The Truth About Apple iOS 14 and Your Digital Marketing Strategy

  • Categories:

    Paid Media

  • Date:

    November 3, 2020

The Truth About Apple iOS 14 and Your Digital Marketing Strategy



Paid Media

Apple’s iOS 14 platform update, released this fall, feels right at home in a year marked by controversy. Designed to increase customer privacy, iOS 14 quickly altered the marketing ecosystem, though the biggest changes are set to happen in early 2021.

One thing is already clear: Digital campaigns are predominantly mobile, and mobile is predominantly iOS. Consider:

iOS 14 includes new features such as app clips, smart widget stacks and UI updates. But the advertising industry is most concerned about the platform’s enhanced privacy features.

So, what do these updates mean for your digital marketing strategy, and how can your brand best navigate the changing landscape?

Enhanced Privacy Features Will Impact Advertising Technology

First, here’s a quick look at how iOS will change advertising technology:

App tracking takes center stage.

iPhone users have long been able to set limits on how much their apps are tracking and sharing their data. However, users previously had to actively change their setting, a step many never took.

Coming in early 2021, iOS 14 will thrust app tracking into the spotlight. App developers will soon have to request permission to track the user — and how the user decides to answer this prompt will determine whether or not their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is shared.

Since 2012, the IDFA has played a starring role in advertising, and this change will have the most significant impact on our industry. The existing common identifier across the Apple app ecosystem, it’s the closest thing to an anonymous, deterministic ID. IDFA allows for audience segmentation, ad targeting, measurement, attribution and even privacy choices.

Industry estimates project that most users will opt out of ad tracking.

Browsers are also affected.

In iOS 14, Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) will tell users how they are being tracked and what is being blocked. ITP, now active by default across iOS browsers, affects third-party cookies and first-party cookies created by document.cookie.

Implications for Campaign Measurement and Attribution

iOS 14 will severely hinder the ability to track an iPhone user’s precise location. This will make measuring in-store foot traffic more difficult.

  • People will have a choice between Precise Location or Approximate Location on an app-by-app basis.
  • For users that select Approximate Location, tracking and analysis of in-store foot traffic will be affected.

Tracking most website actions as an aggregate won’t change, but individual channel attribution will.

  • Last-click attribution may be one of the only reliable attribution models remaining.
  • In terms of website traffic, the amount of “new” users may increase — though many of these may actually be returning users.

Implications for Media Planning and Activation

Target audiences formed through foot traffic patterns will be affected.

  • Location-based ad tech vendors form profiles of iPhone users based on their foot traffic patterns, but iOS 14 will make it difficult for ad tech to form these insights.
  • Location-based targeting will also become increasingly difficult to achieve with precision.
  • The extent of these changes will be determined by users’ willingness to opt in to IDFA tracking.

The supply side must find a way to encourage opt-ins, subscriptions and other solutions to power their first-party data.

  • Without third-party cookies and IDFA as additional layers of data, publishers and app developers that fail to offer advertisers targeted solutions will struggle to maintain ad sales growth. Solutions must be based on either contextual adjacency or custom audiences built off existing first-party data.
  • Reach and frequency management will change as we know it.

What’s Next

Above all else, it’s critical that brands understand privacy isn’t a compliance tactic — it’s a strategy.

No one’s saying iOS 14 will make life easier on advertisers, but with careful planning, your brand can adapt and evolve toward new solutions that are people-based and privacy-centric. It will take some learning and adjustments to get there, but these changes are ultimately a win-win for advertisers and consumers.

Most of the updates connected to iOS 14 will go into effect in early 2021. What we know today is consolidated from news releases, articles and opinions of technology companies, advertising trade publications and industry leaders. Keep in mind that implications for your brand are subject to change closer to Apple’s full implementation date.

Download our full report on the marketing impacts of iOS14 by clicking on the link below. In the meantime, return to our blog regularly for updates, and email me if you have specific questions or need assistance navigating the changing media landscape.

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