iOS 14 and IFDA - Privacy Wins Out

Back in June at WWDC 2020, Apple announced their new operating system iOS 14. Buried a long way down in the announcements of bright and shiny new features came the announcement that put dread into the heart of every mobile advertiser around the world: “User Privacy. On iOS 14, apps will be required to ask users for permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies.” Say what? Opt-in? Every single time a user downloads a new app? Yup. 

Apple’s announcement means that iOS 14 and IFDA are not ultimately compatible, and the mobile advertising industry went crazy. So crazy in fact that Apple announced in September that the new opt-in measures are delayed until early 2021. That’s good. But iOS 14 IDFA changes are only postponed. They will still come into effect. So now’s the time to get on top of what it means and make those changes.

iOS 14 and IDFA - what’s changed?

From now on, you will need to ask users to allow targeted ads every time they download a new app. Since iOS 13, users have been able to opt-out of seeing targeted ads, but the setting was buried. Only the most privacy conscious users would find it, and consequently only 30% of US iPhone owners opted out of targeted ads. 

Opt-in is a whole different animal. In contrast to 30% turning it off, some estimates put the opt-in rate at between 1% and 20%. That makes a massive difference to how advertisers will be able to measure the efficiency of their campaigns.

Why the change?

Privacy is the name of the game in IOS 14’s IDFA changes. These changes give users more power to preserve their privacy. If a user refuses to opt-in, the IDFA will be zeroed out from their device, so it will be useless for any kind of advertising process.

The IDFA is Apple’s identifier for advertisers. It’s a string of numbers and letters assigned to each Apple device at random to allow app owners to measure the impact of their marketing efforts, track their paid campaigns, and deliver personalized advertising. 

The IDFA hides users’ personal information, but still allows advertisers to see integral data, such as the channel they have been acquired from, or certain user behaviours tracked via in-app events. Over the years this level of information has been misused, and has violated users’ privacy. And in an ever-increasingly privacy-conscious world, it was only a matter of time before these changes came about.

So far, so good for the user. What’s the problem?

Well advertising means free apps. Nearly every mobile app, from Facebook and Google, all the way down to hyper-casual games apps, rely on advertising to keep them running for free. While no one is crying for Facebook (who threw an epic hissy fit and threatened to remove their Audience Network from iOS 14 entirely), this is not good news for the hundreds of thousands of small app developers who rely on ad monetization for a living.

It’s the end of the world! Or is it?

The privacy changes on iOS 14 and IDFA definitely make life more difficult for app developers everywhere. But it is a good thing for user privacy, and there are things that app developers can do to comply with the new world order, and improve user experience.

First of all, transparency is now key. It’s up to everyone, from app designers to advertisers to be truly transparent, and educate users about how ID-level data is used to give them a better experience (like showing a gamer in their mid-20s ads for new games rather than ads for over 50s insurance policies). Granted the two small customizable lines on the pop-up don’t give you much space, but it’s definitely worth using them well.

iOS 14’s privacy changes also require changes to your App Store product page to include a tailored breakdown of your self-reported privacy practices, and a link to your privacy policy. Both of those provide an opportunity to build trust with users, and be open about why opting-in is a good thing and won’t harm user privacy.

And, you can use the iOS 14 and IFDA postponement to come to grips with Apple’s SKAdNetwork. SkAdNetwork is Apple’s alternative, privacy-safe ad measurement and attribution method. Most of the market doesn’t have it yet and it isn’t very good either. Hopefully Apple will also use this extra time to update it, and make it more effective for mobile marketers, including creative testing, and event/ value tracking.

What SKAdNetwork does include is conversion data to advertisers without revealing any user-level or device-level data. Advertising networks using SKAdNetwork are given access to Source App information, which identifies the specific app from which an installation occurred. This allows advertising networks who run advertisements on apps they don’t own to identify which app should be credited with initiating the download. It will also identify re-downloads (re-attributions), which helps advertisers measure the success of re-engagement campaigns. So all is not lost.

Tighten up your user acquisition efforts

Use this transition period to understand how SKAdNetwork works. Consider running both IDFA and SKAdNetwork to compare the two, and find ways to compensate for the differences.

Away from Apple’s prescribed changes, step up your user acquisition game. Get on top of your entire strategy from creatives to analysis. Understand your internal and external user consent flows. Make sure that your UX design and microcopy are top-notch. Find out more about how Liniad can help you with our dedicated UA wizards, and embrace the new world order.

P.S. Don’t forget about your Android apps. Google’s identifier for advertisers will also likely be updated, as users become ever more privacy conscious.

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