Facebook Advertisers Brace for iOS 14 Tracking Prompt Fallout

Facebook advertisers are bracing for impact, as the originally-intended roll-out of Apple’s iOS14 finally comes to fruition in the coming weeks. This update has sparked a very public war between Facebook and Apple, as the question of things like privacy versus ad targeting continue to swirl in the marketing space.

While the anticipated data loss right now is tied to iOS 14 users, the bigger picture is this is likely the start of how privacy will be handled in the future.

Why is iOS 14 a problem for Facebook?

This latest iteration of Apple’s operating system includes a new prompt and information format for any app. Its effort is two-fold: to make users aware of what an app will track before they install it:

And then a permission opt-in for the tracking upon install.

Apple has named it “Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT)” prompt, and Facebook is not happy about it.

Facebook relies heavily on user usage information to do things like report on actions or purchases from ads, create remarketing, and other similar functions. The ability to not share this data is present, but it historically has been pretty buried from the user.

This latest change means users are expressly giving or not giving permission, and many are anticipating users will opt out when given the choice so explicitly.

Without this information, it disrupts the targeting Facebook Ads has relied on for a majority of its function.

This function was originally announced over the summer, with a strong pushback from Facebook issued in August. Apple delayed the launch at that time, warning it would still be coming around February of 2021.

Naturally, this has spawned hundreds of questions on the specifics, which are just now becoming more evident.

What Measurements Will be Affected?

Facebook outlined what to expect for the measurements we’re used to having. These will affect Ads Manager, Ads Reporting, and the Ads Insights API.

  • 28-day attribution of any kind will no longer be supported. Historical data for them will only be available via the API.
  • 7-day click attribution will still exist
  • 7-day view-through attribution will also be gone.

Given this, Facebook will be using statistical models to try and make up for the lost data from iOS14 users. Certain windows will only have partial reporting. In these cases, annotations within the platform will signal these models have been used.

There is also an impact to offsite conversion events that are imported. Delivery vs. action breakdowns will no longer be available, and the conversions that happen will be reported based on when they occurred and not on when the ad impression happened.

While advertisers will still be able to target based on geographic and demographic segments, it’s important to note they will no longer be able to see a reporting breakdown by these factors.

The Facebook-Side Change: Aggregated Event Measurement

To try and minimize the impact of the data loss, Facebook is creating what’s named “Aggregated Event Measurement.”

In their walkthrough about the roll-out of iOS 14, they say simply “It is designed to help you measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data.”

The 8 Conversion Limit

In this framework, advertisers will be limited to 8 conversion events tracked per domain. This could be 8 pixel-based events, or 8 custom conversions. No changes need to be made for this change, as it will happen automatically.

The 8 conversion events will be ranked based on priority when it comes to reporting. What does that mean, exactly?

Let’s say you have both Add to Cart and Purchase as 2 of those 8 events. If a user does both actions, only the Purchase event will be recorded as the “higher prioritization” metric.

The domain owner will be able to configure which 8 are tracked in Events Manager. If and when an advertiser changes one of the events, there will be a 3-day hold until they can run campaigns against the new event. This allows for a day of attribution, and 1-2 days of delay they call a “cool down period” to ensure reporting attributes correctly.

Domain-Based Pixel Ownership

It’s important to note the language being used: the domain. Facebook pixels used to be created and assigned to ad accounts, but they will now be tied to a verified domain. This only really matters for cases where an advertiser owns the domain and wants to measure events or custom conversions on it. It has no bearing if a brand wants to drive traffic to a third-party; they can still do so and will still lack event and conversion measurements, as they do today.

What Does This Mean for Other Apps?

Although the furor is around Facebook, it’s going to affect other platforms with apps that operate in a similar advertising environment.

At this time, it isn’t clear if Google will be following suit with the smaller attribution windows. They have made their intentions to go cookie-less very clear, targeting 2022 as a roll-out.

Until then, many strategists are recommending to utilize UTM tags and Google Analytics to try and backfill user insights, where possible.

What Are Experts Saying?

Andrew Foxwell, owner of Foxwell Digital and widely regarded as a top expert in Facebook Advertising spoke with me about what he’s seeing thus far.

“Most advertisers fall into two camps: they’re ready and prepared and have thus prepared their clients. Or they are scrambling to figure it all out. Most questions we get surround whether in-app engagement activity is being kept (it is), and what the solutions are to track after a purchase,” he said. “We have suggested post purchase tools along with modeling a relationship between the 7 and 28 day click based ROAS.”

We also spoke with Christian Lovrecich, who runs Pixl Feed Media. With over a decade of experience and high spends in e-commerce, he commented “Looking at all the data on all the accounts my team and I manage, iOS represents a majority of the audience that converts to a purchase.” He went on to note that he has been working to mitigate the impact since it was announced, following the steps recommended by Facebook.

When asked to rate the level of disruption for Facebook Ads as we know it with 10 being “it will change FB as we know it forever,” he put it at a 6. “At first, I would definitely say it will be a 6. But, as someone who has been doing this for over a decade, we all know that changes in technology are inevitable, and at the end of the day, all we can is prepare, adapt, and overcome any changes that come our way.”

Recommended Next Steps

  • Prepare for the view-through attribution data to disappear. Download your historic data for both windows (28-day and 7-day) and also 28-day clickthrough. Compare 28-day click conversions with 7-day click conversions to understand how your reported conversions will be impacted if you use that 28-day window currently.
  • If you use rules tied to that 28-day attribution, update them now to minimize any impact on your spend or results.
  • Verify your domain with Facebook as soon as possible to ensure your pixel data is as seamless as possible. This is especially important if you have pixels on your domain owned by more than one entity.
  • Remember that this impacts only iOS14 users, and the adoption rate of opt-outs is not yet known. You will need to watch your own data and results carefully to better understand the impact. This will help you prepare as iOS 14 continues to rise in adoption over time.

We will continue to follow the roll-out, and update on new information as it becomes available.

Facebook’s announcement with the above-mentioned recommendations can be found here.