Are you ready for Apple’s removal of IDFA to kill iOS A/B creative testing across Facebook, Google, and TikTok? We’ve covered IDFA Armageddon across several articles (Adapt and Thrive; IDFA Armageddon Part 3, IDFA Armageddon Part Deux, IDFA Armageddon). By current estimates, iOS14.5 and IDFA removal appears to be about 7-14 days from launch.
As we have covered, creative has become the single most powerful lever for mobile app advertisers’ financial optimization. Now, we’re highlighting an iOS14 substantial impact on the way most mobile app companies A/B test their iOS creative. There are big risk factors at play. The loss of deterministic attribution coupled with account simplification required by Apple’s SKAN network limited tracking capabilities, along with Facebook’s AAA and Google’s UAC automated media buying algorithms will make A/B creative testing very challenging, if not impossible. It is very likely that dynamic creative optimization (DCO) using asset feeds will replace the simplicity, precision, and certainty of A/B creative testing of videos on a one-by-one basis.
iOS A/B Creative Testing Workflow Today
First, let’s highlight a common iOS A/B testing workflow today. Currently, a mobile app advertiser typically works with an internal team or creative studios to produce videos, iterations, resizes, and localizations. Then, the creative review process﹘ which includes comments, revisions, and eventual approval ﹘is done in a workflow automation tool like our Creative Studio, Wrike, or Asana.com. Once the creative is approved, it’s uploaded into a platform’s (Facebook, Google, TikTok, etc.) iOS ad account media library. We prefer to do our A/B testing on Facebook given the granular controls and the detailed, easy-to-use asset-level reporting. (See our recommendation here.)
Next, the user acquisition team conducts A/B testing using a simple image/video format against an audience. Our process has been built leveraging deterministic tracking and 1:1 asset-level reporting of multi-stage creative’s lifecycle testing. This process spans from IPM to ROAS across the learning phase to the eventual optimized phase in an iOS account. A/B creative test reporting is coupled with client-provided revenue targets frequently provided by an MMP (Appsflyer, Adjust, Singular, Kochava). So, the success or failure of a final creative test can easily be based on ROAS or the cost-effective early IPM signal. There are of course different strategies for In-App Ad (IAA) Apps vs In-App Purchase (IAP) Apps.
How This Affects Android Apps
Fortunately, advertisers with Android apps who are NOT using Facebook’s AAA algorithm can copy their iOS A/B testing best practices over to their Android app. They can continue testing on Facebook, using their Android app instead of their iOS app. Then, they can move the winners to iOS or other platforms. Also, they’ll maintain their ability to A/B test and see results at the individual asset level. Their current testing processes remain intact even if they shift from iOS to Android – which has ROAS implications. However, if you don’t have an Android app or you have fully embraced Facebook’s AAA algorithm or Google’s UAC, get ready for a different way to A/B test – ASSET FEEDS!
The Likely Impact on Creative Testing and Creative Strategy
Unfortunately, the trifecta of IDFA loss, account simplification required by SKAN with the use of Facebook’s AAA or Google UAC and their asset feeds will likely have an immediate impact on creative testing and creative strategy. Here are some of the ways:
- Most major platforms (Facebook, Google, Tik Tok, Snap) will have limited account configurations due to iOS14 SKAN tracking limitations. iOS 14 accounts will be restricted to 9-11 campaigns with 5 ad sets per campaign, meaning you’ll have 45-60 permutations. It will be difficult to justify using very limited ad slots for creative testing given the aforementioned account configuration restrictions.
- Facebook (XML feed spec), Google (XML feed spec), and TikTok (XML feed spec) have recently published solutions for asset-level reporting data tied to dynamic asset-feeds for creative. We believe these announcements will be rolled out quickly post-IDFA loss and ATT implementation. The solutions attempt to:
- Allow creative partners to tag, track and measure the performance of individual media.
- Allow basic dynamic reporting (eg. CTR, spend/asset, clicks, impressions) for an individual asset in the Ad Set. However, they appear to not allow for multivariate-level reporting of the combination of ad copy, headline, and creative.
- Prevent MMP data from being married to asset feeds based on the current platform’s specs. This may be a concern for companies leveraging their reporting to make creative or financial decisions from A/B testing.
- Help with fatigue identification through Google’s introduction of asset performance labels (Best/Good/Poor…). This will aid in asset feed performance diagnosis and is a starting point to provide simple suggestions for what asset to optimize or replace.
Creative Strategy Will Shift from Optimizing With Small Changes to New Concepts
Soon, creative strategy will shift from small changes to new concepts due to limited testing slots and opaque creative-level reporting. When creative optimization moves into asset feeds, the performance results of each creative will be blended together into a kind of creative blob. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to know the contribution of each element is optimized. So…
- Creative iterations and variations based on the most effective asset in a portfolio, provide a higher likelihood for success but a much lower lift in performance (think < 5%).
- Creative optimization is very likely to shift toward new concepts that take 5-20x as long to conceive and execute, but they offer a much higher potential for success (think 20% to 500%) and a correspondingly large risk of failure.
- On average, we see a 5-15% success rate for new creative concepts, but when they succeed, the results can be a massive increase in KPI performance.
- As creative becomes a targeting mechanism and user-intent filter, this new demand for fresh creative concepts vs iterations is certain to put a large strain on internal creative teams.
Technology Can Assist With Asset Feed Management
Remember, the change allows for new opportunities for your account strategy, structure and the technology you use. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Opportunity: Technology can assist with asset feed management.
- Platform’s AI algorithms will strive to display the right assets to the right audience combos dynamically. As a result, it may not be readily apparent how the feed’s individual creative should be optimized to improve performance or fend off creative fatigue. It will no longer be clear if you should add a fresh creative to the Ad Set or introduce a simple variation.
- Due to limitations in tracking, it may not be readily discernible which creative is driving results or performing the best. Unfortunately, reporting is very likely to not go down to the individual asset level when delivered through an asset feed. UA managers face a new challenge with developing automation to assist them with creative optimization. This will result in a technology opportunity to identify creative fatigue and prompt UA managers to optimize the account to jump in and refresh creative or Ad Set that is fatiguing.
- Mobile app advertisers are likely to benefit from 3rd party adtech that displays cross-platform creative analysis. Therefore, they can identify which creative to leave in/out/replace and how best to improve overall creative performance.
Technology Can Automate Testing and Deployment of New Creative
Also, there’s another opportunity technology can help you with.
- Opportunity: Technology can automate analysis and deployment of creative across many platforms into simplified campaign structures. Solutions will need to be developed to provide creative level data, insights, and statistical models on performance. Which new concepts drive the greatest value? Which brief writer, storyboard artist, or designer excel at which ideas and apps? How do you identify and scale the best creative by creating an endless optimization loop? These are some of the questions we’re developing technology to provide answers to:
- A simpler targeting format (country + language) makes it possible to “broadcast” a new creative across platforms without a UA manager’s manual intervention. For reference, think the automatic launch of creative across 5-10 networks with a button click.
- Performance metrics across individual creative assets will become more opaque and introduce uncertainty around which creative is truly driving the best results in a Campaign / Ad Set. The automation process, therefore, will simplify the testing cycle and eliminate human error.
- The simplification of campaigns will make it easier for software to automate audience building/review etc. And, it will reduce the complexity of work required to build and maintain advertising accounts.
- A UA manager can increase their focus on asset-level deployment and management because of the simpler targeting format. Now, they’ll detect winners early across various platforms (social networks, SDK networks, etc) too. In fact, this will ensure each creative is easily uploaded, tested, and reported on across all platforms.
How We Can Help
Our Creative Studio provides breakthrough creative ideas from our elite Hollywood storytelling creative team with vast animation and social advertising experience. We can help unlock original creative concepts that make Facebook, Google, Tiktok, and Snap advertising profitable. Please reach out to Sales@ConsumerAcquisition.com if you would like to get creative driven by performance.