Posted on: 16.02.2021

What the imminent changes to Apple’s iOS 14 mean for your social media advertising strategy

Many of you in the social media advertising space will have seen the notifications, read the news and heard the panic on Twitter – leaving you wondering exactly what Apple’s new privacy policy will have on your advertising efforts.

It’ll all start with a popup message.

Starting in early 2021, Apple will begin to show Facebook and Instagram app users a popup message which will allow them to opt out of data tracking “across apps and websites owned by other companies.”

But what does that mean exactly?

As a whistle-stop tour, here are the biggest changes we’ll see:
– Pixel actions will be harder to track – leads, add to cart, purchases, custom conversions. These will be under reported, as they will no longer include those who opt out of tracking
– Optimising ads for these actions will be harder too. If there’s no data to optimise your ads to, then the extent to which you can refine your performance will be limited as a result
– Early indications seem to suggest that you won’t be able to retarget any website users who visited your website from an iOS 14 device
– This also means that audience building won’t be as robust – retargeting or creating lookalike audiences won’t be able to use any iOS 14 users

For app advertisers, Facebook will no longer allow you to optimize your ads around app Installs or other app-related conversions
Speaking in real terms, we’ll see these ad types impacted:
– Traffic ads that are optimised around Landing Page Views, using the Pixel. If you are optimising around standard link clicks, your ads will not be affected.
– Conversion ads that are optimised around Standard Events or Custom Conversions
– App Install ads that are targeting iOS devices
– Catalog sales, when the links go to your website rather than stay within the Facebook platform

It’s a worrying list. And it’s made even worse when we consider that Facebook and Instagram are far from the only channels impacted.

The opportunity for users to opt-out will impact every platform with advertising functionality.

For businesses of all sizes who use online advertising to drive leads, revenue and visits, it’s going to provide new challenges to work around and a frankly dizzying loss of historical learnings.

What has worked in the past may not work in the future.

Not exactly great news.

But it’s not all as bad as it sounds.

The first thing to mention is that the change will only come into force for those using iOS devices when they update to iOS 14. Data tracking will still work as normal on Android devices, desktop browsers and for everyone that decides not to opt out of the privacy updates. We still don’t know, in real terms, exactly what the consequences are for audience sizes until people actually start opting out.
The second thing is that advertisers can still attract leads, convert, and drive new customers – these items just won’t be tracked as well within the platform.

Let’s be realistic about what we’re going to lose.

Reporting from iOS devices. So expect your cost per conversion to appear to increase. Again, it doesn’t mean that the sales aren’t coming through – but the reporting won’t be demonstrating this as clearly.
Optimisation opportunities. We’ll have to be more intelligent around audience generation. Thinking outside the box will be key to keeping performance consistent without these features working as well across iOS devices.
Some conversion events. Facebook is now scaling back the tracking events to a maximum of 8 events per domain. Which is fine for those of you with simple conversion funnels, but for sites that rely heavily on a complex ads strategy – it’s going to be an issue. We will have to decide sooner rather than later about which events are the most important for the business, and run with those.
The length of Facebook’s conversion windows. To 1 day and 7 day windows only. For advertisers with longer sales-cycles, again, you’re likely to see the reporting show less conversions than you are used to.

So, there it is. Warts and all. But what are we doing about it?

As with any challenge, algorithm change or new platform opportunity, we’re already making plans here at ilk.
– We’re going to be choosing all of our conversion events for each of the brands we work with, and make sure we keep the most important ones.
– We’re going to utilise Facebook and Instagram shopping, as well as engagement generating advertising to build audiences more than standard web retargeting.
– We’re also going to increase website tracking and UTMs, letting Analytics pick up some of the slack from the reporting.
– We’re going to be optimising for link clicks and not landing page views, and we’re going to be keeping a close eye on conversion. So we can work out exactly what the impact has been, and don’t lose that insight.
– Whatever takes place, robust knowledge of the platforms will be the guide that we need to ensure we’re perfectly placed to minimise disruption, and continue to drive results in the way we know how best to do!

If you’d like to explore the implications of these changes on your social media advertising strategy, email me at

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