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5 min read

Apple updates to IDFA – what changes can we expect?

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

The debate around access to data is one that has raged on for a while  and with Apple’s update to iOS 14 coming into force in 2021, the spotlight has well and truly been focused upon how data is collected, sold and used. The main takeaway with the Apple update from an advertisers perspective is the comprehensive changes to the IDFA (Identifier For Advertisers) where many advertisers will feel the impact upon targeted user data. 

But what exactly are the changes? How will they impact advertisers and what does this mean for the wider public? 

In this post we’ll explore the ins and outs of the latest updates to get you up to speed on how best to tackle the changes.

What is the IDFA?

The IDFA or Identifier For Advertisers is a unique 32 character ID that is unique to each and every iOS device. This identifier gathers information on each specific user about their likes, dislikes and engagements without gathering personal information. This data can then be used by advertisers to target relevant content to individuals, which in turn helps to drive conversion rates. For example, IDFA’s allow Google Ads users to target content on mobile apps and ensure content is shown to relevant users.

As IDFA’s associate a single ID with the individual device it allows a degree of certainty to the data being collected as individuals have to physically change it within their phone settings for the unique ID to change. If we were to compare this with third-party cookies (which tend to have short life spans) the IDFA provides a trusted level of data to advertisers. 

In addition to this, in order for users to opt out of all remarketing, they must select a device setting called ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ – It is this setting that will be changing in the next update.

(The existing ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ Setting – Credit Business Insider)

What changes have been proposed? 

The iOS 14 update puts power back into the hands of the individual. What it will be doing is giving users the opportunity to opt in – rather than having to opt out as is the case at the minute. What this also means is that advertisers will be severely impacted when targeting individuals on applicable Apple devices. In addition to the opt-in, other updates include:

  • App developers explicitly gaining permission from the user to track them: this will likely severely impact app tracking capabilities as well as conversion data seen from App install campaigns.
  • Sharing ‘approximate locations’ rather than exact locations with App developers: of the individuals that are being tracked, the approximate locations update means that advertisers will be unable to specifically pinpoint advertising to individual devices.
  • Updated privacy information on the app store: App developers will now have to provide a summary of privacy practices prior to downloading it. This again will likely impact app install data as not only will individuals be more aware of how data is used, but it will also be another element to the conversion process.

The full list of iOS 14 updates is available here.

How will this impact upon Paid advertisers? 

It still remains to be seen as to what the full impact this update will have on a number of paid campaigns, but it will likely hit those who run app-centric campaigns the hardest. More importantly, it will be unprepared advertisers who will also be impacted. Better the ‘update devil’ you know.

Facebook has been clear in discussing what this could have upon advertisers. They have already mentioned that they will not collect the IDFA on their own apps on iOS 14 devices and that there will be certain changes advertisers have to make in order to prepare for the update. This includes creating new ad accounts dedicated to running app install ad campaigns for iOS 14 users. Facebook have also mentioned that the updates will have a severe impact upon campaigns that utilise audience network targeting. This is important information as it could explain a dip in performance once the changes come into effect. 

Google has taken a different approach to the announcement, recommending that developers install the latest version of the Google Mobile Ads SDK for iOS available for AdMob and Google Ad Manager. This is a somewhat shielded approach considering the fact that they use the IDFA for app conversion data, which could have a knock on effect on app-install ads as well as remarketing that would use that data.

There has been some discussion from App advertisers that as IOS becomes less easy to monitor and measure, spends may be allocated over to Android systems. That being said, purely reallocating budgets based on something new, rather than testing how that change may impact results may be a bit haphazard. 

It is likely that channels most impacted by this change will be programmatic or app advertisers who rely so heavily on this data to see results. One consequence of these changes could be that targeting power for these channels becomes somewhat ‘watered down’ and that as a result user experience and personalisation could suffer.

Having said that, whilst it may be true that the updates will have a serious impact upon campaign performance, the update does make a clear shift towards greater transparency. In order for brands to build trust they have to be clear about not only how they collect user data, but in turn, how that data will be used. So it could be argued that by making that process clearer brands are actually building that level of trust.

What should your next steps be?

If you’re wondering how these changes may impact upon your advertising, the best thing to do is research, research and research again. With these changes coming into force in early 2021 advertisers have time to make estimates on how these changes may impact upon their campaigns and make changes accordingly. Reading up, researching and testing changes from an early stage will undoubtedly be the best way to reduce the impact felt when the change comes around.