Why Apple's iOS14 Privacy Changes Matter

In late 2020, Apple announced their iOS14 update for all Apple devices. While usually these updates don't change much, iOS14 is not like the rest. The data privacy impacts (for apps especially) are sending ripples through the marketing world.

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Written by Leanna Jackson

If you've been keeping tabs on the latest marketing news, you've probably heard rumblings of Apple's iOS 14 update and the impact this will have on digital marketing. But what does it include? Why does it matter? Let's take a deeper dive into why marketers should care about this upcoming system update.

What is included in the iOS 14 update?

Apple's iOS 14 update is the next operating system update rollout that will primarily impact mobile devices using this system. As part of this update, apps installed on iOS devices will be required to prompt the user to review what data is being gathered by the app and allow the user to opt-out. Apps who do not comply risk being removed from the Apple Store. This change is an attempt to position Apple as a privacy-focused company.

Because of this change, performance and measurement of many digital advertising campaigns will impacted. While there is still many unknowns with regards to some advertising platforms, Facebook has begun to implement changes to adjust for the impact iOS 14 will have on the platform. Apple has not announced a date for enforcing these changes as of mid-February 2021.

Why should this matter for digital marketers?

The changes being implemented with iOS 14 will likely impact many digital advertising channels. Primarily, this will limit our ability as marketers to reach customers with personalized ads. Of course, this is assuming that there is high adoption of users opting out of sharing their personal data.

For Facebook advertisers especially, there will likely be a significant impact to ad performance.

Since Facebook itself is an app, they are required to implement the "nutrition label" for iOS users as enforced by Apple. This label allows users to opt-out of sharing their personal data with the app for advertising purposes. If there is high adoption of users opting out, then our ability as digital marketers to effectively target these users significantly decreases. 

For the last few months, Facebook has already been making changes to their platform to get ahead of Apple's enforcement while still attempting to help advertisers. Major changes include the removal of the 28-day attribution window (for click and view-through measurement), the removal of 7-day view attribution, and the mandatory prioritization of pixel and app events. This is all being instituted through Facebook's new Aggregated Event Measurement, which will comply with Apple's new requirements.

Any advertisers who previously measured their ads on a larger attribution window will have to reset their reports, and do it soon. Facebook already automatically switched advertisers to a 7-day Click Attribution window on January 19th, 2021. And as soon as Apple begins enforcing their privacy rules, Facebook will be removing the "Comparing Attribution Windows" function in Ads Manager completely. 

Other platforms with personalized ads will also be impacted, but so far the most public response has been from Facebook. We'll update this article with any additional information we find as more changes roll out across ad platforms.

Want to know more about what Facebook has already changed? Read more in this article about the new attribution settings.

Apple's update will set the standard for future data privacy rules.

The changes brought on with iOS 14 are highlighting for consumers the amount of data companies gather about them. Large companies (like Facebook) have been collecting our personal data, interests, and purchase history for years but this has all been tucked away where consumers won't think about it. Data privacy has already begun to pick up interest in the last few years due to GDPR and CCPA regulation, but what's out of sight is out of mind for most. By bringing this to the forefront of consumer's daily life will likely push other companies to start prioritizing data privacy or be subject to consumer criticism.

For example, it's no secret that Google already announced the "death of the third-party cookie". This move will (again) limit advertising's ability to target users, and require a higher focus on leveraging first-party data. For individual brands, this likely will have lower impact. But for publishers and SaaS companies who use third-party data, the impact will be significant. As Google moves forward with removing these cookies by 2022, we may see additional changes now that data privacy is such a hot topic.

What can digital marketers do to lessen the impact from the iOS14 update?

First, this is a change that is out of our control. We as marketers will just have to accept it and understand this is industry-wide. However, there are a few things you can do now to start adapting your digital advertising:

  • If you advertise on Facebook, and you haven't started making changes, start doing it now. Update your reports and perform analysis on performance from years past to set a new benchmark for your advertising with the new attribution windows. Adapting your campaigns now, before Apple begins enforcing their rules on apps, will help you understand the impact to performance before people start opting out. Additionally, head to the Events Manager and prioritize your pixel events. The system likely auto-prioritized for you, but you may have to rearrange a bit. Keep in mind that once Apple enforcement begins, changing this prioritization will take 2-3 days to process and go into effect.

  • Additionally, we as digital marketers need to get creative. Start thinking through new ways to reach your audience. Do you sell multiple product categories? Start separating your acquisition and remarketing based on each category so you know who is engaging the most. Have a lot of original content? Start leveraging this in top of your funnel messaging to drive interest with ads, and move them into your remarketing pool. Want to have specific messaging for different conversion events throughout the funnel? Create separate campaigns or ad sets that will optimize for different events. Get granular (but keep in mind this will likely decrease your audience sizes).

What else are you doing to adapt to these industry-wide changes? Find us on social, connect with our board on LinkedIn, or become a member to participate in the Members Only Slack discussion!