What has (or has not) happened to Facebook advertising?

iOS 14.5, 10 weeks on.

You have probably heard about, or seen, one of the latest changes in our ever-evolving digital ecosystem – Apple’s recent iOS update.

Typically, you might associate an update like this with new features, graphics or visual changes, but in the case of iOS 14.5, there was one update of particular significance for advertisers - the App Tracking Transparency Policy (ATT).

The ATT was introduced in line with Apple’s emphasis on user privacy. In simple terms, it educates users about which apps are tracking their information, and most importantly, gives the choice as to whether an app has permission to collect and utilise their data. If you have updated your phone recently with iOS 14.5, you will have noticed the ATT prompt when opening certain apps.

The demand for greater user privacy has increased during the last few years, so Apple’s announcement was not a big shock. Since iOS 14.5 was rolled out on April 26th, this prompt is a requirement for explicit opt-in consent from users on initial app setup. The rollout came with some initial concern to Facebook, who has found major success from granular targeting capabilities for ad strategies.

Overview and Key Statistics

There is no doubt that there will be some potential disruption to paid advertising over time. Facebook has implemented new advertiser experiences and measurement protocols which raise some limitations on reporting & measurement, and optimisation. The immediate effects are summarised below:

  • Conversion data – it is no longer possible to provide delivery and action breakdowns for offsite conversion events. This includes demographic breakdowns such as age, gender, and region.

    This is a strict update from Facebook, but we can still report on engagement metric.

  • Conversion events – there is now an eight-pixel event cap per domain for users who opt-out, and we can only report on one action for those users.

    Non-iOS users and those who opt-in will still be tracked across all events.

  • Attribution – 28-day attribution windows are no longer supported, as well as 7-day view-through windows. The default for all campaigns is now set as a 7-day click/1-day view.

    Here at UM, this is the default setting we used pre-iOS 14.5.

  • Reporting delay – there will be a three-day delay on reporting for the data that comes from iOS 14.5 users.

    Whilst there is a slight limitation on real-time reporting, having a weekly schedule in place works effectively with a three-day buffer.

Despite ATT being rolled out in late April, the uptake was initially very slow and gradual – most people do not want to update their iPhone straight away, which has made the full effects difficult to discern. Whilst the complete user uptake is likely to happen over several more weeks, adoption rates have accelerated somewhat in the last two weeks. The latest data suggests that approximately two-thirds of UK iOS users are now updated to iOS 14.5+, and of those who have the update, opt-in rates are around 45%* across social platforms.

That said, as of today, there is no evidence to suggest that performance has dropped beyond normal fluctuations. Across our client campaigns at UM, we have not seen any noticeable decreases in performance, with CPAs being maintained and even improving in some cases over the last 10 weeks.

*Latest available social data from AppsFlyer’s latest update: June 27th.

The UM View - What This Means For Advertisers

So, should we be worried? Is this the end of advertising on Facebook?

We cannot deny that there are some potential limitations brought forward as adoption increases over the coming months. Does that mean we should be looking to allocate budget elsewhere? Absolutely not.

Facebook is still an incredibly effective advertising tool, and we should continue to capitalise on it. It is the most successful mobile app in history for a reason and has successfully overcome numerous obstacles before. Constraints often lead to innovation, and Facebook has been investing in new approaches, with the long-term vision building a personalised advertising ecosystem that relies on less data, whilst helping to ensure a level playing field for both large and small businesses.

So why should we continue to invest?

At the moment there has been no noticeable impact at all on CPAs across all of our conversion campaigns, and performance has remained strong. And whilst the full effects are yet to be known, there are some benefits to come out of this.

Facebook has already began rolling out aggregated events measurement (AEM). This is a new protocol allowing measurement of web events from iOS 14.5 users, whilst preserving user privacy by limiting access to individually identifiable information. We can certainly expect to see more use cases too, with Facebook being in early stages of investment with a determination to explore further avenues, based on advanced cryptographic and statistical techniques that minimise data share. They are committed to working towards a level playing field for businesses of all sizes with the new tools and technology they are working on.

Sacrificing audience size is not all doom and gloom either. Users who opt-in and have given explicit consent for an app to track them are likely to be highly engaged with that particular app, and as such are of higher value. So, whilst audience sizes may decrease, the quality of leads may improve, and we can expect less wastage.

The Bottom Line

Updates and advancements like this in the digital ecosystem have been keeping us on our toes for years, so do not panic. We remain observant and agile, and as of today, there is no evidence to suggest that performance has dropped beyond normal fluctuations. As the uptake gradually increases, we will learn more about the potential impact and if necessary, we will advise on any relevant actions that should be taken.

Remember, iOS devices are not the only gadgets on the market – they are just one portion. In fact, they make up just one-quarter of the market share. And of those users, not everyone is updating and opting out either. Desktop, Android, and other devices are completely unaffected, and remain a strong source of conversions.

The key is to continue using best practices as and when they change, to ensure that Facebook campaigns can continue delivering meaningful conversion campaigns in what remains a highly effective marketing platform, and by maintaining presence, we can continue gathering insights on performance and optimisation.

For any advice on best practices or questions specifically for your business, please reach out to a member of the UM team.