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Apple iOS14 update and its effect on advertisers

By: Kaitlin Urban & Poli Slattery

Learn what the update means to the user, the marketer and the future of tracking on Apple devices.

Most of us are very familiar with the evolution of Apple products. One less headphone jack here. An extra camera there. It’s hard to miss hardware changes from generation to generation. But when it comes to software updates, our understanding can be fogged by lengthy lists of bug fixes and minor tweaks that are easy to ignore. When we don’t have the time to read into them, we don’t always know what we just allowed our devices to do. Let’s shed some light on some details regarding a prospective update to iOS14 because it’s causing a lot of uncertainty for marketers.

With the upcoming update, Apple will be allowing iPhone users to begin blocking IDFA identifiers often used within apps. What’s an IDFA? It stands for Identifier for Advertisers – in a nutshell, it allows apps to track user behavior at an individual level.

Currently, about 70% of users opt-in to tracking by IDFAs because it’s the default option; you would have to update your settings to be excluded. With this new update, Apple will allow you to select which apps you allow to track data.

If you’re a member of the marketing community, this update poses some serious challenges ahead, such as:

  • An anticipated decline in enrolled users – current projections estimate only 10-15% of users will remain enrolled in IDFAs

  • Targeted ad obsoletion – without data tracking, personalization is going to become extremely difficult because we cannot see how individuals behave online

  • Higher-level measurement – ad campaigns will have to target far more generalized populations

Our prediction is that the following apps will be most impacted by this:

  • Facebook

  • Instagram

  • Snapchat

  • Pinterest

  • TikTok

  • DSPs

  • MMPs

So, with all this information, what does that mean for us marketers? The answer is “TBD” – much like the update’s launch date.

Unlike the EU with its GDPR, the US has yet to experience such large-scale data protection regulations (with the exception of California, which has its own set of regulations).

Facebook and Apple have been publicly feuding over the update’s potentially dramatic impact on revenue. At the onset of 2021, advertisers began pulling from social platforms, as most of their traffic is mobile-driven. And apps created and distributed from Google are already working on workarounds that will use a different tracking methodology – it’s likely to see social platforms following suit.

Apple is trying to offer conversion visibility, but through a more general lens (for example – we could still read out on campaigns but not create targeting based on them) with a less refined tracking API, called SKAD.

With so much still up in the air, one thing is for certain: This is not the last we will hear of this update. Continue to check in with The Thought Bubble to get CommCreative’s perspective as the upcoming iOS14 update is rolled out and the industry begins to adapt.