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The Agency Client’s Guide To What the iOS Privacy Update Really Means

by | May 12, 2021 | facebook, paid ads

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Apple has rolled out a new iOS privacy update, collectively known as iOS 14.5. These updates have changed a variety of features on Apple devices, including their privacy features. Most importantly, for businesses who advertise on Facebook, these changes impact the ability of the advertiser to track the user journey from start to finish. Users of iOS 14 can ‘opt-out’ of IDFA-tracking (IDFA stands for Identifier for Advertisers). Early data has suggested that the amount of users worldwide who opt-in to tracking is about 12%

ios privacy update

After updating to iOS 14.5, users on Facebook and Instagram will see the above prompt. The platforms are doing their best to educate users on the consequences of opting-out of tracking.


What does the iOS privacy update mean in layman’s terms? 

Advertisers will see smaller audience sizes and lower reported conversion rates.

ios privacy update

In Facebook Ads Manager (pictured above), you can see a small [2], and when you scroll over the above notice appears. This notification appears over results that this applies to. It’s basically saying anyone who is viewing and acting on the ads on iOS 14 and has opted out of tracking is not included in the results.

So, the issue is two-fold. 

  1. This means that those who have opted out of tracking on iOS 14 will not have their interests ‘tracked’. So, advertisers are no longer able to use interest targeting and include users who have opted out. Audience sizes will decrease. Again, the extent of which is yet to be determined.
  2. Those who have opted out of tracking on iOS 14 will also not be included in the results in ads manager. If the above described users sees an ad for a product, goes to the website, and purchases the product, the advertiser will not see this in Ads Manager.

Who will the iOS privacy update affect?

Technically, this affects anyone who advertises on social media platforms, but let’s get into the nitty gritty. Businesses who depend on social media ads for revenue will be hit the hardest. We’re looking at you, e-commerce and app download campaigns.

Businesses who branch out in social media ads and use the reach, brand awareness, website traffic and engagement objectives will likely notice these changes far less? Why? While all cost per results are subject to shoot up due to these changes, the effects that the aforementioned objectives have will remain similar.  You will still get your message out, you’ll still get engagement on your posts or traffic to your website, the cost may rise, but the activity is still there. Targeting niche audiences will be more difficult, but at the brand awareness level, advertisers typically are not targeting niche audiences. 

With conversion campaigns, it gets a little dicier. A metric commonly used to assess the performance of these campaigns is ROAS (return on ad spend). If the cost per conversion increases due to lack of tracking, the ROAS decreases and the efficiency of the campaign can diminish significantly. 

You can see below a current (May 7, 2021) screenshot of Facebook Ads Manager. Have a look at the different campaigns: Post Engagements, Website Leads, Reach. For website leads, which requires website pixel tracking, has the notification discussed above. For post engagements and reach, there is no indication from Facebook that these results will be significantly affected by this iOS update. 

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ios privacy update

So what should we consider doing?

  • Excel in other areas. So ultra-specific targeting may be a thing of the past, but not all hope is lost. Strive for greatness when it comes to your ads creative and copy. Don’t skimp on design, strategy and copy when it comes to your ads. Consult with a social media agency if you don’t have these capabilities currently. 
  • Listen to Facebook. There are several things Facebook is recommending businesses do to prepare for these changes. These include verifying your domain, checking your audience sizes, and switching to aggregated event measurement, and checking which conversion events may be limited by the new tracking. Ticking all of these boxes will ensure your campaigns are as optimized as possible.
  • Learn more about your target audience in other ways. Who is subscribing to your newsletter? If you have a list of names and e-mail addresses, you can upload this to Facebook and create a custom audience with which to target. Also, running surveys to learn more about who is purchasing your products or services can help you narrow down who to target on Facebook.
  • Branch out onto different platforms. While you may see your cost per result increase across all social media platforms due to these changes, now is the time to go where your audience is! Are they on Pinterest? Twitter? TikTok? Instagram? Facebook? Snapchat? Be on the right platform/s and reduce ad spend waste.  
  • Invest in influencer marketing. Influencers have been around for several years now and their role now could not be more valuable. Businesses that are finding success with this are adept at selecting influencers that have audiences who are likely to be interested in their product. It’s like manual audience selection (thanks for trying, Facebook, but we got this).


What do you think is going to happen now?

  • Although Apple is making it easy for users to opt-out of tracking (and the data above suggests many users are), it’s still early!
  • What many users don’t understand (yet) is that they have just opted-out of a customized scrolling experience. This does not mean these platforms are now ad-free. They will still get delivered an equal amount of ads as before, but now the ads they see may not be relevant to them at all. While we may see a spike in users opting-out, we could see that dip right back down when users realize they prefer a custom experience.
  • Facebook will continue to fight to provide a personalized experience for users and maintaining a free platform. Apple is no angel of privacy, here. Apple’s own ad platform is not subject to the new iOS privacy update policy. Convenient, hey! As time rolls on and the consequences are felt deeply by businesses around the world, we believe that we’ll see some modifications to this policy. Apple may be hurting the big guy, but they’re also hurting the little guy, too. 

How to opt back in

You may now be thinking a couple of things. If not let us tell you what we’re thinking.

  1. Apple is doing this for their benefit under the guise of privacy. Remember, their ad platform is not subject to this new update.
  2. To opt-out of tracking is to say goodbye to a personalized feed. Now, before you interject, let us tell you what this looks like! You will still be delivered ads. You don’t have a say there. But if you opt-out of tracking, you can get ads for….anything. Fishing lines, body piercing, wedding gowns. Literally, anything. 

So, you would like to opt back in, but how?

ios privacy update

  1. Go to Settings -> Privacy -> Tracking -> 
  2. Allow App to Request to Track will be turned off (the slider might be grey, but you want to make it green).
  3. Underneath you will see any apps that have already requested permission, and it will indicate if you have granted it. You can tap on the slider beside them to switch tracking on or off. 
  4. With this setting, on any new app you install, you will request permission to track you across other apps and websites. As a result, if you download a new app you will see a message asking you to choose whether to ‘Ask App not to Track’ or ‘Allow’. 
Joanna Bresson
Joanna Bresson

Joanna, our Director of Paid Social, is a 6+ year marketing expert specializing in media buying, business strategy and social media advertising. She has worked for companies big and small across the globe including mophieⓇ, MyMuscleChef, Trupanion and Habitat for Humanity.