Apple’s iOS 14.5 update impact on those who run Facebook ads

iOS 14.5 release impact on Affiliate Marketing

Sveta Prus

It seems that Apple and Facebook are virtually at war with each other. Since last summer, this confrontation has escalated due to the release of iOS 14.5. The Facebook advertising is sure to change drastically and unfortunately not for the better. The social network itself, businesses, and marketers will suffer the consequences. We figured out what the future holds for affiliates and how to prepare for it in order to minimize losses because there will be losses for sure.

What exactly is going on?

In June 2020, Apple announced the release of iOS 14. The release drew attention to one critical point — Apple will restrict the use of IDFA without the user's consent. This identifier is employed in mobile apps for user attribution. It makes it clear which route the user took to come to the app.

Advertisers use IDFA to identify iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS users in order to provide them with personalized and targeted ads, to cap impressions, measure campaign performance, etc.

It is unacceptable for Apple as users often have no idea that their actions are being recorded. "At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement — the longer the better — and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible," stated Tim Cook, apparently referring to Facebook as one of data collectors.

So, here's what the company is planning to do: "Starting with the beta versions of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, you'll be required to ask users for their permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies."

After the release of iOS 14.5, users will receive the following message:

Facebook Asking Permission to Track

Given today's trends on data privacy, many users most likely will opt-out.

Why the new iOS has become an issue for Facebook

Facebook will become incapable of tracking user data the way it used to. Conversion tracking, retargeting, and campaign optimization will be hit the hardest.

The advertising will become less effective, therefore, advertisers will spend less. This means that Facebook will lose a lot of money.

This is the reason why Facebook was really emotional in its reactions to the novelty and issued some loud statements about its harmful consequences. For example, the social network has run an awareness campaign "Facebook is speaking up for small businesses", spreading information on the harmful impact of this innovation to small businesses that strive to stay afloat in difficult times.

In addition, Facebook noted: "Despite our best efforts, Apple's updates may render the Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14." It is also rumored that the Audience Network's revenue may fall by more than 50%.

Changes for affiliates

The changes will directly affect the affiliates. Facebook was forced into accepting Apple's terms after all. The company has recently posted a comprehensive article regarding the release aimed at marketers and advertisers. Let us look into the new restrictions and see what to expect and how to prepare for the changes.

You may need to verify your website's domain 

If you want to have control over which conversion events are eligible for your website, you need to verify the domain. Verification is also required if your email domain doesn't match your website domain or in case you want to manage editing permissions for your ads, etc. Your domain can be verified using DNS or by an HTML file upload. 

It is not very difficult, you will just need to allocate some time to do that.

Facebook will collect less user data

This means the degradation of the conversion optimization algorithm. For now, you can create an unlimited number of events per one pixel, and after the introduction of iOS 14.5, Facebook will be limited to 8 standard events per pixel.

Facebook will start processing pixel conversion events from iOS 14 devices using Aggregated Event Measurement. Marketers need to access the Events Manager to edit the Facebook pixel. Facebook has issued a detailed manual on how to do this.

How to edit the Facebook pixel

Advertising apps will become more difficult

Each app is limited to nine iOS 14 campaigns at a time. Each campaign is limited to five ad sets of the same optimization type. This means that testing different approaches and creatives will become more difficult.

This restriction has hit those affiliates who deal with themed offers forbidden on Facebook (for example, casinos or sports betting). To pass the moderation, affiliates used to create hundreds of ad sets, and some of them managed to sneak through the checks and reach the users. Now launching such a number of ad sets for iOS devices will be impossible.

Delays in reporting

Real-time reporting will seize to be and you will get your reports with a delay up to 3 days. For iOS 14 app installation campaigns, conversion events will be reported based on the time SKAdNetwork API reported them to Facebook and not the time they have actually occurred. Knowing the age, gender, and region of users who have converted will also become impossible.

Apparently, there is nothing we can do about it. Regretfully, campaign performance will decrease, and testing will require a bigger budget.

Smaller audience for retargeting and dynamic advertising

More iOS 14 users will opt-out of tracking, meaning that the size of user audiences based on in-app and on-site actions will be smaller.

Simply put, imagine you want to retarget a cart abandoner. If the user has an updated iOS and does not want to be tracked, you will no longer be able to retarget such a customer.

Your app can be associated with a single ad account

Some of you will find this change insignificant. However, for many affiliates this will be a serious issue.

First, if you split your ad campaigns into different accounts by country or by optimization method, you will have to merge them into one account. It may be inconvenient, but there is no helping it.

Second, it is not clear how big applications that work with several advertising agencies will operate. After all, each agency used its own ad accounts to purchase traffic for customers. It seems that app owners will have to choose a single agency or find some walk-arounds.

And most importantly, many affiliates share one app between several ad accounts — this too will be no more. This practice is most often used in the Gambling and Dating verticals.

We have already described this method in greater detail here. In short: the affiliate network provides affiliates with access to an application, they advertise it on Facebook and receive payout for target actions performed by the users.

And now affiliates will no longer have the shared apps from affiliate networks. 

The Alfaleads affiliate network also provides its affiliates with applications. Here is their take on the situation:

“We recommend our affiliates to get ready to deal with this version of iOS. Do not create excessive campaigns with the same targeting or creatives, limit your testing of hypotheses to fit in the limits on the number of campaigns and ad sets.

Due to the change in Apple's policy, affiliates working in the Gambling vertical will have to use their own apps more often rather than apps from affiliate networks. You can buy ready-made applications or place an order with the developers. But you will have to work harder to break even.

There is an easier option: run campaigns for Android and older versions of iOS: this will work until most users switch to iOS 14.5.

We will share iOS 14.5 applications on a "one app per one affiliate" mode. But this is possible only for those with large volumes of high-quality traffic. There will be no restrictions on app sharing for campaigns targeted for older versions of iOS.”

Konstantin Guberkan, Digital Marketing Expert

Difficulties with attribution

Mobile ad attribution services such as Appsflyer, Adjust, and many others will lose IDFA as a means for attribution of the majority of mobile traffic. They will be forced to use less accurate methods of installation tracking (fingerprinting, for instance).

Traffic attribution will become less accurate creating significant complications for companies that develop and promote mobile applications. In the future, this may also lead to higher cost of traffic.

AppsFlyer co-founder and CEO Oren Kaniel was quite emotional in one of his posts: "How can app developers know if they succeeded in delivering value without feedback in the form of attribution? How can they improve their apps and experiences without measurement? Attribution is at the heart of marketing. Without accurate attribution, marketers ‘spray and pray’, and the experience for end-users deteriorates."

Oren Kaniel, co-founder and CEO of AppsFlyer

However, the company is quite optimistic and is developing new approaches: a probabilistic modeling algorithm that provides detailed data on the performance of campaigns. 

We also suggest you take the oncoming changes as a challenge. They may bring new opportunities that you never even dreamed of.