The iOS14 Update and Facebook Ads

What is iOS14.5? 

Simply put, iOS14 is Apple’s most current iPhone operating system. iOS14.5 is an update to this operating system that will include many things (including 200+ new emojis!), but the specific update that’s generating a lot of buzz is the launch of an in-app prompt. This prompt essentially asks users to opt-in and “allow” apps and websites to track their activity. 

Once the update goes live (currently projected for early Spring) this means an iPhone user with the update installed will open up an app like Facebook, for example, and see the following prompt: 

Source: Apple

If a user opts into tracking, nothing really changes. But if a user opts-out, it will change how advertising giants like Facebook are then able to collect and utilize that user data. This means it will also change whether you, as a Facebook advertiser, have access to that data. 

How will iOS14.5 impact advertising on Facebook?

Currently, every app impacted by Apple’s update is going to have to come up with their own solution to these new data privacy measures. One company that has a lot to lose if users opt out of data sharing is Facebook, whose revenue stream is largely dependent on companies buying and serving personalized ads via their family of products. However, not all hope is lost. 

These changes are happening in real time and it’s hard to say exactly how this will disrupt the advertising industry at large, but here are a few things we know for certain regarding how the iOS14 update will impact your Facebook ads, and what you can do to prepare. 

Change in amount of conversions attributed to ads 

This one is first because it’s a big one. Historically, you were able to measure how many last-click conversions (someone taking an action directly, or up to 28-days after clicking on your ad) and view-through conversions (someone taking an action up to 28-days within seeing an impression of your ad – even if they never click) came from your Facebook ad campaigns. Due to new tracking limitations and data processing protocols, Facebook will no longer be able to utilize most of these attribution windows. Depending on your current attribution settings, you may see a drop in the number of Facebook reported conversions. 

To see just how much your organization’s reporting might be affected (this needs to be done before Apple releases the update), go to your Ads Manager and compare past campaign results through various attribution windows. Do a majority of your reported conversions come through as view-through conversions? If so, expect to see a larger discrepancy in campaign results pre- and post-iOS14 update. 

Smaller Retargeting Audiences 

Less data being collected by Facebook means smaller retargeting audience sizes, since retargeting capabilities rely on data that identifies users who have already interacted with you. This can impact campaigns that rely on retargeting existing users, but also will impact additional retargeting strategies that rely on excluding users who have engaged or converted on your ad from seeing it again, as well as creating effective lookalike audiences. 

One of our recommendations is to prepare to shift reliance from third-party cookie/pixel tracking, and put more emphasis on owned data (email addresses or phone numbers, for example) to build these custom audiences. Another option is to prioritize  conversion efforts that keep users on Facebook. For example, you could create ad experiences via on-Facebook Lead Generation Forms or Instant Experiences, and then build audiences based off of actions users take on the platform (i.e. fill out a lead generation form or click on an Instant Experience) which will be more reliable than retargeting users who take a specific action on your website. 

8-event Limit 

Advertisers will now have to prioritize which events they want to optimize for in Facebook ads. There is a limit of 8 conversion events per verified domain. This is a good opportunity to define and align on goals, or what user actions are the most valuable to your organization. 

No More Breakdowns

Because Facebook is adopting a new protocol for collecting event data (Aggregated Event Measurement, or AEM), gender, age, and geographic breakdowns will no longer be supported in Ads Manager reporting. This is a big blow to answering questions like how does cost per acquisition vary among generations, or between different locations? While we’re personally sad to see this feature go away, we can still gain valuable insights from additional analytics tools like Google Analytics to allow for some of this demographic reporting on users who come through your ads. 

whole whale university social media course

Online Course

Social Media for Social Impact

Become your own social media marketing expert!

How Can I Prepare my Facebook Ads Strategy for the iOS14 Update? 

There are 3 immediate actions you should take before Apple releases the ios14 update: 

  1. Verify your domain. This is a must to complete Step #2, and is relatively straightforward. Note you will need to be the administrator on your organization’s Facebook Business Manager account, and need access to either a developer or the backend of your website to verify the domain. 
  2. Set up your conversion events. Any campaign that was previously running with a pixel conversion event that is not set up via Aggregated Event Measurement will be paused and unable to be turned back on. 
  3. Breathe. Change is scary, but this isn’t the first big change to the advertising industry, and it certainly won’t be the last. So take a deep breath, everything will be okay. 

Despite these updates we still recommend Facebook advertising as a powerful, low-cost tool for nonprofits to affect change, especially in the age of social distancing and online fundraising. If you’re still getting started, check out the basics of how to run a Facebook campaign and learn more about social media advertising on Whole Whale University

Podcast summary