Understanding Apple's iOS 14.5 Update

In recent days, since Apple rolled out their long-awaited iOS 14.5 update, the entire marketing industry has had to adjust and respond to changes in paid media performance. Those of us who deal in paid advertising on social media platforms have had to assess our strategies and consider creative strategies and approaches for some of the businesses that we work with. But why has the iOS 14.5 update caused such a commotion in regards to paid advertising? Consider this article to be our full rundown of what the iOS 14 update entails, it’s impact it has on businesses using paid ads, and the different ways marketers are adjusting to the new normal that it creates.

Understanding the Impact of the iOS 14.5 Update

The iOS 14.5 update is similar to any other system update Apple has rolled out in years past, except for one major difference: the hindrance of effective data tracking of users. According to Facebook’s help article on the subject, “Apple will begin to require that apps in the App Store that engage in what Apple defines as "tracking" to show a prompt to iOS 14.5 users”. This prompt will ask if they would like for the app to continue tracking them or opt out. These same rules, apparently, apply to websites that have Facebook Pixel tracking installed, as well. According to Facebook, “Businesses that advertise on mobile apps, as well as those that optimize, target, and report on web conversion events from any of our business tools will be affected.”

This change in tracking capacities will force users on mobile apps and websites across the internet to opt-in or opt-out of Facebook Pixel tracking. For context, Facebook Pixel is the analytics tool that lets marketers and paid advertisers understand the actions that users take when navigating specific websites. The data that the Facebook Pixel provides can help businesses easily and thoroughly understand the activities specific users have taken when on their website. With this wealth of information being stifled by Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, advertisers via Facebook and/or Instagram ads could get significantly less access to user data, making ad targeting trickier to execute on in some cases.

In Some Cases, Performance Will Be Unaffected

There are several different factors that advertisers should consider when plotting their next moves regarding Facebook and Instagram ads.

Many Individuals Don’t Use or Have iPhones

Number one, it’s important to note that not all Facebook or Instagram users access the platforms using Apple products. Yes, Apple claims to be implementing these opt-ins as a way of protecting their users data and personal information. However, as ubiquitous as they may seem, Apple is only one of several cell phone manufacturers and providers in the industry. According to Statista, around half of smartphone users in the United States are using an Apple device such as an iPhone. If this stands true, this could mean that around 50% of all Facebook and Instagram users will be unaffected by these tracking opt-ins, because they primarily use Android smartphones or some other mobile device to navigate the web.

Many Apple Users Will Opt-In

Another key factor is the fact that not all of Apple users are the same. It’s easy for advertisers to assume that all of Apple’s users will opt out of Facebook Pixel tracking on the websites that they visit, but there’s no evidence to support that assumption. In fact, Statista predicts that around one-third of all Apple users will actually opt-in to Facebook Pixel tracking measures. Whether the numbers line up at one-third specifically or not, there will definitely be a small percentage of Apple users that will willingly opt-in to data tracking by Facebook.

In theory, millions of Internet users are already used to accepting cookies on a variety of the websites that they visit. Now of course there are major differences between accepting cookies and opting in to a very specific form of data tracking, but nevertheless, our prediction is that large portions of targeted audiences in select interest groups will be unaffected by the iOS 14.5 update changes. Now, what should marketers do about the remaining audience that does opt out of Facebook Pixel tracking?

How Can Advertisers Protect Ad Performance?

Marketers that rely on Facebook and Instagram ads might experience dips in ad performance in the coming weeks and months due to inhibit tracking. Some businesses have already begun to see these decreases in performance. Though Facebook and Instagram might give businesses issues connecting with their target customers, on a case-by-case basis, there are things that advertisers can do to mitigate losses and give their campaigns the best chance at maintaining performance.

Specifically Target Lookalike Audiences

Approaching Facebook advertising from a holistic approach can help with ad performance in general, so supplementing Facebook Pixel data with data from other sources can be helpful. Specifically, importing useful email lists that your business has collected over the years into Facebook can aid in the creation of “lookalike audiences”. With this method, Facebook analyzes your email lists and forms an understanding of those contacts’ demographics and interests based on data Facebook already has. Next, Facebook generates an audience with similar traits and interest for ads to be served to, thus facilitating quality ad targeting.

Optimize Ads and Websites With Supplemental Data

There are other things that marketers can do to supplement Facebook Pixel data that would otherwise be tracked. If a site has Google Analytics installed, the data from Google Analytics can provide insights that advertisers can use to draw conclusions about the best audiences to serve Facebook ads to. There are also on-page changes that marketers can mke to ensure that ads have the best chance of converting users that they are served to, such as landing page optimization. Optimizing website landing pages for maximum conversion rate and matching ads to pages effectively can do wonders for any ad campaign. 

In times like these, these core principles of ad targeting become more important as businesses require a more holistic approach in order to beat the system.

Trust the Process and Invest in Creative Solutions

Data tracking allows websites and businesses to connect with Internet users and provide them with quality solutions to the problems they experience. It also facilitates ad targeting that keeps social media users news feed clean and relevant to their lifestyles. Even if advertisers are limited by the iOS 14.5 update in their ability to streamline the advertising process, there are creative solutions that can be implemented to help maintain ad performance. Currently, we are early in the process of seeing all that the iOS 14.5 update has to offer, so we’ll be gaining more insights as things unfold. However, one thing is for sure, creative advertising teams will eventually determine how to best address issues that may arise as a result of this update.

Remember, not all businesses will be largely affected. Regardless, for businesses that see decreased performance temporarily, we recommend waiting it out and trusting your marketing team to implement smart campaign adjustments.

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