How big a deal is iOS14.5?


Damiel Forman
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Whether we like it or not, OS 14.5, Apple’s latest software update targeting extra protection against app tracking is here…and here to stay.   

Is this a crisis for digital advertisers? Perhaps it is for those who panic and decide to jettison their digital marketing plan for the foreseeable future. 

Those who don’t panic and cleverly adjust course will be met with solid business results and sustainable ROIs. Moreover, if many digital advertisers retreat from the market in the short-term, you may well find yourself operating within a less fierce competitive landscape, effectively boosting your value proposition and market share. So don’t kill your upcoming marketing budget out of fear—Empower can make it work for you with flying colours.

And remember, you’ll never be alone. Empower will guide you every step of the way. And the very first step you and I will take together is helping you gain a working understanding of what’s going on right now and ways to manage the storm.

What does the iOS 14.5 Update Mean? 

It means all iPhone apps will be required to adopt Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework (iOS 14.5). ATT requires apps to obtain user permission to track them across apps and websites. Users will be opted-out of app tracking by default. This includes app tracking from notable social apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and TikTok. With 80% of traffic happening on mobile devices, the impact of ATT will be immediate, and require time to understand and predict. 

Since Empower enjoys a reaction time among the best in the industry, you can rest assured we’ll get a handle on the impact of iOS 14.5 on your specific business and determine what needs to be done in record time. Maintaining the highest ROI across your campaigns will be our top priority.

Now to get into the nuts and bolts.


How the update will affect you as an advertiser.

No matter how you look at it or which studies you believe, an important number of users will opt out. In the absence of this information, you stand to experience disruption. Among the social media platforms to be hit hard, Facebook is front and center.

In reaction to iOS 14.5, Facebook has officially outlined the changes advertisers should expect on their platform. To minimize the impact of any data loss from the iOS 14.5 update, Facebook has created “Aggregated Event Measurement” designed to help you measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data.


The key changes Facebook Ads users like you can expect and prepare for are:

Ad placements on the Audience Network will be less personalized

Facebook’s Audience Network is a collection of ads spanning across thousands of mobile apps outside the Facebook family. With a limited view of user behavior, the ads on this network will become much less personalized. The good news is that many have found these placements to be ineffective and avoid them altogether.

Conversion tracking

If a user opts out of being tracked by Facebook, Facebook won’t be able to see what actions a user takes after they leave (on mobile). While you will still be able to see what action they take on your website because of tracking with Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, that information won’t be reported back to Facebook’s dashboard. This will make optimizations more challenging as Facebook’s algorithm won’t have the same amount of information about which user behaviors led to conversions and which did not.

Audience behavior/interest targeting

Similar to the above, Facebook will have much less information about what a user does after they click to leave Facebook. This means that any interest and behavior targeting attributes you may have previously used for campaign targeting will likely be less reliable.

Ad account/Business manager operations

Advertisers will be limited to eight custom conversion events (eight pixel-based events). If you currently have several custom conversions set up within your Events Manager, you will need to consolidate these into eight high-priority conversions. This also means ad sets optimizing for an event beyond the eight prioritized will be paused.

The eight conversion events per domain will be ranked based on priority. If a user completes multiple events (i.e. “add to cart” and “purchase”), only the higher prioritized event will be reported.

Domain verification

Facebook is moving pixels over to domain-based ownership. If you use pixels, verify your domain with Facebook to minimize any disruption to your data. Verifying your domain is especially important if your pixel is managed by multiple parties. Follow the steps outlined in Facebook’s Business Manager.

Smaller attribution window

Facebook is moving from a 28-day click and 1-day view window to a 7-day click and 1-day view attribution window. Fewer conversions will be reported in the Facebook dashboard because of the much smaller window.

This will likely result in fewer year-over-year conversions being reported even if the same number (or more) conversions actually occur. Facebook will try to use modeling to help advertisers understand how many conversions will be underreported, but it’s not exactly clear how that will look.

You may want to download your historic data now and mine it to establish an aggregated algebraic relation between 28-day and 7-day click conversion rates. In this fashion, you’ll be able to extrapolate28-day click conversion rates.     

You can use the Comparing Windows feature to see how conversions attributed to ads compare across different attribution windows. Also, adjust any automated rules using a 28-day attribution window to a 7-day window to avoid any unexpected changes to spend when the update goes into place.

Facebook’s Conversion API

Make sure to set server-side integration of tracking using Facebook’s Conversion API. Facebook’s SKAdNetwork API allows advertisers to measure the results of iOS 14.5 ad campaigns and uses Apple’s conversion information to measure attribution in an aggregated way while preserving a user’s identity. 

The Conversions API will help supplement signals from a company website or app. It doesn’t use cookies so there are no restrictions or limitations for data collection. While it won’t be a total replacement (the API won’t be able to see event codes like a purchase or an add to cart), it will present other opportunities for optimization (i.e., email open rates, as opposed to website registrations).

Diminishing audiences

As people stand to opt out of tracking after the iOS 14.5 update, the number of app connections and custom audiences for app and web activity will likely decrease. To account for this, broaden your audience definition(s) to capture more potential customers. This may decrease the quality of prospects targeted, but you may also inadvertently discover new pockets of qualified leads.


What else can you do?

Moving part of the advertising budget to less-affected channels

With the upcoming changes to IDFA in the iOS 14 update, Google Ads has taken a different path to Facebook Ads and decided to switch to another Apple ad tracking tool: the SKAdNetwork. Google is currently pushing Apple to improve the SKAdNetwork and inviting users to upgrade to the latest version of Google Analytics for Firebase to enable SKAdNetwork support.

Google does expect reduced conversion visibility and encourages mobile users to monitor iOS campaign performance and delivery as the rollout takes effect and adjust their bids and budgets to achieve their goals where needed.

Segment Audience Targeting by Android and iOS Users

The iOS update will only affect Apple users. Consumers who use Android devices won’t be affected and Facebook can still track their data across the internet. Ideally, you want to track both Android and iOS users, but because the data gathered on iOS will be incomplete and skewed, it may be best to prioritize Android users or segment campaigns by device.

When you create campaigns that target conversion events, go to Specific Mobile Devices & Operating Systems and select Android Devices Only.

Integrate Independent Tracking and Retargeting Practices

Some of your Facebook campaigns will lose their efficacy when the iOS 14 update is fully implemented. You can prepare by exploring other strategies to test against the new performance levels of your ads. Consider different bid types, audience definitions, and events to include in your Facebook ad testing.

Another option is to stop using Facebook to monitor conversions on your website. Instead, use your website platform’s tracking system to monitor where visitors are coming from and what they do on your site. You can also use campaigns outside the conversion objective, like tracking the traffic your ads are generating to your site.

Manually collecting data isn’t the most intuitive or robust way, but for the time being, it will help with your retargeting efforts. Add an extra landing page in your conversion flow where users are asked to enter their first and last name and email address. Then upload that information to Facebook to create a custom audience from your customer list.

Alternatives to cookie tracking

You can also facilitate retargeting by using any number of user-specific identifiers to target individuals, such as email addresses, phone numbers, etc. 

In order to increase the volume of persistent IDs, you should encourage site login through improved authenticated experiences or by offering incentives to consumers for logging in. 

“Value Exchange” strategies 

As mentioned in the previous point, you could offer incentives to customers for sharing their data through “value exchange” strategies. This is a great way to increase a brand’s first-party data. 

An Accenture survey from 2019 found that a whopping 93% said that it’s important that every interaction they have with the brand should be uplifting. 

To offer such experiences, brands need to dig deep into their consumers’ psyche—and a lot of data is required to truly understand your customers. So, use value exchange strategies to collect data and use it to your advantage. 

Traditional Marketing comeback 

Even though we are in the age of digital marketing, traditional marketing is not dead—and here at Empower, we’re sure glad about that especially given the advent of iOS 14.5. The massive success of many companies in different industries can witness to that fact. The digital revolution is changing the face of marketing, but traditional marketing has hardly gone bust. And it’s immune to iOS 14.5.

Furthermore, most hi-tech companies recognize how traditional marketing techniques hold value and relevance, and continue to use them in the best possible way. The effect is especially good when traditional marketing tactics are combined with modern online strategies. And while some traditional marketing methods are in decline, others are holding tight and ruling the marketing world.

Direct mail tops the list. A long time ago, people would tag it as snail mail and shrink away. But nowadays, direct mail scores on creativity, personalizing and, above all, targeting a particular audience. Not only is this method fairly easy to understand, but it also has a great power to influence readers. It has faster response rates, more purchases and it’s easier to retrieve. This makes old-fashioned direct mail the real deal in new-age marketing. In marketing, the more individualized and personal your message is, the better reaction you’ll get. 


What Empower can do for you right now

With data privacy and security top of mind for consumers, many online platforms are making significant changes. The latest updates by Facebook are only are few among those taken by major technology companies recently. 

And while there are many interconnected solutions (as detailed in my blog) to prepare for iOS 14.5 and diminish its effect, the sheer workload from the counterstrike is complex and overwhelming even to the seasoned marketer. Many errors and missteps are sure to occur, and may even derail the whole strategic realignment effort.

Luckily there is a grand solution covering all the activity-based solutions, and guaranteeing not only the success of the effort, but its result-centric optimization: 

Empower is that overarching solution.

Empower’s strategic reorientation blueprint is already done and it is a game-changer. It will serve as an adaptable template upon which to tailor and deploy your marketing plan—a plan designed to deliver impressive results for your business despite the imposition of iOS 14.5. 

Contact Empower now to get your action plan going. Whether you’re a client, in which case your success manager is already at work optimizing your campaigns, or you’re new to Empower, you can schedule a conference call by clicking on the Schedule a Conference Call link below.

As FDR once said, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

All my best,


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