July 19, 2021
iOS 14 Update: Facebook’s Data Challenges Show the Need for Alternative Measurement in the Privacy Era
Every major digital ad platform has issued some guidance on the expected impact of Apple’s recent privacy changes with iOS 14.5 and beyond, most critically the App Tracking Transparency feature. Facebook has reacted the most strongly, mounting a PR campaign that painted the impact of Apple’s changes as damaging to small businesses, and removing longer performance attribution earlier this year before the feature was even released.
For about a month after the release of iOS 14.5 and App Tracking Transparency in late April, its impact to both marketers’ day-to-day work and the data presented was minimal. Combined adoption of iOS 14.5 and 14.6 at the end of May was just above 20% globally as Apple worked out initial hiccups with the new privacy features and waited to auto-update phones to the new OS. But that changed on June 3rd, just before Apple’s WWDC conference, and adoption predictably soared to over 60% in just 10 days.
With Facebook’s reaction and the surge in mainstream and industry press around App Tracking Transparency, marketers have rightly been wondering how this would impact Facebook Ads on everything from the accuracy of performance data to the ability to find audiences as well as it has before. Would Facebook’s algorithmic ad service operate differently with less data to operate from? One obvious place to watch would be whether Facebook ad service would shift from iOS to Android devices in a flight to performance data. Metric Theory has been aggregating data trends across clients to understand how iOS 14.5+ changes things for all major ad platforms, and we are now seeing exactly this trend.
Across our clients, we’ve seen a material shift in delivery toward Android users emerge since Apple’s force update of iOS 14.6, which like 14.5, includes App Tracking Transparency for all users. Our data show historically Apple devices have comprised 70% of delivery among our Facebook campaigns, but we’ve now seen consistent declines among Apple users starting the first full week of the force update and now dropping to 66% as adoption becomes more widespread. Moreover, it appears that ad service has shifted directly to Android devices, as delivery has increased to 26% from a 20% historical average.
With 30% increases in spend on specific devices comes rising cost as competition swells. Whereas CPMs between the two devices historically remained at parity, CPMs for Android users are also trending upward – nearly 20% above typical levels. Without meaningful changes to inventory, this is more evidence that algorithms have shifted delivery toward where the conversion signals are coming from.
Lastly, despite original hypotheses that retargeting audiences would show the most drastic changes, rising delivery and costs appear to be influencing all tactics, making it more expensive to reach these users throughout the funnel.
Our B2B advertisers appear to have seen the greatest shifts in delivery towards Android devices, increasing up to 13% WoW as investment behind Apple users declines. Ecommerce and retail brand spend has remained more stable in comparison, but has always over-indexed on iOS device ad service and is still showing a shift to Android.
Savvy marketers will remember that Facebook Ads were bound to have lower reportable performance data because of the effect of App Tracking Transparency, but also because of Facebook’s own moves to lower the length of time and the number of ways conversions can be attributed back to ads. Changes in reported performance don’t necessarily translate to changes in actual business impact.
So, should marketers be adjusting campaigns to float iOS device ads on Facebook? Not likely. It’s still early, and we’re not currently recommending any adjustment to campaign management. In fact, with the newest update from Facebook that conversion modeling will now be included within larger 7-Day attribution windows, we anticipate that algorithms will soon have more of these modeled data points to account for deterministic conversion data loss on iOS devices, and that the most likely scenario is that this trend will close in coming weeks.
However, these are aggregate trends, and each brand will have its own trend and critical decision points for when to take action. It’s more important than ever to follow your brand’s data closely when determining what this could mean to your performance, and we suggest leveraging historical learnings on device delivery and seasonality to make an informed decision.
While the data evolves, Metric Theory strategists can help you adapt to this changing landscape and make informed decisions to best optimize media spend. To join up with the team that’s keeping a close eye on all the industry trends affecting your ad performance, you can contact our team.