Paid advertising on every digital platform is undergoing a major transition in a new era of data legislation and privacy. The largest ever proposed change is now taking shape as a result of Apple’s new policies on its operating system iOS14. The emergence of an opt in prompt on the installation of an app on iOS means data that can be used for advertising will soon be controlled more easily by consumers. Combining this with other ecosystem changes on the web, namely Apple’s Private Click Measurement approach to limit data sharing on Safari, means the way platforms’ paid advertising will function will be restricted.
This article will focus on what Facebook is doing and what actions advertisers can take to limit the impact.
Facebook’s reaction to iOS 14 changes
Facebook has been very vocal in its opposition to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) changes. But it has also used this as an opportunity to get its platform ready for the future of web-based tracking. Unlike Google who has recently said it will not use the ATT Prompt on its iOS apps, as its do not use the IDFA for advertising purposes, Facebook will use the prompt.
ATT is primarily around the app-to-app world, however Facebook is known to use data to measure cross-device, which therefore creates an operational gap. Facebook’s ability to attribute web conversions to clicks in the app and across domains will be hindered by Private Click Measurement (PCM), Apple’s new web-based attribution protocol, which restricts certain mobile-web user data from being shared across platforms.
Due to an expected drop in volume of IDFA-based matched users, Facebook has built a framework, called Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM), to maintain support for advertisers’ tracking, attribution and measurement needs on its platform.
Although Apple still hasn’t announced exactly when enforcement of ATT will begin, it is extremely important for advertisers to adapt to these updates now to mitigate the impact of changing data collection and performance reporting.
But what are the critical things that are at risk with less data on iOS14:
If users opt out, there is no way to retarget them. So expect big drops in retargeting spend, as well as performance judged on pure platform CPA / ROI.
Again if there is opt out, the ability to frequency cap is limited, even for Facebook who can generally tie it back to an individual profile.
There are big implications on reporting, from standard metrics like reach to more conversion driven data points.
Facebook has said, if they are unable to accurately segment or control, this will be impacted for iOS14 traffic.
There are significant implications for attribution, but potentially bigger challenges in tying an action back to a specific impression.
The next steps for advertisers:
1. Verify your domain
It is now more important that advertisers verify their domain if they want to use ads to drive traffic to their website. As this will make sure only verified owners can edit the way their content appears on Facebook. Now it’s not only recommended but required that businesses verify their domain if the domain has pixels owned by multiple businesses or personal ad accounts. As part of some of the new functionality that Facebook is building, if these domains are not verified you will not be able to edit the domains conversion event configurations.
This is nothing new and has existed in Facebook in three forms:
- Verifying your Business Manager
- Verifying that you are working on behalf of a specific advertiser e.g. As an agency
- Verifying your domain is owned by you. This is the most important point for Facebook as it unlocks certain functionality.
Once verified, domains can then be shared as an asset to your partner’s business managers, if you are working with an agency who is owning the ad account from which the paid ads are coming from. This also puts certain types of campaigns in a difficult situation, whether this is affiliate based approaches to Facebook Ads or even trying to track something on an external platform like Spotify, where it is unlikely a content creator would get access to a verified Spotify domain.
By default this leads advertisers towards owning their own technology contracts. Because if you verify your domain, you should do it from your owned and operated business manager Facebook account. If you as an advertiser do not have one, now is the time to get one. It surrenders too much control to do this from your external partner or agency’s business manager.
2. Save historical performance reports
A significant amount of reporting functionality is going to disappear across the board for conversion-based campaigns, as part of the changes Facebook is bringing to its ads product. Although the changes do not affect Android devices yet, Facebook has made the move to retain one setup for both operating systems.
So to get a view of this information before it disappears, It is recommended you save the following:
- Attribution window breakdown, if you were using 28 days windows previously
- Demographics breakdown by conversion
- Custom event reporting
- Device breakdown by conversion
One of the biggest changes is the switch in default attribution window. Historically the default was set at the ad account level to 1 day post click and 28 days post impression. Now it will be:
- Default window set to 7 days post click
- Attribution on the ad set level, not account or campaign
- Attribution reporting is to the time of the conversion, not time of the event
This means that if you are looking at the standard UI, you may not see conversion reporting on the higher levels anymore and may see it occur after a campaign ends. Previously Facebook would give this attributed conversion back to the time of the click or impression.
SKAdNetwork is Apple’s proprietary app measurement framework and the only method to handle tracking if a user opts out from sharing their IDFA. It includes a number of privacy features, including limited event detail, and randomised data delays to prevent connecting users to conversions tracked through other tools.
For advertisers running campaigns targeted at app installs, the biggest change in Facebook with iOS14 is the emergence of the SKAdNetwork API.
Due to the limits Apple has placed on it, you now have the following restrictions:
- Only 1 ad account can run app install campaigns for iOS app
- A maximum of 9 campaigns and 5 ad sets are allowed
- The use of last click attribution
In order to use the SKAdNetwork, advertisers need to ensure they are either using the latest version of the Facebook SDK (8.1 and above) or if they are working with a Mobile Marketing Partner(MMP) whose SDK is using the SKAdNetwork.
4. Choose your 8 events for your pixel
The biggest disruption on Facebook ads is the impact to web-based advertising, which is quite surprisingly based on the ATT being app focused. But as previously mentioned, Facebook are trying to futureproof for additional changes coming from Apple and Google.
For advertisers who want to measure, optimise, report conversions on Facebook, you now have a limit of 8 events for your pixel. This is partly due to the ATT Prompt but largely down to Apple’s changes breaking the most common user journey on Facebook, which is clicking on an ad on its app and landing on a webpage (App to Web).
Apple’s proposed solution: Private Click Measurement (PCM) only works in a web-to-web Safari world, so Facebook has decided to build its own solution called Aggregated Events Measurement (AEM). Apple recently said that it will build PCM into Apps, which will help solve this but most likely with big restrictions. AEM allows Facebook the ability to still track app to web journeys, but with a limited view and delay in reporting. Facebook can also use AEM to track a single event if a user opts out.
To pick your 8 events you need to verify your domain. Without this you will struggle to measure iOS14 traffic. You get to choose your primary event, which is important to get right as and changes face a 24 - 72 hour delay in the UI.
The “Value Set” feature is important for advertisers who want to optimise towards value, so either ROI or ROAS. You will need to reserve 4 out of the 8 events for value sets to give the Facebook algorithm enough information to use these for bidding.
5. Impact to performance
Even with all the changes Facebook is making, there will still be an impact to the performance of its ads platform. The most at risk will app Install campaigns with limited post click views. But a close second will be web conversion based campaigns.
If there is high opt out from ATT, Dynamic Ads, a long-time favourite for ecommerce business, will struggle to maintain performance. It will affect both the ability to serve personalised ads and the ability to group users into a remarketing segment.
In turn, this impacts lower funnel marketing strategy, as the lines blur between prospecting and retargeting. If you are unable to completely exclude site visitors or purchasers, due to a combination of opt in or tracking limitations, you may see performance figures that are hard to explain
The effect on 3rd party analytics, whether Google, Adobe, or even adserver data, is still unknown However, if there are fewer signals for the algorithm to work with, there will likely be repercussions for those tools.
Facebook’s reaction to iOS14 ATT changes has been substantial, no other company has been nearly as extreme. But there may be other reasons Facebook is doing this. For one, to prepare for upcoming changes to the web ecosystem brought by the removal of the cookie. What is certain is, the future of paid ads on Facebook will be very different.
If advertisers want to understand how Facebook is working within their marketing mix, they will need to build a firm base of first party data, employ a thorough testing approach, and use a measurement framework that moves beyond platform stats.
For more on these changes and what they mean for advertisers check out our partner Kepler’s blog on this topic - Navigating Facebook’s iOS14 Updates
As a Facebook Marketing Partner, Infectious Media is working closely with the platform on how advertisers can continue to run campaigns with the least impact. Get in touch if you want to find out how this affects your business.