iOS 14 will require apps to ask your permission to track you when being used on an Apple device.

What Advertisers (and Consumers) Need to Know About Apple’s Latest Update: iOS 14

Last summer, Apple announced a privacy update planned to roll out with iOS 14 which will require iPhone users (as well as other Apple devices) to opt-in to ad tracking at the app level. Apple’s shift towards protecting consumer privacy is slated to roll out in the early months of 2021, and it’s expected to be a gamechanger for advertisers.

What the iOS 14 update means for consumers

For anyone with an Apple device, this update means that “third-party” apps will have to ask for your permission to track you. Many people have never bothered to opt-out of tracking because data sharing preferences have been buried in device privacy settings. And updating those settings requires digging through settings app by app by appppp.

In previous software, Apple and Google only required apps to ask for permission to access the more intrusive “sensors” like your camera and microphone. Not anymore.

Now consumers get a choice. When they open an app, they’ll be asked if they’re OK with their personal data (think location, email address, phone number) being tracked. And while, as a consumer, you may be saying, um THANKS. Advertisers are using a few other choice four-letter words. Because experts are predicting advertising audience pools could become far more limited. And that’s a problem because any brand or marketing team running digital ads relies heavily on knowing this consumer information and being able to reach those people wherever they are online. Naturally, brands, agencies, and even other big tech players’ ears are perking up. Before you get deep into the details, here's a quick breakdown of what the update means.

The basics of iOS 14

The Apple iOS 14 update will make ROI harder to prove for digital marketers.

What does iOS 14 mean for the future of digital media?

Hold on to your hats. Media targeting, optimization, and reporting are in the midst of an evolution…or as some might argue, a de-evolution. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening at each stage within a digital campaign.

Targeting now versus targeting post iOS 14

A typical lead generation campaign right now involves these basic steps:
- Tagging related landing pages (so they can be tracked)
- Following how users interact on the site (on-site events)
- Retargeting likely converters
- Prospecting for new leads based on signals from the on-going campaign.

With the iOS 14 update, users who opt-out from tracking will not be tagged when they visit websites or apps. Therefore, they will not be retargeted with personalized ads, and insights normally gleaned from this group of site visitors will not be able to be applied to lead generation strategies. Yikes.

Optimization now versus optimization post iOS 14

As a campaign runs, digital media teams are typically optimizing so that ad impressions are focused on the right audiences at the most relevant times. That’s their job.

With the iOS 14 update, identifying a portion of that right audience will not be possible. Therefore, ads won’t be able to reach the right audience group as precisely or at the right time. The pool of prospects will incrementally decrease with the removal of some Identifier for Advertisers (IDFAs), which are one of the only ways for advertisers to target and track users within apps on iOS devices. IDFAs are kind of like cookies, only for devices, not browsers.

Reporting now versus reporting post iOS 14

It’s going to change. A lot. There are two typical ways to report results for lead generation campaigns as of now, pre-iOS 14.
1. How people engaged with the ads (i.e. views and click conversions per platform)
2. How ads led to engagement with the website or app being tracked (also referred to as “event metrics”)

The media platform conversions and analytics matter because they allow marketers to see beyond the “last-click” attribution and tie value back to the money spent on specific tactics. Basically, these reports show the C-suite ROI.

With the iOS 14 update, paid media conversions may be incomplete or less accurate, depending on the platform. Facebook is already telling advertisers to expect changes, including delays in previously real-time data, results to be aggregated rather than exact amounts, insights on converting audiences may no longer be available, and the default attribution for new campaigns will change to a 7-day click attribution window.

What’s going to happen next?

The reality is, digital channels are highly effective when it comes to driving business, and that’s not changing. But the shift towards privacy has been a long time coming.

Paid social will continue to create product leads, and display ads will keep bringing in a specific demographic of prospects. We (the digital marketers) will have to continue to leverage the right tactics that collectively impact campaign and business KPIs. The way we execute and measure against these campaigns will just look a little different.

Our prediction

Moving forward, we expect that paid digital buys will more heavily leverage these key opportunities:

1.Contextual andkeyword targeting, which means ads run where the content includes a relevant keyword or topic to the ad goals.

2. Inclusion site lists, i.e. “whitelists” that specify the sites or words brands would want their ads to show up on or alongside.

3. Direct ad products from major players in order to serve messages to the right audience in the right environment, as opposed to accessing ad inventory through networks and exchanges,

Along with paid media, marketers will absolutely have to be more diligent about leveraging their own first-party databases (email lists, customer data, etc.), especially where personalized ad experiences may be limited –– at least in the short term. And if you haven’t started building that database, now is the time….easier said than done. Our data scientists and CRM specialists are ready to help. Contact our team to learn how by filling in some introductory information here.

What we plan to do about the privacy update

We’ll be continuing to depend on data sources like analytics and audience-based web insights. But client sales data, leads, applications, and volumes will be the most valuable currency. A big part of our job as a digital agency is to help clients discover the wealth of knowledge their organizations already have at their disposal but just don’t know how to use yet. We search for that golden data so it doesn’t go un-mined in order to develop well-crafted integrated digital marketing campaigns.

Finally, if you’re still reading, here comes the secret sauce. Remain agnostic and flexible. Even the biggest players don’t have things completely figured out around this topic, but the ability to work across platforms and pivot when the game changes will allow you to be agile and ultimately, do great work.

Jennifer Carter, Reese Goode, Cat Bartz - Directors of Channel Engagement
  • Apple iOS14
  • Digital marketing in 2021