Paid media | 9/02/2021

Apple iOS 14 ATT update and the impact on paid media

Posted by Lawrence Greenlee

Over the last few months, the noise around the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) from Apple has gotten louder within paid media circles. So, what’s going on?

Apple says ATT will “improve user transparency and control over how apps access your location, photos, microphone, and camera”, but a big concern amongst paid media experts is that it will reduce the effectiveness of some of the advertising techniques and audiences that they’ve come to rely on.

Undoubtedly the biggest noise has been coming from Facebook (for reasons that will become clearer later), but over the last week, Google has also shared its thoughts. Our fantastic paid media team, Harry, Sophie and Chloe, have looked into what it means from a practical perspective for Facebook and Google, along with the next steps advertisers should take in order to minimise the impact on campaigns.


If you’ve updated to iOS 14, a pop-up box will now appear within apps on your phone, asking you to actively opt in to tracking, reading:

“x would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you.”

You will then be able to choose between “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App Not To Track”.

ATT Facebook update


 How will it impact?

Facebook is still learning how the update will impact ads, so we won’t fully know until after the changes have been rolled out. However, as more people opt-out of tracking on iOS 14 devices, it’s likely that ad personalisation and performance reporting will become increasingly limited for both app and web conversion events.

It’s expected the impact will be much more significant for those with Apps on Apple and for Audience Network placements which rely on app advertising. However, even for web ads, there could be implications. Imagine a user opts not to allow the Facebook or Instagram app to track them and then clicks on an ad linking to a website. Once they are on the site all previously trackable activity could be lost, limiting conversion tracking and remarketing capabilities.

What is changing within Facebook Business Manager?

As of 19th January 2021, Facebook’s default attribution window has changed from ‘28-day click, 1 day view’ to ‘7-day click, 1 day view’. This means all ad conversion events may see a drop when looking within Facebook.

The number of events (this includes both pixel events and custom conversions)that advertisers can have within a Facebook ads manager account is being reduced to 8. These events are used to track the activity on your site (purchases, add to cart) and optimise a campaign towards a specific goal, so by reducing the number of these within an account, it will reduce the number of success metrics to work towards and learn from.

Recommended next steps: 

It’s very important to be agile as no one is 100% clear on how this is going to impact yet, but keep an eye on Facebook business manager notifications as they’re regularly updating the newly created resource centre (below) with practical guides and suggested next steps.

  1. Complete domain verification

A key suggestion from Facebook is to complete domain verification. Whilst suggested previously, it wasn’t an essential step, but by officially connecting a website address to a business manager account, it demonstrates a clear authorisation at a time when privacy is being referenced.

We’ve been helping our clients follow these steps. You can find official guidance from Facebook on how to do this here. Note: this must be carried out in order to take the next step.

  1. Prioritise your conversion events 

This is a significant change and will impact the number of action points that an account can now be optimised towards. It’s vital that these event goals are looked at and prioritised in order of the insight and value they bring to an account. If you don’t do this, Facebook will choose the priority order for you and ad sets optimising for a conversion event that’s no longer available will be paused. You can configure these 8 conversion events in Events Manager – learn more about Aggregated Event Measurement.

When you create your ad set, you’ll choose only one of the 8 designated conversion events to optimise for. Consider whether you’ll be required to optimise for upper funnel objectives like landing page views and link clicks. For example, if you can’t verify your domains or currently use more than 8 conversion events per domain for optimisation or reporting, you should consider optimising for upper funnel optimisations. Landing page views aren’t subject to the conversion event limitation. 


The Apple update isn’t likely to impact Google quite as significantly as Facebook, however, Google’s retargeting and in-app campaigns will be severely limited.

Device retargeting

Retargeting to devices will be severely limited for those users who have opted into the iOS update. This won’t limit retargeting to these devices completely, as other identifiable information can be used, however, it’s likely that results will be impacted. To combat the limitation, it’s recommended to enable audience expansion on remarketing and Customer Match campaigns and/or to include “similar audiences” on all ad groups to recuperate any lost reach.

In-App advertising

The update from Apple is designed to limit the insight to users engaging with apps, so with this in mind it’s no surprise that Google’s In-App advertising platform will see the biggest impact. Google carried out a live webinar last Wednesday (03/02) to highlight the impact on Google Ads products and the vast majority of it was focused on apps.


Display, Video and other campaigns promoting website goals are likely to see an impact on their results. There will be reduced visibility into metrics highlighting how ads drive conversions (like app installs and sales) and this will alter how advertisers might optimise bid changes.

This is due to Universal App Campaigns (UAC) losing credit for interactions before the last-click. You should also account for Google’s algorithms requiring a learning period after the change, which may cause fluctuations in performance for the short-term. During this time, it’s recommended for app campaign reporting for iOS conversions in the Google Ads interface to use modelled conversion reporting for iOS 14 traffic. Conversion modelling applies Google’s machine learning to observable user signals to attribute missing or partial conversions.

Consolidate campaigns

Advertisers should limit the total number of UACs on iOS down to max 8 campaigns per app. This may require removing campaigns for some apps to optimise performance. This is to ensure that each campaign has sufficient conversion signals and to ensure compatibility with SKAdNetwork.

Due to limited IDFAs on iOS, the reach for App Engagement campaigns is predicted to decrease when ATT is rolled out. As reach is likely to drop significantly for App Engagement campaigns, it’s likely best to reduce or pause these campaigns and redistribute budget elsewhere.

Next steps

As well as making changes to existing campaigns to help prepare for the update, advertisers should be focusing on building a first-party data strategy. Capturing emails and/or phone numbers to ensure you can continue to communicate to your audience will be key. Advertisers should act now to prepare for this as there will unavoidable loss of ad targeting. By developing new strategies for delivering targeted marketing whilst complying with all privacy requirements, it allows you to stay ahead of your competitors and get a better view of your customer.

The aim of the update is to be transparent and to give the user more control over their data, which is ultimately a positive change. Advertisers will adapt and develop new methods of delivering targeted advertising to audiences in the future, so now is the time to get working on this.

What will the impact be on the wider digital industry?

Over the years there have been several anxious moments for marketers such as this, creating fear within the industry that it will change the way in which things are done and, in some cases, make practices redundant.

Whilst this is true, it’s important to remember that the industry has withstood many events like this. In 2011, when organic search query data was removed from Google Analytics, SEOs feared it would severely impact daily practices; it did, but the practices evolved and learnt of new ways to demonstrate results. SEO is just as integral a part of the marketing mix now.

The advent of GDPR sent shivers down many email marketers’ spines, but looking back now, the general consensus is that this was a positive step and many marketers are reporting more effective results by incorporating these necessary changes. This iOS privacy update will impact advertising tactics no doubt, however, marketers will pivot and incorporate other techniques to achieve great results.

Do you need help getting your head around these changes? Get In touch with the team.