Everything you need to know about the impact of the iOS 14 update on Facebook Ads

By Simon Brosolo - February 22, 2021

You’ve likely heard about the major updates to Apple’s iOS 14 software. The changes, which were released to the public in September last year, affect Facebook’s ability to receive and process conversion events from business tools such as Facebook Pixels and Conversions API.  

This is a big win for consumer privacy and data protection, empowering consumers to take control of the way their data is used. And as more tech platforms begin to roll out changes to comply with GDPR and protect their customers’ privacy, we’re likely to see more of these types of restrictions come into play (no more wondering if your phone is listening in on you, perhaps?).

What you may not have considered, however, is the impacts these changes will have on Facebook advertising. This affects everyone; not just Apple users. 

While we don’t yet know to what extent these changes will impact businesses who advertise their content across the web and on mobile devices, the implications have the potential to be pretty hard-hitting...if you’re not prepared, that is. 

Fortunately, there are ways to work within these new restrictions, and Facebook has been oh-so-helpful in supporting advertisers to find solutions to any problems that arise as a result of the update. Here’s what you need to know...  

What you need to know about the iOS 14 update 

In line with Apple’s ongoing messaging that customer privacy is a top priority, the new updates to Apple’s iOS 14 come with more than a bit of added security for iPhone users. The update puts users in control by enabling them to learn about how their data is used and managed by apps – while developers, on the other hand, are required to provide insight into how they will use the data, what specific data they will be collecting, and the details of their privacy policies. 

These new iOS updates require apps to get permission from the user in order to track them and access their device’s advertising identifier. Permission to enable tracking is granted (or denied) when a user explicitly opts-in to the request. The prompt will be integrated within applications, presenting itself on all iOS apps and clearly outlining that the app is requesting permission to access user data by giving the user the option to click one of two buttons: 

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So, how will it affect you? Essentially, these new changes will affect any business that advertises on mobile apps, as well as businesses who optimise, target and report on web conversion events. 

How will the iOS 14 update impact Facebook Ads? 

iOS 14 will not prevent purchases and conversions from occurring. It will, however, decrease the overall visibility of a business. We don’t yet know to what level of impact these changes will have on every business, but we are expecting to see a decrease in conversion tracking, optimisation and retargeting, which in turn could affect Cost per Acquisition (CPA) and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

If a user decides to opt-out of Facebook tracking, Facebook will no longer be able to track user behaviour. The impacts of this include: 

  • Decreased effectiveness of the tracking pixel resulting in less accurate reporting 
  • Weakened targeting options, which could impact the ability to create hyper-personalised ads to users 
  • Less personalisation of ad copy as a result of fewer available targeting options 
  • Less efficient and effective ads 

Facebook will be tracking fewer events, making it more difficult for businesses to effectively optimise their ad sets. Targeted advertising ensures that Facebook shows their ads to users most likely to engage with the given content. The impending update means businesses (especially those that don’t have huge marketing budgets) could be less able to reach their ideal audience.  

Changes to tracking as a result of the iOS 14 update

When making an online purchase, the purchasing cycle usually involves clicks, browsing items through a page view, adding items to a cart, checking out and purchasing. The new changes will see only one of these conversion events being recorded per user engagement. The recorded event will be the most prioritised event (likely a purchase), thereby excluding any clicks, adding of items to shopping carts and checkouts from reporting and tracking. 

As Facebook moves away from supporting the 28-day click, it will only be tracking the following conversion windows: 

  • 1-day click 
  • 7-day click (default) 
  • 1-day click and 1-day view 
  • 7-day click and 1-day view 

As data will be sent from Apple to Facebook, conversion tracking may see delays of up to 1-3 days. This means that if a user opts-in to enable tracking and makes a purchase within the app, you may not be alerted of the conversion for up to 3 days. 

Changes to value optimisation 

In preparation for the update, Facebook is also making changes to Value Optimisation. Value Optimisation allows businesses to bid for their highest value customers – rather than those only completing a specific action. 

Value Optimisation is used as an efficient way to prioritise spend on those users most likely to purchase, giving businesses another option to boost ad performance. To be eligible for Value Optimisation, a business must: 

  • Have an active pixel/SDK/product catalog 
  • Send and optimise for purchase events 
  • Generate 100+ optimised purchases over any given 7 day period 
  • Have 10+ distinct purchases over any given 7 day period. 

With the iOS 14 changes, the data used for Value Optimisation is being restricted because it’s directly linked to the Events Manager and audience tracking. However, advertisers can still reach iOS 14 users if they configure their settings in Events Manager

When will this change start impacting advertisers?

Apple and Facebook have already started to roll out some of these changes, with Facebook updating their default attribution settings from the start of February. The companies will continue to make updates over the next few months, which could make it a challenge to compare performance pre and post-updates.  

Actions you can take to prepare for the iOS 14 update 

So, what can you do about it? Despite some unanswered questions on Apple’s end, Facebook has been proactive in providing resources, UI updates, webinars and guides to help advertisers work around these new restrictions. Although it poses a challenge, advertisers who actively seek out solutions will find that it’s not all doom and gloom.  

In a post from Facebook, titled, ‘How Apple’s iOS 14 release may affect your ads’, the social media platform suggests that there are a few steps you can take to continue delivering and successfully measuring the performance of your ad campaigns. 

If you plan to deliver ads optimised for conversion events occurring within your business’s app: 

If you plan to deliver ads optimised for conversion events occurring on your business’s website:

  • Consider verifying your website’s domain – this will aid in avoiding any future disruption to your website campaigns. Domain verification should be prioritised by domains with pixels used by multiple businesses or personal accounts. 
  • Configure 8 preferred web-conversion events per domain through Facebook’s Event Manager Tool – Aggregated Event Measurement limits domains to 8 conversion events that can be used for the optimisation of campaigns. Facebook will then configure conversion events that they believe to be most relevant to your business based on your activity.

What’s next? 

Given that it’s early days, it’s hard to predict what the impacts of this software update will mean for the future of Facebook ads. But there’s no need to hit the panic button just yet. These changes have the potential to significantly impact advertisers, but until we learn more, we really don’t know to what extent. 

Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to work within these new limitations. We’re watching the situation like a hawk, and we’ll be providing regular updates and solutions as new information comes to light. So make sure you subscribe to our blog to get the latest. 

And in the meantime, if you want to prepare yourself for the changes and give your business the best chance at success, get in touch with our Melbourne-based Digital team. We specialise in paid media strategies and campaign execution, and would love to help you navigate the changing landscape.

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Topics: News, Paid Media Advertising