Increased privacy requirements in Apple's iOS 14 will have a significant impact on data collection, targeting and tracking across the advertising ecosystem. On January 7th, Facebook shared its updated response to the iOS 14 release, including more detail on sweeping changes Facebook is making to its ad platform to comply with Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework. ATT requires all iOS apps to receive explicit opt-in from users in order to share their device identifier for advertisers (IDFA). Apple’s previous operating systems allowed apps to pass back a user’s IDFA for tracking and attribution unless the user manually opted out. Apple has delayed enforcement of the IDFA opt-in requirement due to the considerable engineering lift required for the millions of apps to comply, but it intends to begin enforcement sometime between February and March of 2021.
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.
As a Facebook Marketing Partner, Kepler has been at the forefront of these tracking developments and is analyzing Facebook’s platform changes to assess impact for our clients. 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.
This guide will help web and app advertisers understand the upcoming changes, how they should prepare, and what information is still pending to more completely understand the impact of Facebook’s measurement roll out.
Key terms to know
As with anything in ad-tech, knowing the jargon is half the battle. Below is a cheat sheet for the relevant terminology to understand Facebook’s platform changes.
- IDFA/MAID - ID for Advertisers (IDFA) is Apple’s name for their Mobile Ad ID (MAID). It is the consistent device identifier that enables user-based targeting and measurement. Facebook has used IDFA, at least in part, to provide user-level targeting and attribution on Apple mobile devices. (Link)
- App Tracking Transparency (ATT) - Also referred to as “the prompt”, this is Apple’s new app-based protocol that requires all apps to obtain users’ permission to collect their IDFAs for tracking purposes. It is expected that only about 20% of users will opt in to sharing their IDFA, and complying with ATT is required for all iOS apps, including Facebook. (Link)
- Private Click Measurement (PCM) - Apple’s new web-based attribution protocol, which restricts certain mobile-web user data from being shared across platforms. Most notably for Facebook, this protocol would hinder its ability to attribute web conversions to clicks in Instagram or the Facebook app as well as conversions across domains. (Link)
- Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM) - AEM is Facebook’s in-house measurement approach, built as an alternative to fully adopting Apple’s PCM approach. AEM maintains support for app-to-web attribution and cross-domain measurement while remaining compliant with the requirements of PCM. (Link)
- SKAdNetwork - StoreKit Network 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 various privacy methods including limited event detail and randomized data delays to prevent connecting users to conversions tracked through other tools. (Link)
- Partial vs. Modeled - As users begin to opt out of being tracked, Facebook will no longer report on every event a user completes. Instead, it will report just the most important event set by the advertiser. Facebook will include platform flags to show when a metric is ‘partial’ (when reporting does not include all events from iOS 14 users) and ‘modeled’ (when Facebook applies additional modeling to arrive at a probabilistic conversion total). (Link)
- Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP) - An MMP is a 3rd party platform that many app-based advertisers use to collect and organize in-app events and attribute them across the channels that they have live. The attribution is done through a software development kit (SDK), which is the technology installed in the advertiser’s app code that collects the data that measures their users’ behavior signals.
The most significant effects
- More limited, delayed and aggregated reporting - Facebook is introducing new limitations to data collection including: reducing the number of available optimization events from hundreds down to eight per domain; removing detailed demographic breakdowns; constricting attribution windows, and introducing delayed, modeled and partial conversion reporting to replace what has historically been a full-scale, realtime ad measurement ecosystem.
- New performance baselines - Driven by Facebook’s structural changes, historic performance trends will not be comparable with new performance baselines. While the true incrementality of Facebook ads may be unaffected, advertisers will experience a considerable disruption in analyzing trend data.
- Reduced audience scale and/or accuracy - IDFA opt outs will reduce the ability to identify and exclude site visitors, past converters, and other strategic groupings, increasing contamination across remarketing and prospecting audiences and reducing scale in remarketing strategies.
Facebook’s updates will affect all advertisers on the platform, and this checklist will help prepare for these changes in the short-term. However, even with all of the information Facebook has provided, there are still unanswered questions, such as “What percent of my iOS users will opt-out of sharing their IDFA?” or “What methodology will Facebook use for modeled conversions?”. The answers will only start to reveal themselves when Apple begins to enforce the ATT prompt, until which there are plenty of steps advertisers can begin to take now to develop measurement, targeting and optimization strategies that are compatible with Facebook’s platform updates. At Kepler, we will be continuously monitoring updates and will provide more information as it becomes available. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions related to the IDFA update.
Next steps for web-based advertisers
Configure your pixel-based events
As part of Facebook’s AEM protocol, advertisers will be limited to eight events per domain. While no changes are required for pixel tracking code on a brand’s site, in Facebook Events Manager, advertisers will be prompted to select preferred events for reporting and optimization and to rank those events in order of priority. If a user opts out, Apple’s replacement technology will still allow for the highest priority event to be tracked. More detailed instructions are available via this link.
Identify which ad sets are most vulnerable to optimization and targeting changes
Apple’s ATT framework will limit certain ad set features, specifically:
- Demographic and Interest Targeting - expect low impact, as Facebook’s current audiences do not rely heavily on off-Facebook data signals
- Remarketing Audiences - expect audience scale to drop as opted-out users will no longer be addressable in custom pixel-based audiences
- Value-Based Optimization - granular revenue data currently used for ROAS-based optimization will be aggregated, reducing precision
Check if your desired attribution window will still be supported
Upon enforcement of Apple’s ATT framework, Facebook will only support up to 7-day post click and 1-day post view attribution windows. 28-day click, 28-day view and 7-day view attribution windows will no longer be available, so advertisers using these windows will see significantly fewer Facebook conversions in reporting. More information about Facebook’s attribution updates can be found here.
Review your test & learn plan
Due to the reduced granularity SKAdNetwork provides, Facebook will no longer be able to support A/B testing below the campaign level. This means that any lift tests or creative tests will no longer be available at the ad or ad set level.
Verify your domain
This is a required step that advertisers can take now. Instructions can be found via this link.
Adopt Conversions API wherever possible
Conversions API is an alternative to the pixel, that allows advertisers to pass consented user data to Facebook. This method enables event matching by leveraging PII-based identifiers, instead of cookies, brands collect from key conversions or logged in users. Adopting the Conversions API requires additional engineering, especially if a brand is not currently using a customer data platform (CDP) or ecommerce integration. That said, it will significantly help as an alternative to id-based event tracking from environments with technical limitations, such as iOS 14. More information from Facebook can be found here.
Next steps for app-based advertisers
Ensure your app adheres to the ATT framework
Apple will require that all app developers who wish to be available on iOS App Store, regardless of whether they advertise on Facebook, install the ATT prompt to allow users to opt in or out of sharing their IDFA.
Decide on Facebook SDK, App Events API, or MMP
Where third parties such as Facebook were previously able to track app-based events, app event tracking on iOS 14 will only be available through SKAdNetwork. To “pass” these in-app conversion events to Facebook for optimization and reporting, advertisers will have to use one of these three methods. See Facebook’s Business Manager site for helpful information.
- MMPs will have visibility across multiple ad networks beyond just Facebook. For advertisers where in-app events make up a majority of their conversions, it may be best to use a Facebook approved MMP. The downside is that onboarding an MMP brings an incremental cost.
- Facebook’s SDK allows for easier technical setup and integrates app installs and in-app events into Events Manager. This solution may be preferable for advertisers who spend a majority of their ad dollars on Facebook and are looking for a cost-efficient solution.
- App Events API is Facebook’s product to receive app event data directly from an advertiser’s server and use it for reporting, optimization and audience building. Under the new iOS 14 framework, advertisers who go this route will have to set up their own SKAdNetwork instance to track app installs. This option may be preferable for advertisers interested in a direct integration with SKAdNetwork rather than going through a third party SDK. This option also requires more technical work to configure all app events into Facebook.
Configure your post-install events in Facebook
The app event tracking option an advertiser selects will determine the technical work required to configure conversion schema. More information on configuring your conversion schema can be found here.
Prepare for limited, delayed, and aggregated reporting
App advertisers will face more limitations around reporting in Facebook. Upon enforcement of iOS 14 privacy guidelines, Facebook will be required to model conversion totals at the ad and ad set level, and it will have to wait up to 3 days after a conversion takes place to receive data for that conversion. More detail on these app reporting limitations in Facebook can be found here.
Create a plan for reduced app install campaign availability
Each advertiser will be limited to 1 ad account, 9 campaigns per account and 5 ad sets per campaign in order to measure app installs for iOS devices. Please note that, contrary to the original guidance from Facebook, it is no longer required to have a separate ad account dedicated solely to iOS app install. However, iOS app install ad sets will need to be in a standalone campaign, separate from Android and other operating system app install campaigns. More information can be found here.