iOS 14 Steals Your Audience

But You Never Owned Them Anyway

Boy, it sure felt like you did though. You have your ads on lock. You have a killer combination of creative and landing pages making those sales sing. Now, Apple is throwing a monkey wrench into your well oiled machine…sometime soon. The best part is. You know it. Here’s what you need to know about the Apple iOS 14 release set to make its debut tonight.

Updated September 21 to include Apple’s delay and Facebook’s response.

Apple’s iOS 14 is scheduled to release in Fall 2020

Along with modifying and beautifying the home screen, shrinking the Facetime and Siri interactions to allow users to continue working in other apps, and pinning frequently used messages with new Memojis, Apple’s requiring apps to ask for users to opt-in to be tracked. This is a new level of transparency in privacy for the end consumer, something Apple is known to have a history of standing up for. The feature has been available for quite some time, but was previously buried somewhere deep in the settings.

The seemingly simple question is likely to be worded something like “Will you let us track you for a “‘better’ user experience?” It will put the control back in the hands, quite literally, of the user. Advertisers, however, are likely to suffer since the IDFA (see below for details) for that user will be rendered all but useless.

What does IDFA stand for?

IDFA stands for Identifier for Advertisers. Basically, it’s your digital footprint following you everywhere you go on the web. It’s the reason you start seeing re-targeting ads for the pair of shoes you were just eyeing but haven’t bought yet. It’s also how your break-time or late-night searches turn into a blizzard of competing ads all selling the same thing. Marketers and advertisers can see your intent to buy and are vying for the opportunity to be the one who seals the deal and converts your attention into a sale.

What the Apple update means for consumers

Users will have complete control over whether or not they will allow apps to track their actions online thanks to the updated privacy settings in Apple’s iOS 14 release. (I’m betting most will NOT want to be tracked since it has such a negative stigma surrounding it.) iPhone users will likely see a finite level of inconvenience while using certain apps. Not being an app developer myself, I’m not entirely sure how IDFA’s are currently being used in an app itself other than to monetize a user’s presence. 

What the updated privacy in iOS 14 means for advertisers

This update means a lot. Shifting the control to end consumers means they now get to choose if they want to be served relevant, timely ads (a priceless advantage for advertisers). It also means even when an ad works and users make a purchase, marketers and apps may not be able to properly track those actions to attribute the sale to the correct source. In turn, advertisers may not have as accurate of reporting, a very specific advantage that digital advertising has over other marketing channels.

1. Inaccurate counts

This would lead to inaccurate numbers reported by analytics tools such as Facebook for Business ads. All the steps taken that allow Facebook Pixels to accurately tell business owners and advertisers someone saw an ad and bought something could be rendered useless for a segment of the target market. Technically speaking, it’s still even the minority group, with Android owning 51.8% of the market.

2. Masked opportunities

Another possibility is apps are forced to provide new in-app value tied to a user’s IDFA in order to maintain their ability to provide value (a-hem: user’s attention) to the ad-serving bots. This could come in a myriad of cleverly designed features and likely described as “enhanced user experience”, much like the cookie pop-ups you’re probably used to seeing by now.

3. Decreased placements

When users decline use of their IDFA, the accuracy of knowing that the ads shown are to that specific user’s demographic information decreases. This could result in a decline of known demographic impressions, resulting in increased costs for advertisers.

Inaccurate reporting, a decrease in the level of detailed targeting, and a probable decline in ad placements available for purchase all point to a rise in cost in a less trustworthy product. Will this be the demise of digital advertising for your business? 

Facebook admits, “We know this may severely impact publishers’ ability to monetize through Audience Network on iOS 14, and, despite our best efforts, may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14 in the future.”

Public Announcement, August 26, 2020

Apple delays changes, but maintains the intent to make updates, citing the delay is “To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year.” –CNBC

What to do now

If your business is heavily dependent on paid digital advertising, it’s time to diversify your marketing efforts. Consider other channels such as direct mail, print, guerilla marketing, and organic social media and SEO marketing. No business should have 100% of its marketing dollars in one channel. It’s important to have a marketing plan with a mix of mediums so you can reach new customers and nurture current relationships even beyond the sale.

Interested in an assessment of your current marketing plan? Take action today!

TLDR: Apple set to launch an update to iOS 14 in fall 2020. It will include a requirement for apps to ask the user’s explicit permission to use their IDFA. This could cause a waterfall effect of negative consequences for advertisers. The best time to prepare was yesterday, the second best is today. Let us know if you want help.

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