Facebook Advertising Audiences and iOS 14

Facebook advertisers are scrambling as a result of Apple’s iOS 14 update. This will impact virtually every aspect of our advertising, in some ways that aren’t yet clear. But one of the most important: Negatively impacting Facebook advertising audiences.

Let’s take a closer look at how and why iOS 14 will impact the composition and sizes of your targeting audiences.

If you want to learn more about this topic, I will go into significant additional detail in my new training, Facebook Ads and iOS 14. This will be my biggest and most important training yet (and I’ve done a lot of training!).

The Vague and Not Fully Explained

As I type this, we know that the iOS 14 update will have a negative impact on your remarketing audiences. From Facebook:

As more people opt out of tracking on iOS 14 devices, the size of your app connections, app activity Custom Audiences, and website Custom Audiences may decrease.

Details are limited. My belief is that Facebook isn’t fully clear yet what the full impact will be. There are a couple of things that should contribute to smaller and incomplete remarketing audiences…

Delayed Reporting

We’ve been accustomed to real-time reporting. When a conversion happens, it appears in Ads Manager rather quickly. This will not be the case for many iOS 14 users.

If you are running ads promoting your iOS app, it will rely on the SkAdNetwork. It may take Apple up to three days to send that data.

If a user opts not to share their data when they open the Facebook family of apps, conversion data from mobile web will also be delayed up to three days (and potentially unavailable for targeting audiences — more on that in a second).

When it comes to advertising, this means that remarketing audiences are not fully updated in real-time.

Limited Reporting: Aggregated Event Measurement

When a user opts to not share their data with the Facebook family of apps, this also impacts the volume of reporting. For this segment of users, Aggregated Event Measurement comes into play, resulting in partial event reporting.

Due to Aggregated Event Measurement, only the highest priority event will be reported for a single visit. For example, consider the following website visit:

  • Visited a product page (ContentView pixel event)
  • Added a product to a customer shopping cart (AddToCart pixel event)
  • Completed a purchase (Purchase pixel event)

Normally, this behavior would result in at least three pixel events (even four, if you include the standard PageView event). But, for this segment of users, only the highest priority event will be reported: The Purchase.

The result is fewer events reported. But, it’s possible that this data will only be used for reporting — not for targeting audiences. For now, Facebook isn’t clear.

Other Potential Limitations Inferred

Let’s go back to that original Facebook quote and break it into chunks.

As more people opt out of tracking on iOS 14 devices

This suggests that once someone opts out, they may be excluded from your remarketing audience, even if their activity continues to be reported in some way.

the size of your app connections, app activity Custom Audiences

Again, this is related to when someone opts out. The SkAdNetwork will result in data that is aggregated, restricted, and delayed — and that will impact all users, whether they opt out or not. But while aggregated data may help fill in the gap for reporting, it certainly feels like these people won’t be available for app activity Custom Audiences.

and website Custom Audiences may decrease

Above, I referred to how Facebook will report fewer mobile web conversion events and they will be delayed due to Aggregated Event Measurement. Does this suggest, too, that a user who opts out will not be used in a website custom audience? The “may” qualifier makes it unclear.

Bottom Line: Be Prepared

Facebook tells us that our app activity and website custom audiences should decrease as a result of iOS 14. How much? If any user who opts out is omitted from audiences, that could be a lot — at least if you have a heavy iOS audience.

Why is a delayed, incomplete, and smaller remarketing audience a problem? First, the obvious point that you want to reach everyone who should qualify in an audience. Smaller highly relevant audiences will mean less effective advertising when reaching your most relevant group of people.

But it’s also an exclusion issue. When promoting a product, you’ll want to exclude those who already purchased it. If that data is delayed, you’ll continue targeting a customer for up to three days after purchasing. If they opt out, you may not be able to exclude them at all — at least from website and app activity custom audiences.

The result is waste. Waste is an advertiser’s biggest enemy. No one wants to throw away money. We try to keep our targeting and exclusions tight to avoid it.

If your audience is mainly Android, I project the impact of changes will be focused on attribution, reporting, and optimization. It would seem that audiences would continue to build as normal for non-iOS users.

What to Do?

This is something we are all going to feel out as we go. How much will your audiences decrease? How much of a problem will it create?

Personally, I will continue to use these website custom audiences for targeting and exclusions. However, I will also stick with my long-term strategy of using every possible method at my disposal.

For example, when excluding someone who registered for something, I will exclude them in three ways:

  • Facebook Lead Form Custom Audience (if lead ads used)
  • Website Custom Audience of thank-you page or event
  • Email/Data File Custom Audience

If it makes some of my most heavily used remarketing audiences too small to target, I may need to consider making them slightly broader.

Your Turn

How are you planning for smaller remarketing audiences as a result of iOS 14?

Let me know in the comments below!