iOS 14 – What Is It and How Should Facebook Advertisers Prepare?

by Josh Barney
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It’s been almost 9 months since Apple announced their iOS14 update and its impact on Facebook ads.

If you’re like me, you probably haven’t been able to move for news, updates and guides about the impact of the iOS 14 update on Facebook ads.

It’s fair to say that there’s been a lot of talk about it – but in most cases, very little clarity. 

In this article, I’m going to make the iOS 14 update clear (so advertisers of any level can understand), explain why it’s happening and of course, share 5 tactics to prepare you for them. 

Let’s start from the top…

Some Background…

Facebook’s advertising policies have been under close scrutiny for a number of years now – in particular, their use of data. 

In 2018, Facebook CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg was asked to face the US Senate about their data policies: 

The media coverage around data regulations and its use in digital marketing has rumbled on for years – so it’s no shock that something is actually happening. 

facebook data breach the observer
Remember this? Facebook files taken in record data breach.  

The only surprise is that the change is being forced by one of Facebook’s rival tech firms, Apple. 

It’s important to note that no laws or regulations have changed, and there is nothing happening with regards to Facebook’s privacy policy – the change is completely Apple enforced. 

And as we’ll cover a little later, this has caused some major friction between the tech giants. 

What are the iOS 14 Updates? 

Traditionally, Facebook users have been able to ‘opt-out’ of data permissions. In other words, data can be collected by Facebook advertisers unless users state otherwise.

your data settings on facebook
By accessing your profile’s settings, you can actively manage your data settings on Facebook, including opting out. 

User data surrounding things like events and conversions have been going on behind the scenes for as long as Facebook has run adverts – the iOS 14 update will reverse this process – asking users to ‘opt-in’ to data collection. 

That looks something like this: 

Before iOS 14 Update: Facebook collects user data unless users state that they don’t want it to happen – whilst this was in place, very few users chose to opt-out.

After iOS 14 Update: Facebook will only be able to collect user data if users state they will allow it. To do this, users will have to agree to a very unappealing sounding opt-in prompt.

What Will iOS 14 Look Like For Facebook Advertisers? 

It’s important to note that these changes will ONLY be enforced on Apple mobile devices that have updated to the iOS 14.5 version (we’ll cover this in more depth later). 

The roll-out of the iOS 14 update is scheduled for Summer 2021. 

When a user clicks on a Facebook ad on their mobile that uses tracking tools, they’ll see a prompt like this: 

ios 14 update on facebook ads and data tracking

Before the update is rolled out, we can only guess how many users will opt to ‘Allow Tracking’ and how many will ‘Ask App Not To Track’, but it’s fair to argue that the use of language is discouraging – and given the recent media coverage, it’s likely that the vast majority will opt-out. 

Here’s what will happen when users select either one of these prompt options: 

  • Allow Tracking: You’ll still be able to track all events that users take on your website, including conversions and add to cart – allowing you to create custom audiences for retargeting (and lookalike audiences of these), as well as optimising the Facebook ad algorithm for your campaign objective (e.g. Conversions). 
  • Ask App Not To Track: You will not be able to track any action that the user takes after selecting this prompt – meaning that you will not be able to attribute events or build custom audiences from those who select this option. In other words, your Facebook Pixel tracking code is deactivated for that user. 

The prompt will appear on any clicked Mobile app ad within the Facebook family, including: 

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Messenger
  • WhatsApp
facebook instagram messenger whatsapp

This prompt will also appear on mobile apps that are part of the Facebook Audience Network. 

BTW: The Facebook Audience Network are apps created by third-parties that allow Facebook ads to be placed on them. For example, if you play a mobile game and see an ad, it may have come from Facebook. Facebook does not own these apps – they buy advertising space on them.

What Type of Facebook Ads Will The iOS 14 Update Impact?

The new prompt will only appear on ads that take users off the Facebook app, whilst continuing to track their actions. 

This is a very important separation. 

Ads that do not ask users to leave Facebook, or do not track their behaviour post-click, will not be affected. 

facebook conversion objective ad link
A conversion ad like this asks users to exit the Facebook platform and visit a page where their actions are tracked. This would cause a pop-up to appear on Apple mobile after the iOS 14 update. 

An ad that has been created to generate ‘Engagement’ or ‘Video Views’ on Facebook will not be affected. However, an ad that has been created for ‘Conversions’ on your website, will open the new prompt. 

If your ad:

  1. Asks users to click on a link that takes them away from Facebook
  2. Takes visitors to a website with a Facebook pixel installed (that is actively tracking their actions)
  3. Appears on an Apple Mobile Device

Your ad will be affected by the iOS 14 Update. 

How Many Facebook Advertisers Will The iOS 14 Update Impact? 

Facebook are pretty miffed about this Apple update – and we’ll talk about what they’re doing to combat these changes soon. 

Up until now, Facebook has seen a year-on-year increase in its revenue from advertising.

In 2020, they generated more than $84 Billion in revenue from advertising worldwide (Source). To put that in perspective that’s approx. $9.5 million an hour. 

facebook's advertising revenue worldwide 2013 to 2020
Facebook’s advertising revenue increase over the years.

It’s likely that the iOS 14 update will have an impact on the desirability of Facebook ads, and therefore, on Facebook’s growing revenue. 

The problems don’t stop there either. 

Surprisingly (even to me) a huge majority of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile.

(Source)

This is because a huge number of Facebook users only access their platform via the mobile app. 

In Jan 2021, a study reported that 81% of Facebook users access their platform ‘only via a mobile phone’ and that 17.3% use ‘both phones and computers’, whilst just 1.7% visit via ‘laptop or desktop computer’ alone. 

device usage of facebook users worldwide as of January 2021
Facebook’s audience are overwhelming mobile based (Source).

That’s Most of the Market, Right? 

So far the stats looking pretty grim, but it’s not all bad. 

These changes will only apply to Apple mobile phones – and although this is a large chunk of the market, it isn’t the entire market. 

Samsung is the current worldwide mobile vendor leaders with 28.97% of the market, whilst Apple is in second place with 27.47% (Source).

mobile phone vendor market share 2021 apple
mobile phone vendor market share 2021 apple ios 14

Yes, 81% of users only use their Mobile app to access Facebook, but just ~27% of these are Apple mobile owners and that’s before we’ve even spoken about how you can prepare for the changes, and what you can do to combat them. 

Why Are Apple Running Their iOS 14 Update? 

The reason for the iOS 14 update is a hot topic. Apple says one thing, Facebook says something else. 

Let’s look at each side of the argument: 

The Word From Apple

Apple announced their iOS 14 update by stating that:

“Apps on the App Store are held to a high standard for privacy, security, and content because nothing is more important than maintaining users’ trust.”

Before explaining how this update will affect users…

“…starting with the beta version of iOS 14.5…you’ll be required to ask users for their permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies.”

The statement goes on to explain how this update is focussed on the process of data collection around apps on their app store. 

And if you’re advertising App Installs from Facebook, or an app developer, this update could hit hard. 

apple ios 14 data privacy apps
Users will now be able to see how every App on the App store collects and uses their data.

Data collection, particularly around its placement in apps has been big news of late, and this update may be an attempt by Apple to extend an olive branch to users who are worried about data processing. 

If that is the case, that’s not how Facebook sees it.

Read the full Apple iOS 14 update announcement

The Word From Facebook 

Facebook has replied to Apple with a backlash of content. 

facebook standing up to apple for small businesses

In the ‘Speaking Up For Small Businesses’ announcement on their website, Facebook’s VP of Ads and Business Products, Dan Levy claimed that:

“Apple’s new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.”

He goes on to cite 4 reasons why Apple’s iOS 14 update is not all that it seems:

  1. “They’re creating a policy — enforced via iOS 14’s AppTrackingTransparency — that’s about profit, not privacy.”

This point claims that many of the free apps on Apple’s App Store will now be forced to charge users a subscription, as they will not be able to show ads via the Facebook Audiences Network. 

  1. “They’re hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic.”

Without personalised mobile apps, Facebook predicts that many small businesses (who rely on them) will suffer dire consequences. 

  1. “They’re not playing by their own rules. Apple’s own personalized ad platform isn’t subject to the new iOS 14 policy.”
  1. “We disagree with Apple’s approach, yet we have no choice but to show their prompt.”

Read the full ‘Speaking Up For Small Businesses’ article.

In addition to this announcement, Facebook have also released a campaign calling on business owners to have their say about the iOS 14 update, stating that ‘Small Businesses Deserve to Be Heard’.

facebook small businesses apple ios 14 update

And, to boost the publicity of this campaign, they followed this up by releasing a #speakupforsmallbusinesses content pack, that includes custom profile photo frames, story background (for Instagram and FB) and a downloadable toolkit. 

facebook custom content #speakupforsmall businesses
Facebook’s #speakupforsmall businesses content pack.

You can find the toolkit, resources and custom frames on Facebook’s post

What Have Facebook Done To Combat The iOS 14 Update? 

On Feb. 1 2021, Facebook announced an update to their response to the iOS 14 update. 

In this statement, they reveal that “To help people make a more informed decision, we’re also showing a screen of our own, along with Apple’s.”

This revelation is a bold move from Facebook, who have yet to finalise what this prompt will look like. 

facebook data prompt ios 14 update
A first glimpse at what Facebook’s data prompt might look like. 

A first glimpse at what Facebook’s data prompt might look like. 

Whether or not this makes a difference is yet to be seen, and as with much of the iOS 14 update changes to Facebook ads, we can still only speculate. 

In addition to this new prompt, Facebook have also made the following changes: 

A Maximum of 8 Facebook Events

Facebook will be reducing the number of events that can be tracked via their pixel to just 8. 

This means a limit on things like ‘custom conversions’, specific ‘page views’ and ‘add to carts’.

facebook events manager data tracking

Advertisers with more than 8 Facebook events will be asked to pick their top 8 and rank them by importance. 

Those who fail to do this within Facebook Events Manager will see their least triggered events become ‘Inactive’. 

Conversion Attribution Changes

Facebook conversion attribution will also be changing with a reduction in the attribution window. 

Conversions that take place up to 7 days after a user clicks on a Facebook ad will still be attributed to a conversion campaign, but anything over this will not be tracked or attributed. 

Advertisers who have always used a 28-day attribution window will have this time automatically reduced. 

facebook conversion attribution window has changed
The conversion attribution window will be shorted to 7 days for clicks. 

How Can Facebook Advertisers Combat The iOS 14 Update? 

There are a number of things that advertisers can do to combat the changes, but there is nothing that can be done to avoid the prompts. 

Advertisers will have to adapt their campaign strategies for Apple mobile users. 

In the coming weeks, I’ll be dropping a big article about some of these strategies, but in the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of how you can get started:

Verify Domain

Facebook is encouraging all advertisers to verify their domains. 

They state that: “The integrity of content on Facebook is a serious concern, and domain verification is a step towards ensuring that only verified owners can edit the way their content appears on Facebook.”

add a domain facebook business manager
Add and verify your domain within Facebook Business Manager. 

Again, this won’t affect how often the iOS 14 prompt is shown on Apple devices, but having this complete is going to help Facebook create a little more integrity about their data collection processes – and although it is not a required step yet, it’s likely that it will become one. 

Follow Facebook’s domain verification steps here.

Exclude iOS Devices

Facebook’s audience targeting options are vast, and they include the option to exclude iOS mobile devices. 

To do this, go to your ‘Placements’ option at ‘ad set’ level:

facebook ads manual placements

At the bottom of this section, click on ‘Show More Options’:

facebook ads show more options

Click on the dropdown and choose to only target Android devices: 

facebook ads target mobile devices by operating system

Adding this targeting option will reduce the size of your audience, but it means that you can continue to track everything that happens post-click on your ad – including conversions, which will allow the Facebook algorithm to optimise the performance of your campaigns. 

Change Your Conversion and Retargeting Strategy

The main problem that the iOS 14 update brings to small and medium businesses, is its impact on the conversion objective.

Instead of using this campaign objective on a typical landing page, advertisers can drive visitors to a ‘pre-landing page’ that offers something valuable in exchange for their contact details. 

This may sound like a typical lead gen campaign, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For example, you could offer a product discount on your pre-landing page. 

Using these contact details, you can then tag and segment your audience within your CRM into buyers and non-buyers, and create a custom audience of your non-buying audience to retarget. 

You can also use an email drip campaign or funnel to convert the non-buying contacts into customers. 

Change Your Objective

If your Facebook ad aims are to generate qualified leads, the great news is that you can still do it. All you need to do is move the location of your lead capture forms and your campaign. 

This means ditching the traditional Conversion campaign objective that drives prospects to a lead capture landing page – in favour of a ‘Lead Generation’ objective. 

facebook lead generation objective
Facebook’s lead generation objective will become more popular after the iOS 14 update.

This Facebook ad campaign objective allows you to capture leads within Facebook, meaning that users will not have to exit the app, and therefore, won’t see the iOS 14 update prompt. 

This campaign objective allows you to customise your Facebook hosted landing page.

Keep On, Keeping On 

Another option is to just keep on doing what you’re doing. 

Nobody knows how the changes will affect Facebook advertisers, and the prompt may not make much difference to your current performance. 

The truth is, nobody really knows what’s going to happen until the changes are rolled out. 

And, as angry as Facebook is about these changes, it’s likely that they’ll do more to protect their advertisers (the main source of their revenue) from further damage. 

My advice, watch this space. 

The iOS 14 Update and Facebook Ads: The Bottom Line

We won’t know exactly how Facebook ads are going to be affected until the iOS 14 update is rolled out. 

Until that time, we can only speculate. 

We can be sure that Facebook is going to do everything in their power to protect their main source of revenue. 

We also know that this is not the end of the world – Facebook ads will continue to produce amazing results, and Apple does not own the entire mobile market. 

As with all things digital, laws changes and operating systems update – it’s our job, as marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners, to adapt to them. 

At the very worst, the iOS 14 update may mean that some tried and tested Facebook ad strategies won’t work anymore – all we have to do is find tactics around this or change our Facebook advertising strategies. 

Subscribe below for more about the iOS 14 update and what you can do to keep your Facebook ads converting long after the changes. 

Josh is the Founder of We Imagine Media, an award-winning content marketer and best selling author. He creates and strategises content, sharing the most successful tactics with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links (above) so he can get back to writing as himself.

5 Responses

  1. Very good guide to iOS 14 Update. It’s very annoying that Apple are choosing to do this, but that’s just my opinion. I really don’t think the timing with the pandemic has made it easy for small business owners as we have been relying on ad platforms to drive new business.
    I will come back to see more about the strategies you are advising to avoid the horrible prompt that Apple will use.
    Thanks, Ryan

    1. Thanks for the comment Ryan. Yes, the changes might be tough on small businesses, but time will tell. Do all you can to prepare in the meantime!
      Subscribe to stay up to date with news about our upcoming content.

  2. Hi, how big an impact do you think this will have? I have seen a lot about it but I am not convinced that it will do anything significant.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I think the iOS 14 update will have some impact – just how much we’re yet to see. Whatever happens, Facebook will do everything to ensure that their advertising services don’t drop. The revenue numbers are just too big!

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