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iOS 14 and IDFA: What Advertisers Need to Know

Team InMobi
11 min read
Posted on August 10, 2020

At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this year, Apple unveiled the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 14, among other announcements. But in the world of ad tech and mobile in-app advertising, the biggest news from WWDC this year related to its ID for Advertisers (IDFA). 

Specifically, Apple is now requiring every app to gain user permission to collect and use their IDFA for advertising purposes. Apps can only ask for opt-in permission once, the look and language of the ask is largely set, and all iOS apps will be required to ask their users on iOS 14 and greater.  

This move is part of a greater push from Apple around privacy on their end, to ensure consumer data is collected and used in a highly transparent manner. InMobi, and many others in the mobile advertising space, are very aligned with and very supportive of this overall goal.  

At this point, with iOS 14 not set to be released for a few weeks now, it’s still too early to know what the repercussions of this change will be or to otherwise have clarity on what its final impact will be for the ecosystem. But considering that the majority of in-app ad spending in the U.S. occurs on Apple devices and the outsized role Apple plays in the mobile ecosystem, this move regarding IDFA is significant. 

Some say only 15% or fewer will opt in, while more generous estimates see 75% opt-in rates for some apps. Considering that around 30% of iOS device owners in the U.S. have Limit Ad Tracking turned on even though it’s a bit hidden, it’s fair to say that at least half of those using iOS 14-powered devices will opt out – if not more. 

Of course, as opposed to the all-in-one approach of LAT, users will have to opt in for just about every app on their mobile device once iOS 14 is installed. This may mean that opt-in rates post iOS 14 will be lower than present-day LAT opt-in rates. 

As one of the largest players in the mobile in-app advertising world, InMobi is following developments closely. Below, we will outline what we expect to happen as a result of this move, and how this announcement will (and won’t) impact how we work with our brand, agency and demand-side platform (DSP) partners. 

Note: In today’s post, we will be focusing specifically on how iOS 14 will impact advertisers, with a particular focus on performance/user acquistion advertisers. Please stay tuned here for subsequent posts on how iOS 14 will impact InMobi Exchange and our publisher partners, along with additional content around how different components of the in-app advertising ecosystem will be specifically be altered by iOS 14. 

How an Advertiser’s Life May Change Post iOS 14 

Before we prognosticate, it helps to understand how the IDFA is currently utilized. It plays a major role in identity, attribution, efficiency, audience targeting, frequency capping and in fighting fraud, among other areas. 

The IDFA is used for three main purposes by advertisers: 

  1. The first is identity/targeting. Simply put this is the way advertisers recognize users in the ecosystem and target or retarget them in pursuit of their advertising goals. Most, if not all, campaigns target a specific set of users, typically based on attributes, affinity and other scores built on top of an IDFA user graph. While the lack of an IDFA removes all ability to build these kinds of user profiles, targeting based on user attributes (contextual or geo) rather than just an identifier may continue to be supported. 
  2. The second is efficiency and value management. The IDFA is used to power efficiency driving technology such as frequency capping, ad rotation, dynamic creative optimization and pricing/prediction. Without IDFA, it is also difficult for demand-side platforms (DSPs), ad networks and exchanges that advertisers work with to enforce a frequency cap on user impressions to optimize campaigns efficiently. We expect typical campaigns to move from using IDFA-based optimization to an in-session or non-persistent ID-based frequency capping. While not perfect, this prevents wastage of impressions on the same user. 
  3. The third is measurement and attribution. The IDFA is the most critical component of the measurement chain, powering multi-touch attribution, last-click attribution, last-view attribution etc., and is the basis on which all mobile media is measured today. Each of these aspects is impacted significantly by iOS 14. Additionally, depending on the intent of the campaign (upper funnel/branding vs. mid-funnel/prospecting vs. bottom-funnel/user acquisition and retargeting), a different level of cardinality is present in the issues presented, as well as the solution. 

In bottom-funnel advertising campaigns, the impact of this change is profound. Without IDFA, deterministic, user-level attribution for any app install is next to impossible. While Apple’s SKAdNetwork acts as a privacy-compliant substitute, it is limited by its current capabilities. The catch is that advertisers may only receive aggregated install data that will not be useful in understanding and optimizing for lifetime vale (LTV) (unlike LTV/user-level data provided by mobile measurement platforms today). 

Moving Past IDFA as the Single Source of Truth In Mobile Advertising 

It is worthwhile to note that IDFA is just one data signal among many that are currently utilized in mobile in-app advertising. Going forward, we expect more emphasis to be placed on probabilistic and contextual data signals, among other sources of knowledge. 

So what other sources of data will advertisers continue to have access to once iOS 14 is live on most Apple devices? The InMobi SDK will continue to gather relevant data where possible and where allowed. First-party data, whether from the publisher or another source, will still be available (and valuable) too. Historic benchmarks and results can be highly illuminating as well.  

For example, brand advertisers can expect to continue to rely on a plethora of contextual signals that InMobi, with its large in-app SDK footprint can bring on board. This includes enriching bid requests with app metadata like content category or page content classification (as per standard IAB taxonomy), device signals (like hardware version, IPv6, network speed, sound settings, etc.), demographic information-based segments and location information (both precise and coarse, as permitted by the user on iOS 14).   

It’s also important to note that iOS 14 doesn’t impact IDV, which is the publisher-specific user ID common to all App Store apps across the publisher. And, of course, the expected depreciation of IDFA could mean that third-party device graph identifiers like those from LiveRamp and Tapad play a larger role in the mobile in-app advertising ecosystem. These kinds of signals could be used at scale for advertising effectiveness, with reliable match rates.    

Overall, InMobi will continue to support alternate signals to address basic ad serving use cases including setting frequency capping/rules or measurement use cases including fraud detection that are critical to ensure and enhance a non-intrusive ad experience for users within an app. Further, for advertisers not running performance, app install campaigns, certain components of how they work and run mobile in-app campaigns will remain the same. Campaigns focused on scale, reach and brand awareness will likely be only somewhat impacted by the expected lack of IDFA information coming with iOS 14.   

Building a Privacy-First, Post-IDFA Future 

Apple’s moves with iOS 14 will increase transparency and trust in the mobile in-app advertising supply chain, and what’s not to love about that as an ultimate goal? Going forward, InMobi remains committed to continually serving the needs of our demand-side and supply-side partners in a way that best suits end users. 

To summarize, while we continue to iterate on the plan based on new information, our roadmap on the DSP/demand side will include the following things to address targeting needs for advertisers: 

  • Enabling alternate identifiers and IP/IPv6-based targeting. 
  • Working with multi-touch attribution and cross-device ID players. 
  • Enabling contextual targeting based on app page content for buying. 
  • Continued investment into location and geotargeting. 

How is InMobi going to address the needs of bottom-funnel or performance campaigns? For them, our roadmap will include the following things to address measurement and attribution needs of advertisers: 

  • Support for SKAdNetwork end-to-end, with continued support for MMP-based attribution, and support for a combination of SKAN + MMP attribution, based on advertiser needs.  
  • Building integrations with the entire ecosystem to ensure a clean flow of postbacks and attribution data to advertiser reporting dashboard.  
  • These pipes will be enabled by InMobi DSP as well as InMobi Exchange for respective partners and client use cases. 

Overall, we are in complete alignment with Apple and aim to support and ensure privacy in in-app advertising – and believe that platforms built to protect user privacy now will continue to remain at the forefront as the industry – including Android – continues to make user-first decisions. Our goal is to work with our partners in ways that both respect user privacy and ensure an efficient and effective advertising ecosystem.  

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