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How Is Apple’s iOS 14.5 Update Affecting Advertiser Performance? [Case Studies and Recommendations]

Jacob Young

Director of Operations @ Clever Zebo

Some advertisers have spent Q2 of 2021 planning and strategizing to keep campaign performance solid in the face of Apple’s big late-April software update, iOS 14.5. Apple’s emphasis on security isn’t just a thing of the billboards and TV spots — they’ve introduced a slew of privacy-first features in this update. What will they mean for advertisers who hope to reach iOS users?

The key change here is that iOS users can now easily opt out of the types of tracking that advertisers have found so useful up to this point. Opt-outs that once required a user to go deep into the settings and menus of their iOS device are now able to disable data sharing through a pop-up that accompanies every app download.

That data sharing previously gave advertisers targeting, tracking, and attribution capabilities across iOS apps. So how should advertisers proceed in the brave new world of iOS 14.5? And how is this change impacting ad campaigns to date? That’s what this post will explore.

First, it’s important to note that as of August 2021, this software update is only on about 70% of iOS devices worldwide. So the data we’ve gathered will change, and the update’s impact should continue to increase gradually. But, as expected, there’s been a steady stream of opt-outs from devices that have updated to iOS 14.5.

We’ll be sharing some anonymous campaign performance data to highlight how the update has impacted advertisers in the Clever Zebo family.

How Campaigns Are Performing After iOS 14.5

Example #1:

A mobile app in the cryptocurrency space had a conversion goal of driving app installs. Our iOS App Install campaign ran on Twitter Ads a few weeks before iOS 14.5 launched. Here’s how performance was impacted:

  • 2 weeks before iOS 14.5 launch: $7.60 Cost Per Install

  • 2 weeks after iOS 14.5 launch: $11.41 Cost Per Install

Our client was paying a 50% higher CPI than they were able to achieve before the update.

Example #2:

Another client for whom Clever Zebo runs mobile ads is in the customer feedback and quality management software space. This Facebook Ads campaign is focused on lead generation, with the conversion goal of requesting access to gated eBooks. Ads run across a number of mobile and desktop placements.

The week after the iOS 14.5 release, there was indeed a decline in performance: Cost per acquisition rose by 42%, and conversion volume decreased by 26%, even as our spending increased.

This data does look discouraging. But don’t despair. Next, we’re going to cover some best practices and provide recommendations to help advertisers combat this potential dip in performance.

How Advertisers Can Keep Campaigns On Track

We recommend several steps to keep ad campaigns performing as well as possible during this tumultuous period. There are platform-specific tips marketers should heed.

For Facebook Ads, marketers should:

  1. Update to Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1. Without this update, you won’t be able to run iOS App Install campaigns. This update offers a range of other benefits: the ability to run more personalized ads and continue to optimize based on mobile app installs (including app event and value-based optimization) and more.

  2. Verify your website’s domain. The main point of verification is the ability to configure the eight default events per Facebook’s new Aggregated Event Measurement rollout (more on that below). Ecommerce advertisers will also want to verify their website to leverage Facebook Commerce for their store, which includes Instagram Shopping. In addition, there are many benefits to verifying your domain — it enables you to see the advertisers who are running ads pointing to your domain and to allow or disallow those advertisers’ link editing privileges.

  3. Configure events to use Aggregated Event Measurement. Once your site is verified, each domain will be able to set up eight conversion events that can be prioritized for campaign optimization. If you use non-prioritized events, your ads won’t deliver to those who have opted out of tracking on their Facebook or Instagram apps on an iOS 14.5 or later device.

  4. Leverage lookalike audiences based on first-party data, thereby circumventing the need for iOS data to form the backbone of your targeting information. Many of the alternate data sources can be found below.

  5. Try Offline Conversions to import store purchase data into Facebook from your CRM or ecommerce software. This can fill in some of the conversion gaps left by those who have opted out of tracking.

  6. Monitor remarketing lists and try different data sources for remarketing. A few popular options include video-based lists, email contact lists, and lead form opens or submissions.

For Google Ads, Marketers Should:

  1. Ensure that you have the global site tag (gTag.js and/or Google Tag Manager) properly implemented on your site.

  2. Mobile app advertisers should upgrade to the latest version of Google Analytics for Firebase to ensure that your SDK supports Google’s conversion measurement on iOS.

  3. Keep a close eye on iOS performance within your campaigns and adjust bids accordingly. Given there could likely be a change in performance for iOS devices, it would make sense to keep a close eye on your device-level performance and adjust bids accordingly.

  4. Mitigate any data loss by uploading offline conversions where possible (e.g., if you’re collecting the GCLID and pulling it into your CRM software, you can use this feature).

  5. Google recommends that audience expansion be enabled for Video and Discovery campaigns using remarketing or Customer Match audiences, in addition to including similar audiences. This is to combat the smaller audience sizes advertisers will likely face.

In general, marketers should make a push to build up and leverage first-party data in this moment where we see Apple fortifying user privacy. Collecting and relying on CRM data and lookalike audiences will be useful.

Significant changes can be unsettling in the world of advertising, especially when campaigns are optimized over a long period. A tech giant can rock the boat with a major update like iOS 14.5 — but striking a fair balance between user privacy and mobile marketing practices is vital to the industry’s longevity. It may provide a better experience for people. In the short term, there are things marketers can do to ensure their brand is as successful as possible during this transition.

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