Apple’s iOS 14.5 Update: What it Means for Digital Marketers

Apple’s iOS 14.5 Update: What it Means for Digital Marketers

Erin Foley, Digital Marketing Specialist

Apple’s regular rollouts of software updates typically happen without much fanfare. But the company’s most recent iOS 14.5 update included a new feature that changes the digital landscape for advertisers.

It includes what Apple calls App Tracking Transparency (ATT)—which requires an app to ask you for permission to track your activity when you are not using the app. When you open an app, it may ask if you want to “Allow [app name] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” You can answer “Ask app not to track” or “Allow.” The default setting in iPhones is to not track. Some experts in the industry believe that the ATT plan will result in a U-shaped recovery – a dip to start, followed by a slow but steady recovery over four to six months.

This new feature is a simple privacy tool for users, allowing them to not be tracked by apps. But for marketers who advertise digitally, it’s much more complicated. The option means the availability of information about iOS users will decline. And because that information is used to create advertising campaigns, the change raises serious questions about the effectiveness of serving the right ad to the right audience.

While there may be just as many questions as answers, here’s a roundup of FAQs we know now:

Q: What devices does ATT apply to?

The new feature applies to iPhones from the iPhone 6S and up, as well as iPads. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple holds about 65% of the US smartphone market share.

Q: Does this apply to just apps? Or browsers too?

This update does not explicitly affect browser data. However, Safari (the iPhone’s default browser) had an update in 2018 that required websites to ask users if they would like to allow the site to use personal cookie data, so this prompt requirement is not new for browsers. In fact, Google is also rolling out a plan to eliminate third-party cookies by 2022.

Q: Can an app develop its own opt-in/out messaging?

Yes. App developers can curate the message below the initial question: “Allow (App Name) to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” Developers should use this to explain the advantages of opting in, such as a more customized user experience.

Q: Why haven’t I seen this message asking me to opt in or out?

According to Vox, developers, not Apple, decide when to put up the prompt: “They don’t have to do so on launch day, which is why a lot of them haven’t and why you’re probably not seeing any prompts yet.”

Q: What does this do to iPhone users on Facebook?

If a Facebook user opts out, he or she will not be tracked by Facebook. However, that doesn’t mean the user will not see any ads. Rather, the user will see ads from across the spectrum instead of ads that are tailored to their interests and activities.

Q: What does this mean for marketers who advertise on Facebook?

Because there will likely be an initial decline in effectively reaching the intended audience, advertisers should broaden their targeted audiences to reach more people on Facebook. Additionally, in response to the update, Facebook has put a protocol in place called “Aggregated Event Measurement” to allow measurement of events from iOS 14.5 users. This places a limit of eight conversion events per domain using one or more Facebook pixels. Advertisers will need to prioritize which website events (i.e., “Add to Cart,” “Complete Registration,” “Subscribe,” etc.) are the most crucial to keep track of. Facebook is also requiring that in order to track events at all, you must verify your domain. Facebook is also providing advertisers with information on their pixel updates.

Q: How many people will opt-in vs opt-out?

There are many different predictions on how much loss of data advertisers should expect. According to Tinuiti, right now about 70% of iOS users share their information across apps and after the change this number is expected to drop 10-15%. And, per MacRumors, early reports indicate that 96% of users have tracking disabled. Depending on who you, as an advertiser, choose to target with your ads, this number could be higher or lower. Start testing and optimizing your ads to figure out how you can continue to be efficient and reach close to the same amount of people as before the update.

Q: Why should people choose to opt-in?

iOS users will continue to receive ads, regardless of their choice to be tracked across apps or not. If they choose to opt-in and be tracked, these ads will be tailored to their personal interests and result in a more customized experience across apps.

While 2021 has certainly posed a great deal of changes to the digital marketing landscape, we can assure you that we’re paying attention to all the latest developments and staying alert. You can count on us at J.W. Morton to make sure you are getting the most relevant audiences drawn to your campaign that current technology will allow. If you have questions or would like to begin a digital campaign for your business, do not hesitate to give us a call!

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