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Digital privacy is important, and you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who thinks otherwise. 

And that was the impetus behind the iOS 14 update—to give consumers more control over the data they (sometimes unknowingly) share with advertisers and publishers. Apple has marketed this update heavily with a national ad campaign spanning television, digital, and public relations. 

From the advertising perspective, however, the reality of the iOS 14 update is that Facebook and Instagram ad campaign performance is down across the board. Specifically, the iOS 14 release negatively impacted Facebook ads in three key areas: 

  • Targeting
  • Reporting
  • Optimization

If you know anything about advertising on social media—and if you’re reading this you probably do—those three aspects are crucial to the success of your paid social campaigns.

In this post we’re going to explain how iOS 14 changes the Facebook ads landscape and provide a few tips on how you can optimize your campaigns within the confines of iOS 14 moving forward. 

Let’s dive in. 

What Did the iOS 14 Update Actually Do?

Simply put, Apple has drastically limited what advertisers and app developers can track in terms of user activity. 

Mobile devices do not use cookies the way desktop browsers do. Rather, Apple provides something called IDFA. IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) is a unique, totally random ID number assigned to each and every iOS device. In addition to browser tracking, IDFA also allows you to track user behavior within applications. IDFA does not collect any personally identifiable information (PII) and can be reset by the user at any time. 

On April 26, 2021, Apple released the iOS 14.5 update and turned off IDFA by default. What that means is each user will have to individually allow each app they use to turn on IDFA. 

Put another way, the user will see this prompt.

Permission for tracking in IOS 14 harms facebook ads performance
Permission for tracking in IOS 14

Roughly 17% of people worldwide are opting into tracking, and only 10% of U.S. users have opted in (Flurry). 

Like it or not, this is the new reality for advertisers. So how does this affect our campaigns? 

How iOS 14 Impacts Facebook and Instagram Ads

Ask any top Facebook media buyer and they’ll tell you performance is down since the April 26 iOS 14 update. And this is definitely a hot-button issue for Facebook—the social network has purchased several full-page advertisements in newspapers like The New York Times expressing their opposition to this move by Apple, as well as adding a detailed help article on their site

As we mentioned, the Apple update affected three main areas of the Facebook ads platform: Targeting, reporting, and optimization. Let’s dig into each issue one at a time. 

Targeting

Retargeting and Lookalike audiences have long been a staple of advanced Facebook advertising, and now they’re both largely unavailable or not performing well. 

The issue with retargeting is fairly obvious—since the vast majority of iOS users are opting out of tracking, this means your retargeting audiences are going to be a lot smaller. If your advertising strategy was heavily dependent on retargeting website visitors, you’ve likely seen a significant performance decrease. We’ll discuss more on how to combat this issue in the next section. 

Additionally, Lookalike audiences that are based on a data source, often Pixel conversions (like Purchases or Leads) also aren’t being tracked correctly anymore. Therefore, the data source for many of your Lookalike audiences has degraded, which reduces the quality of the audience and takes your ad performance down with it. 

Reporting

Advertisers have relied on Facebook Pixel conversion metrics like ROAS and CPA to determine the success of their campaigns. With the release of iOS 14.5, most advertisers have seen wild inaccuracies in these metrics. 

Apple has also announced that the Private Click Measurement (PCM) protocol will create a three-day delay in attribution data from iOS 14.5 users. This causes advertisers to see fewer reported conversions with the Facebook Ads Manager, skewing their data. 

One media buyer, Zach Stuck of Homestead Studio, provides some detail on this point in his quote from this Bloomberg piece:

“Facebook used to capture around 95% of the sales data from clients. In one case now, there is a 57% gap between sales seen on Shopify and what Facebook is reporting.”

Optimization

As you likely know, advanced Facebook advertisers have relied on the algorithm to help optimize their campaigns. Basically, you feed the algorithm data—conversions from your ads—and it automatically serves ads to people who are similar to those who’ve already converted. 

With iOS 14, you will likely see (or have already seen) this tactic not working as well. One reason is that Apple now limits Facebook advertisers to eight “conversion events” per website—this provides fewer data points for the algorithm to use in its optimization processes. This will significantly affect smaller advertisers who don’t have lots of data points from large budgets. 

So that’s the bad news, but you’re in luck—there is still plenty you can do to keep your campaigns on track. 

5 Actions You Can Take to Combat iOS 14

If you’re ready to get proactive and work through the issues created by iOS 14, here are a few tactics to explore. 

1. Verify you domain

If you haven’t already, use this guide to verify all your domains within the Facebook Business Manager. This is a signal to Facebook that you’re legitimate and will help if you run into any account issues. 

2. Use re-engagement audiences

Since Facebook users must be logged in to use the platform, the network still has a wealth of data you can use for re-engagement audiences. These include targeting users who have engaged with your content or Page in the past, people who have watched one of your videos, or people who have clicked on an ad. 

If third party data is limited or unavailable, you can always try your luck with Facebook’s own first-party data. 

3. Explore new audiences via whitelisting

If your Lookalike audiences based on Pixel data have stopped returning results, consider testing Lookalikes based on your influencers’ followings. To gain access to their audiences, you’ll need to utilize whitelisting, which includes other benefits as well. 

We’re not going to go into too much detail here, but you can review some of the benefits of whitelisting, the alternatives, and a few more relevant details in this blog post

Or, if you’re already familiar with the basics of whitelisting and want a more comprehensive resource, download this free ebook

4. Develop fresh ad creative featuring UGC

If your targeting options are limited, one of the best ways to increase your performance is to develop better ad creative. And as we’ve mentioned before, using UGC in your ad creative is a proven way to boosting ROAS. 

Trying out different types of UGC—from unboxing videos to product reviews to lifestyle photos—will allow you to A/B test different concepts and see how your users respond. 

5. Implement the Conversions API

Since many of the reporting issues are occurring with the Facebook Pixel itself, the Conversions API allows you to data directly from the server to Facebook. For the more technically inclined marketers—or those with access to a development team—consider this implementation guide from Facebook. 

So what do you think—do you have the tools to develop new strategies to cope with the realities of advertising to iOS 14 users? Did we miss anything? 

We’d love to hear your feedback, so please feel free to book a free consultation here