Game over! If released in the next month, Apple’s iOS 14 with the loss of the iOS Users’ Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) will be both catastrophic to the mobile app advertising industry and will also usher in a Version 2.0 of how the industry will operate from an economic perspective without clear deterministic attribution. As Paul Romer once said, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” The mobile app industry will be in a forced reset and with any economic reset, there will be winners and there will be losers. As if 2020 hasn’t been a cruel reminder of that fact day in and day out.
Like the 2015 movie, “The Big Short” starring Christian Bale, which showed how the financial crisis of 2008 was triggered by the housing bubble unless our ad tech juggernauts find a mutually unacceptable solution, we need to plan for the end game of Version 1.0 of the industry. Could I be wrong? Anything is possible. Just like Michael Burry who recognized that the U.S. housing market was an enormous asset bubble inflated by high-risk loans, Apple’s changes will burst the mobile app advertising bubble — sure, I could be wrong, but I’m not.
Before digging into the likely scenarios, we at Consumer Acquisition are ready to stand by our clients and the industry we love with a unique offer and learning agenda to help through these unsettling times. Our unique blend of Hollywood blockbuster-creative, user acquisition expertise and perspective fueled by more than $3B in media across industry leaders, and our uncompromising test and learn agility will be paramount to turning catastrophe into an opportunity for our clients. Agility, a deep expert bench, and having the best information in your hands will make all the difference during these extraordinary times. If you have questions on how to proceed in this new reality, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to the scenarios I see playing out if the juggernauts do not operate in a cooperative effort to keep the mobile app advertising industry moving forward:
Scenario 1: Apple Delays SKAdNetwork 6-12 months
- Apple delays the rollout of iOS 14’s required use of SKAdNetwork (SKAN) with App Tracking Transparency / IDFA being opt-in for 6-12 months.
- The mobile advertising ecosystem hasn’t had enough time to prepare for the biggest change in 10 years.
- Based on numerous conversations with major traffic sources, ad networks, mobile measurement partners, and CTOs, like iAd, Apple’s SKAN product isn’t ready for prime time and there is a sustained level of confusion on the best attribution substitution – probabilistic or deterministic.
- Perhaps Apple will allow a year grace period for companies to use a combination of fingerprinting + IDFVs + App Tracking Transparency along with SKAN and refine their monetization models. With a defined rollout date of SKAN, this would provide the industry with both time and defined end date to update their business models.
- [Update 10:30 am 9/3: Apple confirmed it is delaying the change until early next year. In a statement, Apple said, “We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking. When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis. We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”Apple laid out its views on privacy and the issue today.]
OR… hold on to your revenue because scenario 2 is direr…
Scenario 2: Layoffs, Consolidation, & Business Darwinism
- Unless Apple and other tech titans reach a compromise, with the launch of Apple’s iOS 14, SKAN with App Tracking Transparency, layoffs will happen industry-wide to mobile app advertisers of all sizes by the middle of November due to revenue compression and companies being forced to manage costs relative to their new revenue reality.
- Layoffs won’t be restricted to a vertical like gaming, nor will they be restricted to marketing staff with expertise in one network like Facebook or Google.
- In preparation for iOS 14, many companies are adjusting down revenue projections and refining P&Ls by fully loading costs for marketing and user acquisition teams and factoring in salaries, rent, benefits, etc to get a “true cost” of advertising profitability and then comparing against external solutions from agencies and third parties.
- User Acquisition teams will get significantly downsized. This will be driven by a lack of certainty and disruption to existing LTV models (12-36 months) and by the elimination of monetization sources and remarketing capabilities. With this reality, User Acquisition teams will have to do more with less which will limit their ability to create real tradecraft and IP within the new post-iOS 14 world. Essentially, it will feel like consistently swimming upstream without marked improvement day by day.
- Layoffs will be fueled by simplification in the structure of iOS 14 accounts and a reduction in the complexity of work required to manage media buying with Google UAC and Facebook’s just-announced Automated App Ads. Don’t get me wrong, both of the aforementioned platforms are amazing advancements in helping to simplify and automate media buying which levels the playing field. Advertisers large and small will see a life raft in a perceived strategy of reduction of staff to maintain and optimize accounts. However, tradecraft in maximizing UAC and AAA will manifest with advertisers who have the resources and partnerships in place to double-down on the new automated reality and will differentiate these advertisers using the solution in an advanced manner.
- Advertising budgets will be cut for mobile app advertisers to minimize risk, but steeper in mid to small size companies that don’t have large IDFV pools and/or monetize mainly with In-App Ads (IAA) and therefore expect a significant reduction in monetization as iOS 14 adoption increases. Also, cash on hand will allow the larger players to weather the disruption better than smaller companies that have yet to achieve stable cash flow.
- Large/public companies will need to maintain user growth, but I expect a Darwinistic-like streamlining of their legacy catalog of titles so the reduced marketing budgets and teams can focus on driving growth for their primary titles.
- Creative is King! Companies will 10x creative optimization and production of fresh creative concepts as this is the primary lever for sustained financial success across networks.
- Agencies that offer a compelling solution for outsourced creative ideation and production with exceptionally skilled, cost-effective user acquisition will grow. They can offer a unique ability to look broadly across networks like Facebook, Google, etc, and across many mobile app advertising businesses and can transparently communicate the best practices and strategies in this rapidly changing post iOS 14 world.
Before reading how I surmised these two scenarios, I would like to share that we are currently offering our current and new clients 50% off of managed service fees on their iOS 14 accounts. We believe our creative strength and ability to look across Facebook and Google will empower us to quickly formulate, document, and share comprehensive learning agendas across our client’s organizations. Agility, a deep bench, and having the best information in your hands will make all the difference during these unsettling times. If interested, please reach out to email@example.com if you would like to schedule a conversation.
How have I surmised these two scenarios?
Below is a summary of key points from an article published on August 31, 2020, by Eric Benjamin Seufert, titled, “Analyzing Facebook’s iOS14 advertising changes”.
- Facebook’s Ads Manager only (no support for Marketing API to create and edit campaigns targeting iOS 14)
- One iOS 14 ad account per app.
- Nine published/created campaigns at a given time
- One ad set per campaign; but no limit on the number of ads
- Android and iOS 13 & older campaigns for all three products – app install ads, app engagement ads and dynamic ads can continue to run through existing ad accounts.
One iOS 14 Ad Account Per App
- To advertise to iOS 14 users, an advertiser will need to set up a new dedicated Facebook ad account.
- You cannot combine iOS 14 traffic and traffic under iOS 14.
- For the early September timeframe, this new ad account will only apply for App Install ads for iOS 14 users.
- All other products, app engagement ads (using traffic, conversion objective), and dynamic ads (using product catalog sales objective) will continue to be supported through existing ad accounts, without reliance on the SKAN API.
iOS 14 Advertising Requirements / Restrictions Overview
- If you are driving UA with an in-house team and an agency or FMP, both teams must share the one iOS 14 accounts.
- iOS 14 accounts may only have – 9 published/created campaigns at any given time.
- One ad set per campaign; but no limit on the number of ads.
- In FB native tools, cross-account reporting can only be done within the same account type. Not across iOS 14 and non-iOS 14 accounts.
- Facebook loses the timeliness component of its knowledge of its users’ monetization histories after iOS 14. Because it will no longer receive user-specific events streams from all iOS apps. While it might know that a user has monetized heavily in the past. But it won’t know whether they have done so recently.
- Facebook currently targets at the user level using event histories; in iOS 14, Facebook will have to target much broader segments of users using demographic and interest data. The loss of granularity at the targeting layer, in addition to the sparseness of event signals in iOS 14 (only one conversion value is possibly sent per acquired user in the campaign), means that the two campaign types (iOS 13 and iOS 14) require totally different parameter sets.
iOS 14 Optimization / Measurement / Reporting / A-B Testing
- We will not be able to provide 1D, 7D, or 28D click-through or view-through attribution window breakdowns.
- Will report back data aggregated at the campaign level. Reporting at the ad set and ad levels will be modeled unless there is a 1:1 mapping with the campaign. We will not be able to support reporting at the creative level for those using multiple creatives within an ad.
- Does not allow for support of any breakdowns (age, gender, region, country, impression device, platform, placement, product ID, etc.) for app install or post-install event metrics.
- Report back data that is several days delayed. Will not provide support for real-time data.
- Will not be able to support impression-time or conversion-time reporting. Due to the delay of reports and lack of visibility into when the ad clicks happened, we can only support reporting based on the time the data gets returned through the SKAN API.
- The SKAN API will report back data aggregated at the campaign level. Reporting at the ad set, campaign, and account levels will match results returned by the SKAN API. While reporting at the ad level will be modeled based on aggregated data received from the SKAN API. Unless there is only one ad for a given campaign.
- Demographic breakdowns will no longer be available
- The SKAN API will not provide support for real-time reporting. Data will be reported with a randomized delay of up to three days.
- The SKAN API will not provide support for attribution window breakdowns (1D, 7D, 28D).
- Cross-account reporting can only be done within the same account type, not across iOS 14 and non-iOS 14 accounts.
- A/B testing Mobile App Installs and post-install events from iOS 14 devices will be only available at the campaign-level. There will be no impact on reporting for Android and iOS 13 campaigns.
Added Context, “Facebook Announces Plans for Apple iOS 14 Impact”
- Facebook announced plans for the impact of Apple’s much-anticipated iOS 14 release, in a detailed blog post. Apple’s deprecation of the iOS Users’ Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) will require apps to ask users for permission to collect and share identifying data going forward.
- Facebook will not collect the identifier for advertisers (IDFA) on its own apps on iOS 14 devices. But it may revisit this decision as Apple offers more guidance.
- The company will remind its users that they have a choice about how their information is used on Facebook. Also, about its Off-Facebook Activity feature. This allows users to see a summary of the off-Facebook app and website activity businesses send to Facebook and disconnect it from their accounts.
- For partners, Facebook will release an updated version of its Facebook SDK to support iOS 14. This will provide support for Apple’s SKAdNetwork API. Facebook is asking businesses to create a new ad account dedicated to running app install ad campaigns for iOS 14 users. This will mitigate the impact of the efficacy of app install campaign measurement.
- The company believes that Apple’s changes will disproportionately affect its Audience Network given its heavy dependence on app advertising. The expectation is that advertisers’ ability to accurately target and measure their campaigns on Audience Network will be impacted. As a result, publishers should expect their ability to effectively monetize on Audience Network to decrease. In fact, Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14. Facebook is however expecting less impact on its own advertising business.
- In testing, Facebook has seen more than a 50% drop in Audience Network publisher revenue when personalization was removed from mobile app ad install campaigns. Facebook says the impact to Audience Network on iOS 14 may be much more. So, they are working on short-and long-term strategies to support publishers through these changes.
- Facebook is encouraged by conversations and efforts already taking place in the industry to get this right for small businesses – including within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the recently announced Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM).
Game Over: We Can Help!
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to schedule a conversation to discuss any of the above items. Also, we will be frequently our Mobile App Industry Benchmark page with a dedicated section designed to identify issues with IDFA roll out.
We’ve been talking about the “Death of UA” for over a year. Check out our prior posts: