Facebook Advertising & iOS14 – Guidance & Actions for Business Owners & Marketers

If you’re running ads on Facebook (and frankly any kind of online ads) then you should be aware of Apple’s iOS14 ATT framework.

This is a full guide on what’s happening and what you can do about this as the true impact unfolds researched over many weeks with contributions and insights from sources across the web, at Facebook and peers.

Key Highlights (plus link to free 40+ page eBook)

(updated 13th Jan 2021)

This section is intended to give you the tl;dr. If all you read is the highlights here, you should be much more informed on the high-level of what’s happening with the option of deep-diving into the areas that make most sense for you to do so.

  1. What’s happening: In June 2020, Apple announced an upcoming change to their (at the time) new iOS14 iPhone and iPad operating system. Apple would prompt users on whether they were willing to allow the app developer to track their personal usage of the app via their ‘AppTrackingTransparency’ (ATT) framework (explained further below).
  2. Why is this happening? The truth is somewhere between Apple wanting to protect users’ privacy and Apple being a for-profit business that is potentially looking to monetize a new opportunity (the latter is directly from Facebook).
  3. When is this happening? iOS14 has now rolled out and the impact of ATT on businesses and advertisers will be felt once a large number of Apple users either upgrade their operating system on their iPhone or iPad, or have bought new devices with the new operating system. This is expected to be towards the middle of 2021 by when apps will be able to measure the impact.
  4. What’s the overall impact going to be? As of now, the impact is not completely known and isn’t expected to have a significant impact until such time as:
    1. there are enough users on iOS14 
    2. there is quantifiable data on how many people accept/reject the apps from tracking them
    3. the impact on the apps’ ability to deliver a personalised experience and advertising, if relevant; for example if an app relies on collecting user data to serve in-app or email based personalisation, or ads, this could cripple core monetization opportunities which ‘free’ apps rely on.
  5. What’s the impact on Facebook advertisers? If the Facebook (and Instagram, Messenger) apps cannot track users on iOS14 because of mass opt-out the concern is 3-fold: can I retarget users? Can I track the performance of campaigns effectively? Will top of funnel audience targeting still be as effective without data from users on iOS14? In most cases all 3 could be negatively impacted and we’ll know the extent better towards mid/late 2021 as more users adopt iOS14 and the apps lose more and more valuable user-level data. (updated 13 Jan ‘21) Facebook has also confirmed a few other potential impacts: your ad set optimizations will be negatively impacted based on the default 7day click, 1 day view optimization (ad set level) not having as much data to look back on. Plus custom audience sizes will drop from not having iOS14 users where they may have existed in your audiences prior to opting out of tracking.
  6. Is it just Facebook that’s impacted? No. This update from Apple impacts ALL apps, not just Facebook, so this includes TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, Amazon and any other app that relies on collecting user data in order to build advertising and/or personalisation services.
  7. Are all advertisers equally impacted? The update impacts mobile app advertisers far more than non-app advertisers with sweeping changes coming in to restrict the data they can see.
  8. Does this update impact website tracking? This does not change or impact what you can or cannot track from websites via pixels, whether using cookies or server-side tracking from non-iOS14 users. As far as a mobile browser running inside an app (i.e. like Facebook’s in-app web browser), the advice from Facebook so far has been this DOES impact for those opting out of tracking on iOS14 in what Facebook calls Aggregated Event Management. (updated 13th Jan ‘21) If someone opts out of tracking, Facebook may still collect some data, but it will be aggregated and not linked to an individual user’s action.
  9. Will server-side tracking solve this issue? The Conversion API (cAPI) is not a straight up solution to the above issues caused by Apple’s update – cAPI is designed to help advertisers collect data through their website without relying on cookies and so has no impact on tracking in-app activity, which is the main concern here and explained further below. However, Facebook have rightfully advised this should still be priority for your business ahead of further browser and cookie based changes coming up.
  10. Is organic Facebook marketing impacted? This could impact organic performance on Facebook, since the newsfeed relies on signals from users (whether in apps or websites when browsing Facebook, Instagram or using Messenger) in order to see who you interact with, the items you’re interested in, groups and Pages you visit and more. Facebook would need to confirm or deny this – my personal opinion is that this will be impacted through fewer signals over time (thinking 2022 onwards) from iOS14 (or higher operating system) users.
  11. What actions can/should we take? There are some things that Facebook are putting in place now and recommending we take note of and there are items we (SM Commerce) will be implementing and sharing soon to ensure our agency clients create new opportunities for the path ahead. Few additional notes (which will be expanded further below in this document):
    1. Be prepared to potentially receive less accurate data from Facebook than ever before – to what extent will be revealed later in 2021. 
    2. We already use eROAS (estimated Return on Ad Spend) and eCPA (estimated Cost per Acquisition) to fill in some blanks and create some assumptions, together with Offline Conversions and attribution tools to track multi-channel behaviours. This will become even more important.
    3. This is a good wake up call to how good we’ve had it with Facebook having access to so much personal data. Now’s the time for agencies and marketers to earn their keep with well thought-out marketing campaigns and multi-channel strategies (i.e. beyond just Facebook).
    4. There are also some additional items to consider regarding verification and tracking that need to be actioned explained further below.

Further details are available in the the full eBook on insights and actions to consider right now. Choose from the following two options to access the full eBook:

1. Printable/Downloadable Version

Submit your details below to receive it via email and for regular updates on iOS14.

(if for any reason the form above is missing/blocked by your browser, email us and we’ll manually add your email and send you the file)

2. Embedded Version

Below is the full article embedded here if you’d prefer to view it online (easier on desktop/tablet devices due to limited formatting control from the original live document).

Facebook Live Discussion with Q&A

The Audio Podcast

Listen to the full audit from the interview here:


Depesh: And that’s the thing, it’s going to lose so many signals, but also an impact on targeting. Like you mentioned broad, for example, and how many people have said that over the last probably 12 months, use power simplification, CBO and broad, that stuff is not going to work as well as it did before, but also your lookalikes, your interests and behaviors, because guess what?

That relies on data. And if that data is not being passed, then the quality of that deteriorates. So DSPs, demand side platforms, they’re basically banner ads being served broadly to users based on some demographics and stuff.
That’s kind of how Facebook used to operate many years ago. It didn’t have all the data it has now. I’d probably say all of us here on this call, the four of us have probably experienced that.

A lot of people in the last two, three, four, five years, haven’t experienced the old way that you used to target with Facebook and the fact that you could only target right-hand side. And there were limited creatives and stuff like that. Still made it work, but not as easy as it is now, and I think that’s going to be harder to make it work.

: So part of me thinks in the long run, this type, these types of events are good for the market because the people that want to work hard and want to put the effort in and realize this shouldn’t be an easy overnight success thing are going to find ways to make it work.

They’re going to be creative, they’ll come up with solutions, that’s what entrepreneurs do. And the people that got into it just to make a quick buck and didn’t really want to put the effort in and looked for the easy hack in the solution, which is a lot of people, unfortunately, they won’t be able to survive. But at the end of the day, people survived 10 years ago, 20 years ago, a hundred years ago.

There was advertising firms who were buying stuff, right? People, there were companies that were thriving and growing back when there was no TVs, back when there was no radios, back when there was no internet.

I think it’s the same thing here. It’s we’ve gotten spoiled, we’ve got addicted to the way things are right now. And it’s going to be a rude awakening and it’s going to be painful and challenging to get off of that, but there’s another side. This isn’t this isn’t the end of the world.

8 thoughts on “Facebook Advertising & iOS14 – Guidance & Actions for Business Owners & Marketers”

  1. Really appreciate you putting so much thought and research into this. Read it from cover-to-cover as soon as you emailed it.

    I do have a question. A lot of the talk has been about ATT’s impact on Audience Network, app install campaigns, etc. Which is concerning even though I’m not an app developer (some of my best returns have been from Audience Network on my web campaigns).

    But even further, this is devastating even to basic retargeting, right? You mentioned this a couple times but just wanted to clarify. If someone comes to my site organically and gets tracked via cAPI, I still won’t be able to retarget them on Facebook if they turn off tracking within the Facebook app, right?

    • Thanks Jason. Yes in short, if they opt-out of tracking on iOS14 in the Facebook app, then Facebook cannot link the user’s advertiser ID on their phone to their ID in Facebook’s database which means you’ll be unable to retarget them on their iPhone.
      To confuse things more, Facebook advised in a recent webinar it means they’ll also opt-out of non-iOS tracking (e.g. if they’re on a desktop browser) – I personally don’t think this is correct but if Facebook believes this is what Apple intends then that’s their decision. Facebook is yet to publicly confirm this and we’ll update the guide if and when they do.

  2. I think specifically international markets are going to have a major hit because of the market share apple holds. However, in India, the % of market share of apple devices is around 4% max which should not impact a lot data. Thoughts?

    • It’s a valid point that different markets will be hit in different ways. We understand South America also has fewer iPhone vs Android users too.

  3. Hi Depesh,
    I’ve just finished listening to your interesting conversation with Curt Maly on FB (https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1570921289771366&ref=watch_permalink).
    I’m facing one of the problems you’ve been pointing out. Let’s say I’m running an ecommerce domain (www. e c . xyz) where multiple clients sell on.
    Due to the domain’s architecture, ALL clients share the same root and are identified only by url parameters (e.g. www. e c.xyz?client_id=1).
    Do you see any solution at all on how give all of them who advertise on FB the chance to verify our domain for their campaigns?

    Thank you very much for your point of view on the matter,


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