Apple App Tracking Transparency

Apple’s new privacy policy is changing my Facebook strategy.

As you may have read in the news, Apple and Facebook are battling over user privacy. In the pending update to the Apple operating system, they are introducing App Tracking Transparency. This will allow users of iPhones and iPads to opt out of website tracking. For Apple’s users who choose not to be tracked, all cookies and pixels will be disabled.

What this means for auction marketers on Facebook 

It’s safe to assume that many Apple users will choose not to be tracked, which will impact Facebook advertising in the following ways:

• Landing Page Views and Cost Per Landing Page View data will now be incomplete.
• Audiences based on pixel traffic will be based on smaller data sets and thus be less accurate.
• Optimizing ads for Landing Page Views will be negatively impacted.
• We won’t be able to capture and clone the traffic to websites that arrives from sources other than Facebook for use in Facebook ads.

Who stands to lose the most

The auction companies that will be most impacted by this change:
• those that advertise & sell in multiple asset categories at the same time
• those who do not have Google Analytics installed on their proprietary site
• those whose ads point to third party bidding platforms, where Google Analytics data is typically not available
• those using advanced conversion tracking (this applies to none of my Facebook clients)

The workaround I’ve used for years

For the past six years, I’ve advertised hundreds (if not thousands) of auctions for companies who don’t have a Facebook pixel on their website. So, I’ve got lots of experience in a workaround option. Facebook allows advertisers to advertise to people who’ve interacted with ads or posts. That allows us to advertise to lookalikes of people who responded to ads on the various Facebook platforms and/or re-market to those responders. If you advertise [1] to the same audiences for most of your auctions or [2] only one auction at a time, efficacy and efficiency don’t change much from ads based on pixel traffic.

How I plan to adapt Facebook ads for my clients

For clients who do not currently use a Facebook pixel, they will see no changes to their ad targeting or post-campaign reports.

For clients who do use a Facebook pixel (yours or mine), I will be making some adaptive adjustments to campaigns. Apple has not given a date for when this iOS change will go into effect. When the change goes live, I will change optimization from Landing Page Views to Link Clicks. Facebook allows us to combine Custom Audiences on ads. So, when I use a pixel-based audience, I can also include an interactor audience. If my client would rather see how this change is impacting traffic cost and reporting, I can also build pixel-based and interactor-based ads separately to A/B test the results. 

How to get the reporting data that will be lost

For auctioneers whose websites allow UTM codes (almost every one of my clients), every ad we create can include a unique tracking code that can be tracked in real-time in our Google Analytics. It can be found in the Source Medium column under the All Traffic section of your Acquisitions tab. The equivalent of Facebook’s “Landing Page Views” are shown in Google Analytics as “Visits.” 

My personal thoughts

This shift in user-determined privacy was inevitable. If Apple hadn’t forced its hand, this move would probably have been mandated by the legislative branch or by the results of a lawsuit. 

In some ways, this levels the playing field for family-size businesses. This change will impact Fortune 500 advertisers far more than it will small businesses that have developed their own niche. Advertisers tracking multiple conversions like bidder registrations, bidding activity, form submissions, etc. will lose far more data than any of my clients (and most of the auction industry) will. The results you’ve seen me tout here and on social media were achieved without that advanced cookie/pixel data.

Facebook allows us to update our list-based audiences at any time, even while ads are running. Auctioneers who capture the bidder data for each of their asset categories and who store them in searchable or separate databases can gain a competitive advantage over those scrambling with this transition. 

This is a seismic shift. For most people reading this, though, there is little reason to panic. We can still have incredibly targeted and efficient ads on the most pervasive social media platform in our country.

Image provided by Apple

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