The Impact of Apple IOS14 on Facebook Advertising

Category: paid advertising

May 10, 2021 | 0 COMMENTS

Was your company ready for the Apple iOS14 update? This new update finally went into effect in April, and for marketers who rely on Facebook advertising, it’s starting to create some pretty major changes — especially in the areas of measurement and attribution. But, it’s not too late to set your campaigns up for success.

Read on to learn what you need to know about iOS14, how it affects Facebook ads and privacy, and the steps you should take to be ready for the change.

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What Is the Apple iOS14 Update?

The Apple iOS14 update was released in September 2020 and includes privacy features that will create a change for both users and marketers. Before this update, users had to manually enter their settings and opt-out of tracking. Now, iOS users have to opt into app tracking instead. This can sound a little scary to users — and chances are, most iOS users will choose not to opt into app tracking.

What Does This Update Mean for Marketers?

The iOS14 update is going to have ramifications for marketers and advertisers. This update will affect the reported success of Facebook advertising. It will also hurt your ability to optimize any customer buying journey that takes longer than seven days. But there’s more to it than that. Here’s the breakdown of what this update is going to mean for marketers.


The iOS14 update is going to affect how many advertisers are viewing data. Essentially, the update will cut off data after seven days. This means the requirements for both app and in-app advertising will be affected.

For example, if you’re advertising for your app download, you have to register and update your Facebook SDK to be in line with these new regulations. So if you want to get consumers to download an app, it’s going to mean more work for you than before.

Facebook’s Audience Network (an off-Facebook, in-app advertising network for mobile apps) is also going to change, especially the attributed performance. It will be more difficult to measure website performance.

Here at Brandetize, however, we don’t normally use the Audience Network. The inventory isn’t aligned with our target audience. And compared to Facebook and Instagram, conversion rates are low.

One of the most prominent implications of the iOS14 update is the implication on measurement and attribution. Before this update, advertisers could see user activity 28 days after a user interacted with an ad. In other words, if it took that user a couple of weeks to make a purchase, you would know because you could continue following each individual user throughout their customer journey.

But with the iOS14 update, that 28-day window has been cut down to just seven days. Now, Facebook has essentially lost the ability to take credit for any sales that happen after eight days.

To figure out exactly what this is going to mean, we analyzed one of our ecommerce clients starting in January 2020. We looked at how many sales the client was getting credit for from Facebook. We measured the number of sales that happened within a week versus within 2-4 weeks and saw that a substantial amount of sales occurred after 8 days. This meant:: Up to 50-80% of our client’s sales wouldn’t be attributed to Facebook.

Those sales were still taking place. They just weren’t being attributed to Facebook. And if Facebook is your only advertising platform and you’re used to seeing 5x your return on ad spend, suddenly seeing only 2x your return on ad spend could be an unpleasant surprise! Your confidence level might take a hit as the relationship with Facebook shifts and changes.

Preparing Your Data For the Shift

Now that the iOS14 update is here (as of February 2021), what do you need to do? One of the most helpful steps you can take is downloading and analyzing your Facebook data from the past year. It’s not difficult to pull your data.. Once you analyze the numbers, you’ll be able to see the average number of sales that happen after the seven-day period is up. 

It’s also important to analyze your data outside of Facebook — especially if this is your first year advertising on Facebook and you don’t have prior data to pull from. Measuring your annual growth trends and current sales metrics will help you understand the big picture and get the information you need.

When we analyzed our Facebook data from the past year, we saw that almost 80% of our own sales happen after eight days. That meant we needed to be comfortable going from a 6-7x return on ad spend down to 2x, but knowing our sales were still happening. Because we understood the relationship between sales that happen within seven days versus sales that happen within 28 days, we were then able to apply that math from February 2021 onward. 

Next Steps

There are two primary things you’ll need to do to embrace the shift with the iOS14 Facebook update. First, verify all domains for your ad account with specific URL access. Every URL that’s being tracked for conversion needs to be verified using Facebook’s Brand Safety tools. You can verify these domains via Events Manager or Business Manager. This gives you the ability to report back on your return on ad spend for redirects at the URL level. 

The other thing you’ll need to do is configure web events. Before the iOS14 Facebook update, you could set up as many conversion events on Facebook as you wanted. Now, however, Facebook only allows eight conversion events.

This means you need to choose the eight most important things your customer needs to do. Prioritize business goals and upper-funnel activity as you select these events. You can set up the events in your Facebook Business Manager under Aggregated Event Measurement. 

Once you’ve verified your Facebook ad domains and configured web events, you’ll be prepared to track your iOS14 Facebook ads and get an accurate handle on what’s happening.

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How Have We Been Pivoting?

We first started to notice the impact of these changes on our ads in Q1. In January and February, our return on ad spend was above our benchmark. But by March, the decline had hit, and our client was understandably scared. They wanted to pull back on their ad spend; they no longer trusted Facebook to get the job done for them. 

We wanted to encourage our client to continue investing money into Facebook advertising. So, based on data from 2019 and 2020, we analyzed what the year-over-year growth should be organically. Then we added in the expected growth we were anticipating as a result of our advertising. We knew we needed to trust our advertising — and as it ended up, we were above our goal in March. We were expecting a 25% growth and we actually saw a 34% growth for our client!

In reality, things were going well. Our client was getting more web traffic and their ecommerce rates were up. This just wasn’t being reflected in our Facebook data. 

We handle all of this client’s marketing, so we knew what was happening and what wasn’t happening on other channels. When we crunched the numbers, we saw major growth — more than we’d projected. We just needed to be confident that our efforts on Facebook were working. 

The key for us was to be more directional in our data rather than being specific. In light of the iOS14 update, we’re also focusing on a shift to top-line advertising. This update is forcing us to go ahead and run a campaign, and then, if we see growth, to trust there’s a correlation. 

Here at Brandetize, we plan to run our future advertising in two ways:

  • Bucket #1: Campaigns we’re testing. With these campaigns, we’re still figuring out what works. We need to see what can happen in the seven-day period.
  • Bucket #2: Proven campaigns. We treat our proven campaigns directionally. If we already know the advertising is working, it makes sense to view those campaigns based on expected annual growth and topline metrics. These are the campaigns we’re scaling up. 

Separating our ads into these two buckets will allow us to work smarter under the new iOS14 Facebook update.

Main Takeaways

So what does the iOS14 update mean for Facebook advertising? The biggest takeaway for marketers is that you need to get comfortable with directional data. The return on ad spend in your Ads Manager might appear to be dropping — but the actual performance of your ads could still be up across the board. 

Shifting to getting comfortable working on top-line advertising is the quickest way to succeed under this new update. And by using directional data to inform your decisions, your iOS14 Facebook ads will do their job in reaching as many people as possible.

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