What’s the big deal?

Apple announced privacy changes coming to iOS 14, which is due to be launched this 2020 fall. The most significant change is the restriction of Apple’s Identifier for Advertising, or IDFA:

If an app wants to access the unique IDFA value for a specific device, it will need to explicitly ask the user by calling the newly-created AppTrackingTransparency framework, which initiates the following consent prompt:

Once the user has made a choice, it cannot be revoked or overturned.


What is IDFA and why is it important?

The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device. The IDFA is used for tracking and identifying a user (without revealing personal information), allowing advertisers to access aggregated data.

The aggregated data can then be used to discover information such as which in-app events a user triggers. The IDFA can also identify when users interact with a mobile advertising campaign, provided the channel offers IDFA tracking and the advertiser tracks users who interact with the ad. If this occurs, the IDFA can identify whether specific users clicked an advert for payment and attribution purposes.

What that means, is that when a company like a bank or a ridesharing company runs user acquisition campaigns to gain new mobile customers, a mobile measurement partner like Firebase or AppsFlyer can help them connect a click on an ad with an eventual app install on a specific device.
And if the person who installed that app eventually signs up for an account or takes a ride share, the advertise will know where and how to attribute the results of that marketing effort as well as connect it to the ad spend that initiated it. Moreover, the advertiser will be able to target users that look like those who have clicked on the ad and signed up for a service.


What are the consequences?

Experts believe that the opt-in rates on the consent message shown above will not be higher than 20%. According to CIM data from May 2020, iOS has a marketshare of close to 40% in Belgium. This means that the success of mobile campaigns with a KPI such app installs, in-app actions will become very hard to measure for more than 30% of your targeted audiences.

Apple does offer a privacy-safe framework for mobile marketing attribution called SKAdNetwork, that will replace IDFA and share with advertisers if marketing campaigns are working or not. However, the results will be aggregate and generalized versus specific and personal so retargeting users that have performed a specific action in an app (e.g. adding an item to a shopping basket without completing the transaction) will become virtually impossible.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) settings such as App Event Optimization in Facebook and Target Return On Ad Spend (tROAS) in Google will not stop to exist, but it’s clear that these KPI settings will also undergo drastic changes when the amount of data that fuels the machine learning models is expected to decrease.

It goes without saying that Mobile DSPs and companies using Device Graphs for targeting purposes will have to rethink the way they operate.


Is there a workaround?

A possible solution could be another form of identification of users, such as an e-mail. We might see certain apps and app networks pushing forward by obliging their users to create a login and share contact details before allowing them to access the app. Some companies may opt to cover for the loss of data by using oblique fingerprinting techniques, but as these are not privacy friendly we believe this would be a waste of time.

With respect to timing, iOS 14 is expected to be rolled out in September 2020. A majority of iOS users typically upgrade within the first few weeks, which means the impact will begin at the start of Q4 in October. By Q1 2021, most iOS users will have upgraded to iOS 14 so changes will come into effect very soon (especially when compared to Google Chrome leaving a timespan of years between announcing the decrepitation of 3rd party cookies and the measure going in effect).


What are we doing?

We are actively contacting all the mobile partners we work with to ask them what their mitigation plan is and how they plan to overcome the loss of IDFA and thus the possibility to measure and track 30 % of Belgian mobile users.

We will keep you informed on this rapidly developing topic.

If you have any other question, please don’t hesitate to contact us ….

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