Paid Media

7 ways Apple’s privacy policy will transform mobile advertising

by Colleen Keilers | January 19, 2021

In June 2020, Apple first announced massive upcoming changes to its privacy policy, which will dramatically impact mobile ad networks. In early 2021 (as of this writing, a specific date has not yet been announced), Apple will require users to accept tracking on a case-by-case basis for each app, website, and browser that collects data “for targeted advertisements, for advertising measurement, or via data brokers.” 

This is more significant than a website pop-up that asks users to accept cookies. Not only is Apple giving all users the option not to be tracked, but is also mandating different attribution windows, data availability, and even the amount of data that can be collected by ad networks. If you consider that the iOS universe is roughly 45% of the entire digital marketing ecosystem, we can expect this change to have a cascading effect on digital marketing in 2021.

We’ve gathered intel from our own subject matter experts at Apiary Digital on the topic. Facebook and Instagram advertising will be impacted the most due to their focus on personalized ads. However, all apps, websites, and browsers who market to a mobile audience, including Google Display, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other channels will feel the impact.

Here are the 7 ways we believe this policy will transform mobile advertising:

  1. Less conversion data. When people are given the option to be tracked, app developers see acceptance rates of 50-70%. At minimum, we can expect 30% fewer conversions from advertising channels attributed to that channel. Advertisers should ensure they have third-party tracking in place to establish a strong baseline for comparing performance before and after the change.
  2. Less audience data. Audiences defined by the Facebook pixel and other pixels will likely be smaller for both prospecting and retargeting, given the likely 30% of people who will opt not to be tracked. It will take longer for audiences to reach a significant size, and it could make audiences defined by extrapolation (similar to lookalikes) less accurate in the short term. Advertisers will need to rely more on internal customer data as a seed audience for lookalikes.
  3. Shorter attribution windows. Attribution windows will be shortened. View-through data in some cases will no longer be available. Many advertising networks like Facebook and Google default to 28-day click, 1-day view (Facebook) or 30-day click (Google) windows. Many subscription and B2B advertisers rely on a longer view to track their funnel. Advertisers will need to understand their funnel at the 7-day click window before the change to set reasonable expectations.
  4. Fewer trackable events. Mobile app events will be limited to 8 per domain. Mobile apps will likely have less event data from both Facebook and other networks due to this change.
  5. Fewer accounts and campaigns. Apple is limiting the number of campaign IDs by ad network, which will dictate the number of advertiser campaigns. The best example is mobile app advertisers on Facebook. They will now be limited to 1 ad account, a maximum of 9 campaigns, and a maximum of 5 ad sets per campaign.
  6. Higher competition. The Facebook algorithm is based on audience and conversion data. If 30-50% people opt out of tracking, the same amount of advertisers will be competing for a smaller universe of people. In the short term, CPMs and CPAs will go up until the algorithms normalize.
  7. Native lead forms could boom. B2B marketing measures interest via engagement, like form-fills, from prospects. Native form-fills across all digital channels will be trackable (Facebook Lead Ads, LinkedIn Lead Ads, Google Ads Lead Forms). Advertisers could flock to these ad types to continue to track audiences in a different way.

While this presents challenges to advertisers, this could be a win for consumer privacy rights. And, it opens up some opportunities. This could push advertisers to diversify their marketing and test new channels.

The question remains: Why is Apple making this change? Apple maintains that they are giving consumers greater control over their advertising and greater control over their own privacy. Yet, people who opt out of tracking will still receive ads. They simply won’t receive personalized ads, and their click and conversion data will not be sent to ad networks. Analysts expect a much larger volume of data labeled as “unknown” in third-party tracking tools like Google Analytics.

The only business that’ll have this personalized data is Apple—and time will tell how they may use it in the future.