Hey, Siri – how will the new IOS update affect marketers?

The latest development in the race to protect consumers’ data privacy includes Apple all but killing the IDFA1. Previously, custom privacy settings were available inside of iOS 13 to disable IDFA, but now Apple will require users to enable tracking within each individual application. What you may not have read about this update is that it doesn’t just impact iPhones. It applies to iOS 14 (iPhone), iPad iOS 14 and tvOS 14 (Apple TV).

Who does this impact?
The impact will be felt by consumers, brands and agencies, as well as data aggregation and attribution companies.

  • Consumers: Consumers will have more control over their privacy, but they may not realize the negative impact this will have on their digital experiences. Curated content will be more fragmented due to the inability to track engagement across applications and other digital touchpoints, which typically drives optimization and customization. Previously, user journeys were considered and mapped across devices to limit the number of exposures to the same content and enhance experiences based on engagement. This means you might see the really annoying ad on Hulu 10 times instead of twice a day, and it also might seem less relevant to you.
  • Brands: Historically, brands could track mobile attribution leveraging a combination of Facebook (AEO2 + VO3), Google (GAID4 + tROAS5), Apple (IDFA) and all of the touchpoints in between through cross-device tracking. Now, IDFA will impact brands’ ability to dissect performance as well as deeply understand their audience’s online behaviors to drive custom content.
  • Agencies/Other Advertisers: Advertisers themselves are in a similar position to brands, with limits on mobile/digital attribution (ROAS, ROI, etc.). In addition to attribution struggles, we have to consider implications on our ability to target. Many industries rely on syndicated data for targeting that comes from mobile device tracking and cross-device tracking, which in many cases are built on app networks. This data allows us to develop journey-based experiences that cross devices in order to drive relevance and conversion. Retargeting will become more difficult and will require a more creative approach.
  • Data Partners: The list of impacts to this category feels the most overwhelming. In marketing, our syndicated data, data aggregation and attribution partners are critical to our success, and this will have a trickle-down effect on all groups above. Some examples of impact include the sample size of devices decreasing for companies that track movement for attribution as well as demand (think of the tourism and consumer packaged goods industries: How many people went to this store? How can I target visitors who came to my destination over the past six months?). These partners have been heavily impacted by past iOS changes, and we can only hope they will adapt as they have in the past.

What can we do about it?
We expect iOS 14 to be released in mid-September, and until then there are some things we can do to prepare:

  • App Attribution: SKAdNetwork, provided by Apple, allows advertisers to receive notifications when their assets result in app downloads (conversions). This requires ad networks to be registered with Apple and the app developers to configure apps to work with ad networks. Leveraging this technology could help to bridge the gap, at least in response measurement.
  • Apple Search Ads: As much as we don’t want to give in to Apple as it takes over, to reach our customers we should leverage the network created by Apple, which allows continued mobile user acquisition.
  • Fingerprinting: As persona graphs, device graphs and many attribution models begin to struggle, fingerprinting will find its sweet spot. Many large companies like Google and Facebook have leveraged this method for a while in preparation for changes like IDFA. This technology involves collecting attributes such as IP address, device type and user agent via JavaScript from devices and ultimately creating a hashed ID. As this technology improves and is more widely adopted, new concerns like privacy and accuracy will likely arise, because consumers can’t opt out.
  • Planning Shifts: We will need to get creative as marketers. This might mean considering ad placement as a proxy for a known audience – for example, meeting an audience on ESPN and serving relevant native content versus targeting an audience with affinity for sports. Bots will become more prevalent, and certain mediums will lose their quality levels.
  • Trusted Partners: We all need to get comfortable with the unknown while navigating these changes. More than ever, we need to trust our agency partners, technology partners, colleagues and networks to help further educate ourselves. We can and we must adapt together.



1IDFA = Identifier for Advertisers – random device identifier established by Apple that tracks behavior without gathering personally identifiable information
2AEO = Facebook App Event Optimization – targets audiences based on assumed event behavior
3VO = Facebook Value Optimization – targets audiences based on assumed spend within a specified amount of time
4GAID = Google Ad Identifier – similar to IDFA for Google; not currently forcing an opt in
5tROAS = Target return on ad spend – target set by Google