What’s happening?

Apple released the latest mobile version of its operating system, iOS 14, on Sept. 16. The release prioritizes privacy and safety much like Safari’s ITP release in 2019. The update forces mobile users to opt in to device tracking and is a significant change to the current opt-out environment.

When a user doesn’t opt in, their IDFA – the random identifier assigned to an Apple device – is obscured. Advertisers use IDFAs to serve customized advertising through attribution, retargeting and frequency capping, and to follow consumer behavior within apps. Without IDFA identification advertisers are unable to track the device past the initial ad serving in an app environment.

What does this mean?

This is such a significant change to the mobile advertising industry that Apple has delayed its full execution until 2021 to allow the industry to better prepare. The release affects both the tracking of user behavior within apps and the advertising served within apps on mobile phones. The loss of tracking has serious implications for media properties, brands and agencies as it becomes more difficult to determine mobile campaign effectiveness. In our recent conversations with media vendors, they have been taking one of three stances:

  1. Status Quo – Some vendors are welcoming this change as positive for privacy and security while acknowledging some of its shortcomings, but do not have plans to account for the loss in iOS device attribution.
  2. Modeled Data – Others are working toward a modeled data solution using historical data of post-iOS campaign performance to determine current campaign effectiveness.
  3. Panel Data – There are vendors suggesting the use of tracking companies, like Placed or Place IQ, which use panel behavior that is then modeled out to a larger universe.

What should marketers be doing?

Brands should be talking to their agency about the implications of this change within their current and future media plans. Your business and communication goals, coupled with the degree to which you rely on mobile advertising to reach your target audience, will determine the steps you need to take.

Currently, modeling – whether based on historical data (inferring future performance) or panel data – has its limitations, and LGA does not believe it is an adequate solve for the loss of mobile attribution data for clients that lack massive scale. Instead, we are relooking at the use of mobile advertising within our campaigns and focusing on what is trackable while exploring other ways to account for attribution outside of vendor-provided data. For many clients we are suggesting the following changes:

  • Conducting mobile reach campaigns only using mobile web inventory, which can then be tracked much like desktop campaigns.
  • Utilizing advanced modeling techniques to understand the influence mobile advertising has on brand KPIs.
  • Instituting strict testing matrices to understand the live, in-market performance differences of having or not having mobile app advertising. This is standard practice with any channel to ensure that the real contribution of media is discovered instead of just relying on advanced modeling.

These solutions provide a comprehensive plan to approach mobile advertising as privacy regulations and features get implemented across all operating systems. It also provides a playbook for brands to address changes across the channel and device ecosystem, resulting in continued spend efficiency and maximized performance.


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