How to Prepare for iOS 14.5 in Facebook Ads

As advertisers, we’re used to big tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook making changes to their platforms to cater to both consumer and business needs, and we’ve certainly become quick to adapt. But Apple’s announcement that they’re bringing in App Tracking Transparency (ATT) has thrown a wrench in the works

Sinéad Considine

We’ve been left wondering what impact this will have on the way we advertise and how we can track users. The answer to that is still a bit unknown, however, we are soon to find out as the release date for iOS 14.5 has been confirmed for April 26th.

So what is App Tracking Transparency? In short, all apps that use the Apple App Store will be required under this new policy to ask users for permission to track their data across third-party websites and apps, even Facebook. This prompt will appear when the user enters the app and will give them the option to accept or decline their data to be tracked. 

The changes are meant to give Apple users more control over how their personal data is collected and used. This means that if a user chooses to opt out of ATT, the amount of data that will get shared back to these apps will be limited. To add to this, Apple has proposed a protocol for website attribution measurement which will impact App to Web measurement and aggregate data, forcing a change in tracking approach which Facebook is adjusting to. 

The true impacts of this are still unknown, however, this poses a fairly big issue for Facebook and has forced them to make changes to their platform in preparation for this imminent policy. The way in which Facebook can process the data it collects through the Facebook pixel and Facebook SDK will be affected, as Apple users can now opt out of Facebook collecting their data for personalized ads. 

What does this mean?

In the US, 113 million people are iPhone users and the vast majority of Facebook & Instagram users access the platform via the app. Preliminary insights are showing that there will be an opt-in rate of 33% on social, meaning that potentially two-thirds of iPhone users will not be fully tracked. We are expecting to see a drop in reach as more people opt out of tracking on iOS 14.5 devices. 

We’ll also see a drop in the number of conversion events being reported in Facebook as the platform will no longer be able to track users’ behavior outside of the app. On top of this, there will be differences in the way campaigns are reported as attribution settings change; Facebook will no longer be able to use view-through conversions to assess campaign performance if the user opts out. There will be a delay in real-time reporting and data may be delayed for up to three days.

What changes has Facebook made and how can advertisers prepare?

Facebook understands that Apple’s new policy will have an impact on the way people advertise on their platform and that these changes may be confusing for many. Because of this, they have set up a dedicated resource center that can be accessed in Facebook Ads Manager, which provides a host of information on the changes that are taking place and recommendations on actions that can be taken in the account to get ready for iOS 14.5’s launch.

The first step in preparing your ad account for the impending changes is to verify your domain within Facebook Business Manager. Facebook will provide advertisers with a code to be installed to the specific domain which they will then verify. Other changes that are being made are:

Changes to attribution settings

Prior to Apple announcing this new policy, the default conversion window for optimization and delivery was 7-day click-through, 1-day view-through, and the attribution window for reporting was 28-day click-through & 1-day view-through with the option of using shorter windows. Once the iOS 14.5 requirements come into effect, the attribution window for all active or new campaigns will be set at ad set level rather than at account level. 

As well as this, both conversion window and reporting attribution settings will be unified and both be set to 7-day click-through and 1-day view-through. As 28-day click-through attribution will no longer be supported, it is very likely that we are going to see a reduction in the number of conversions being reported as well as an increase in cost per acquisition. We recommend that advertisers anticipate changes to attribution settings and download historical data so that it can be used for comparison purposes whenever ATT comes into effect in order to assess the impacts.

Changes to audience sizes

We’ll likely see a reduction in website and custom audience sizes as not all users will be tracked if they opt out of ATT. It’s also probable that we’ll see a reduction in retargeting audiences as we lose the ability to track many users who have been to the site. Advertisers should make note of audience sizes now to be used as benchmarks. It is also recommended to begin building out in-platform audiences such as video viewers, engagement, and custom shopping audiences to retarget.

Conversion breakdowns no longer available

Breakdowns of performance such as gender, age, placement, and region for both web and app conversions will no longer be supported. This data should also be downloaded to truly understand the changes ATT makes on the conversion data that is being reported.

Changes to event configuration

Facebook is introducing new limitations on web events which will impact the type and amount of data that Facebook will obtain from the Facebook pixel. The pixel will now be limited to tracking a maximum of 8 conversion event pixels per domain. Any conversion events outside of this will not be available for optimization and reporting and ad sets that are optimizing towards these events will be paused. Conversion events include standard pixel events and custom conversions. Events such as page views, link clicks, and landing page optimization are not included in the 8 event limitation.

Any user that opts out of ATT will only be tracked for one event after they click on an ad, so event prioritization is crucial. It is recommended when choosing your 8 conversion events to place your most important conversion action as number 1. For example, if registrations are your primary goal, then when you are setting your event prioritization, this should be the first on the list. If event prioritization is not completed, Facebook will choose each event’s priority based on recent spend.

As advertisers continue to understand the impact Apple’s policy changes will have on businesses over the next number of months, it is important that we’re all prepared to be agile and adapt to this new way of advertising. We are also likely to see more innovation on Facebook’s end to try to turn what currently seems like a negative situation into a positive one. They are preparing for the looming Apple changes by introducing more commerce products. We’ll likely see a big focus on Facebook and Instagram Shops in the near future. This will allow Facebook/Instagram to track all users’ actions as it will happen within the Facebook ecosystem. Stay tuned!

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