Tracking users in an iOS 14.5 world

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Last year on April 26th, after much anticipation, debate and delay, Apple rolled out the release of iOS 14.5, unleashing a swathe of defaults for internet privacy that would have a significant impact on the way digital advertisers can operate and track users. The update required all Apple apps to introduce a new “prompt” asking users if they could access any data. The crucial change was that users were automatically opted-out.

Each platform had a slightly different response, with Facebook leading the way on pushing forward with a privacy first approach, however this also meant they were the hardest hit. Nearly a year on, we are starting to really see the full impact of Apple’s privacy update.

Across the year Medialab have been pro-actively working with clients (and platforms) on building solutions and strategies, and making changes to our digital strategies to mitigate any potential performance loss. However, before we get into the nitty gritty, it’s important to ask the golden question, what has actually been the impact of iOS 14.5 on Facebook?

Well let’s start with the key changes;

  • Facebook required advertisers to prioritise 8 event pixels
  • Reduced conversion look back windows to 7 days post click only
  • Introduced a 72 hours reporting lag
  • Retired demographic reporting

Essentially, for users who opted out of iOS 14.5 it became incredibly difficult for Facebook to track those users without statistical modelling, and meant that there were fewer pixel events and data points to feed into algorithms and optimise effectively. Not only did it become difficult to track opted-out users, but it also had a direct impact on the size and quality of audience pools. These changes had an impact on CPMs, whilst conversion rates in some cases have become weaker.

As we know, this has mainly impacted users who have opted-out on iOS 14.5 or above. To give a ballpark of how much of the audience this equates to in reality; around half the users on Facebook and Instagram use Apple mobile devices, and around 40% (and rising) of these are on iOS14+.

Then there is the question of how many users actually opt-in to the tracking. Initial estimations showed that only 2% of these users opted into tracking. However, more recent estimations have put this figure higher, at around 25%. So, in essence, not all user data is being lost, but potentially enough to make a noticeable and lasting impact on your results.

The positive news is that there are a number of important actions that can be taken to mitigate the impact.What does this all mean?

Whilst there are clear steps advertisers can take to mitigate the impact of iOS 14.5, there is no silver bullet, and in many cases, advertisers will need to adapt their approach and continue to test and learn. Whilst Facebook and other social platforms have supplied some guidance on active steps advertisers can make to boost performance, these are few and far between, with suggestions just being impracticable for the every-day marketer. What we have already started to see is that more brands are open to testing new social platforms and the monopoly Facebook holds is slowly slipping away. It will be interesting to see how Facebook adapts to finely balancing a “privacy-first world” whilst making their platform work for advertisers.

Our view at Medialab is that iOS 14.5 wasn’t the first and is certainly not the last or the biggest hit on digital performance. Instead, we need to continue to reflect that this is a positive development for consumer privacy and this positive outweighs the short-term targeting impact on advertising. Changing our strategy and approach to digital marketing will be the golden ticket to success in the future.

We continue to drive forward our 4-step approach and put consumers at the heart of everything we do. Medialab delivered over 1100 Facebook campaigns in 2021 and will use every campaign as a learning to generate greater insight and optimisation.

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