Apple are not a company backwards in coming forwards with the odd (oft controversial) update. Their recent announcement of changes made in iOS 14 that will impact on how conversion events from tools like the Facebook pixel are received and processed has created quite a stir. It is likely to affect anyone who advertises mobile apps on their sites in addition to businesses who optimise, target or report on web conversion events via a Facebook or Google tool.

Apple have made it clear that they are taking a much tougher stance on privacy and as part of this if apps like Facebook or Google want to track you via an Apple device they must explicitly ask your permission for an opt-in. It is a major blow for both Facebook and Google. Facebook (as well as Instagram) generate around 99% of their income via online ads and if Apple users must opt in the impact on their revenue could be seismic.

During Facebook’s internal tests revenue fell by over 50% “when personalization was removed from mobile app ad install campaigns.” They warn that the actual impact could be even more, but are working on solutions both short and long term to ameliorate the effects of the rollout. It is worth bearing in mind, however that Apple’s share of the mobile market worldwide is only 15%, so any effects will only be in this group. It is, however, key that the market share in the developed world is much higher – around 50% in Japan and the U.S. and a third in Europe.

What about Google, then? What is their stance on this potentially game changing development? Well, while Facebook have reacted with fury and concern, Google have been far more measured and in fact have countered by tightening the privacy controls for Android devices to ease the concerns of Android users. They’ve not, however, shown their hand as to how they might mitigate against the impact of the iOS 14 update.

So, there is no doubt that the iOS 14 update will impact on the advertising reach of Google and Facebook ads among Apple users, but what about the many small and medium businesses for whom such ads are an important source of revenue and marketing? Well, a recent AppsFlyer survey showed that 56% of marketers reckoned they would be adversely affected by the update. Of the respondents 33% claimed to be planning to reduce their marketing spending (which one would presume would be cutting ads from Facebook and Google and other affected platforms) in response to the changes.

In terms of the specific ways in which the update will impact on your digital marketing campaigns, it is perhaps too early to be too precise, but as a result of the update digital marketers will be restricted to 8 conversion events per domain. It is also very likely that when more people opt out of tracking on iOS 14 devices:

  • Your app connections, app activity custom audiences and website custom audiences will decrease
  • The size of your retargeting audiences will decrease
  • Reporting will be delayed and support for demographic breakdowns will be restricted.
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