Advertising, Digital, Marketing & Strategy, Media Buying

To Be Tracked, Or Not To Be Tracked: Part I, Apple iOS 14.5 Update

By: Zachary Krassin, Digital Marketing Director

There are a number of big changes on the horizon. With Apple’s most recent iPhone operating system update of iOS 14.5, as well as Google Chrome removing third-party cookies in 2022, the way digital marketers target, the way apps and websites collect and share data, and the methods used to attribute success is all changing drastically.

These rollouts imply a very different way digital marketers will advertise and attribute performance. So, what is the good news for digital marketers? We are still in the early stages of these changes. If you take action now, you can get ahead of what’s to come.

The iOS 14.5 update, scheduled for some time in April/May (has not been released yet) is Apple’s way of helping consumers understand what data is being collected from the apps they download, and offers them the opportunity to opt-out, or adjust, these data collection settings. This includes giving the app access to the phone’s unique identifier, also known as identifier for advertisers (IDFA). Without this, apps are unable to access the phone’s ID, as well as other 3rd party data that connects them to their network of apps. While this data security feature has always been available to consumers, this new update will make it much easier for users to understand and will require users to opt-in, even if they have already done so in the past.

This is not 100% clear yet. This update is only for iOS devices (iPhones). You’ll have to download the most recent update 14.5. It is not easy to estimate how many people this will affect – however, eMarketer and other industry sources have indicated that this will be a pretty slow rollout.

Things that will be affected will be:

–  With fewer users opting-in to sharing their data with apps, inevitably this will shrink the network of apps pulling in data and tracing it back to users. Audience targeting pools will inevitably shrink. Scalability will be the biggest challenge and targeting may need to be broadened for proper inventory.
–  Cross-Device targeting will pose as a challenge, as it will be impossible to trace a user being served an ad on multiple apps if the phone ID is not collected
–  Retargeting will be affected to a degree, but to what degree is still unknown. For example: if a user visits your website on Safari but Safari isn’t sharing your data with the Facebook app, retargeting via Facebook will not be possible.
–  Attribution will be challenging to capture, from verified walk-ins, to app-install, to multi-conversion tracking on websites.
–  Location-targeting may be more limited. Users have the ability to not show apps their current location, or, now a new feature that tells the app an idea of where a user is. For example: now an app may not know a user’s location down to their street address, but they’ll know that they are in a particular town.

iOS 14.5 – WHAT CAN WE DO?

While this affects channels beyond Facebook and Google, these channels are certainly gearing up for the update and have already supplied a few key areas of focus in preparation for the changes.


–  Verify your domains – verifying your business domain associates your Facebook Ad pixel ID with your business domain. This will ensure no immediate or future disruption to your ability to configure and measure conversion events.
–  Facebook has created “Aggregated Event Measurement”, which is a protocol that allows for measurement of up to 8 conversion events from iOS 14 users (examples include: purchases, add to cart, viewing a product, etc.). Advertisers can set up and track the conversions, as well as rank them for Facebook’s algorithm to use for conversion optimization.
–  Implement Facebook’s conversions API, which will allow advertisers to send web events from their servers directly into the Facebook platform.
–  Analyze your campaigns – retargeting, audience networks, and lookalike audiences are all expected to shrink and performance is expected to decline due to the effectiveness of personalized advertising. Compare based on previous campaigns, and consider broadening your targets.
–  Rely more on first-party data collection – if you don’t already, begin collecting data directly from your audience and your customers. This can be done through your website, app, email lists, social media, or other first-party avenues. You can upload this data directly into Facebook and create both retargeting lists as well as audience lookalike lists.


–  Google has a significantly more diversified ad network that relies less on mobile ad revenue (unlike Facebook, where mobile ad revenue is over 90%). Because of this, Google is less impacted but still advertisers should be prepared. While Google Search ad performance should not be affected, the Google Display Network, and YouTube campaigns using audience-based targeting will see a data loss and therefore a performance decline.

It’s important to recognize that while these changes will affect future campaigns, mobile advertising alone still makes up 40% of ad revenue. And over the next few years, this is expected to increase to 50%. Digital media advertising will still be considered one of the strongest ways to reach and engage with your audience.

As additional details continue to roll out we will update this blog. To learn more about how we can help market your business, please contact us today.

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