reporting limitations

There will also be targeting limitations. The more people that opt-out of tracking will mean the size of your app connections, app activity Customer Audiences and Website Custom Audiences will decrease. Dynamic Ads for retargeting will also see their performance and audience size decrease.

There will be no more reporting for age, gender, region or placement breakdowns.

Attribution data is also going to get very murky:

  • Statistical modelling (Aggregate Event Measurement) will be used for certain attribution windows and/or metrics to account for the lack of data from iOS users. In-product annotation will communicate when a metric is modelled.
  • Certain attribution windows will only have partial reporting and metrics will not include all events from iOS users. Again, this will be communicated in reporting.
  • Delivery and action breakdowns will no longer be supported for offsite conversion events.
  • Offsite conversion events will be reported based on the time the conversion occurred, not the time of ad impressions. As a result, you may see small fluctuations in cost metrics, as cost per conversion will reflect spend over a given period divided by conversions that took place over the same period.

Your reporting will also be delayed as it can take up to 3 days from when a conversion event occurs.

Read more about how iOS 14 may affect your Facebook advertising here.

What can you do about it?

These are serious changes to the way we currently report and optimise for paid  Facebook and Instagram campaigns. So what can you do about it?

As we are shifting into a world where third-party cookies are crumbling, we need to shift our focus to first-party tracking. Seems simple enough? Facebook has already talked about their Conversion API (CAPI) which you can integrate with your website backend. CAPI is currently the most logical next step. This will allow you to feed more user data back to Facebook. You can read more about CAPI here

However, using CAPI will not revert your data in Facebook back to what it is today. Facebook will not be able to report on events such as View Content, Add to Cart or Initiate Checkout, only Purchase event data will be included.

For the algorithm to perform at a level we’re used to it requires billions of data points, which means the majority of advertisers will need to implement CAPI, otherwise, we’re still going to end up with partial data and signals.

What else?

Next, you’ll want to pre-select your events being tracked and check your Dynamic Product Ads to ensure they’re optimising for one conversion event per catalogue. Also, make sure to pull your delayed attribution MoM and Major Moments for your brand.

Read more about what you need to do to prepare on Facebook here.

Need some help?

We’ll be continuing to update you on this ongoing story as we get more answers and develop a solid strategy to move forward with our partners.

Not a client? Request a free consultation and see how we can help.


Thanks to Nick Shackelford for his ongoing research in this area.

Kirsten Tanner

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