Once the changes go live to the way identity is managed in Apple’s iOS 14 (expected to happen early 2021) and the number of Identifiers for Advertisers (IDFA) decreases in the mobile advertising ecosystem, what is frequency capping going to look like? Will digital advertisers be able to determine ad frequency when running in-app ad campaigns on Apple devices?
Like many other components of iOS 14 and IDFA, it’s still early to say exactly what the final impact will be until 2021 at the earliest. But, it’s highly likely that the status quo around frequency capping in the Apple mobile space will shift once iOS 14 is widely adopted.
Frequency Capping Explained
First, a definition: Frequency capping is a process implemented by advertisers to ensure that people only see their ads a set number of times in a given time frame (usually hours but sometimes day, week or over the course of a campaign’s lifetime). Essentially, frequency capping limits the number of times a user sees messaging from a particular brand over a set period.
The idea behind it is to ensure that people are not inundated with an app’s ads, with the goal being to reach someone without annoying them. While frequency capping can be used for both display and video campaigns, it is often associated with high-impact formats like video ads since they are among the most memorable ad formats.
How Frequency Capping Will Be Impacted By These Changes
While there are different ways to frequency cap, by far one of the most common in mobile in-app advertising is at the device level. Essentially, the idea is to limit the number of impressions served on a particular device.
Within the Apple ecosystem, IDFA is/was a common option for frequency capping (the other being session-based identifiers). Because it is largely static (stays the same for as long as a device is in use) and is useful across apps and mobile websites, IDFA has largely become the default method for making sure individuals are not overwhelmed with a brand’s messaging no matter how they are using their device.
This is where things will change. With iOS 14, the expectation right now is that the majority of iPhone and iPad owners will opt out of being tracked in this manner. As a result, it will likely become increasingly difficult to frequency cap at the device level in the iOS ecosystem (frequency capping at the session/app level will continue unabated).
So what will advertisers do? There are some other sources of knowledge, like IP addresses, that can be leveraged, but they’re not as accurate. Supply-side platforms and exchanges may also provide identifiers for this purpose. It’s also likely that the Identifiers for Vendors (IDV) will be used.
The problem with IDV is that it only applies to apps owned by the same company. IDV is a publisher-level identifier applying only to a single company's apps. While this helps advertisers when they target big app publishers like Google (say, across YouTube and other Google properties), the same advertisers may not be able to use IDVs as effectively in a programmatic environment.
What To Expect In The Future
So what will frequency capping look like in iOS post iOS 14? There are a few likely scenarios:
- Advertisers will use alternative sources of user identification, like IDV and/or IP addresses, with the knowledge that some people may end up being overexposed to a particular ad.
- Advertisers will alter their creatives and messaging more frequently and/or will only run certain creatives and messaging for shorter periods of time, which helps to decrease the likelihood that someone is exposed to the same messaging anyways.
- Banner ads are frequency capped less often or less aggressively than other ad formats, so advertisers that run a lot of banners may not be as concerned as others if someone happens to see their ads frequently, since banners by their nature as not as invasive.
Of course, it’s possible that other options will emerge too, including combinations of the above scenarios. Until these changes around IDFA are live and widely adopted, advertisers can only guess and prepare for what the changes might mean regarding frequency capping.
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