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InMobi Exchange, iOS 14 and IDFA: What You Should Know

Team InMobi
9 min read
Posted on August 20, 2020

Apple announced major IDFA-related changes from iOS 14 onwards at WWDC 2020. As a result, how advertisers and publishers use IDFA for scalable user-level ad targeting and personalization will be impacted.  

What App Publishers Need to Know 

With iOS 14, publishers and developers are required to provide a purpose string that’s displayed to users through a pop-up and explains why they would want to track a specific user. InMobi fully supports this change being introduced in iOS 14 in the spirit to put the privacy of users first and giving people more control over the way their personal data is managed.   

While we do not yet have any neutral data to benchmark or estimate the opt-in rates yet, it’s likely that the number of users who opt-in will be low for apps in iOS 14. In this likely scenario, implementing meaningful value exchange with the users in return for data should be a priority for publishers.  

What we know today from our analysis testing apps on the iOS 14 developer build are the following:  

Publishers and app developers need to implement the AppTrackingTransparency framework before iOS 14 is released. Failing to do so, publishers face the risk of losing potential ad revenue from users who update to iOS 14.   

Permissions can be sought by the developer only once during the entire lifecycle of the app for a user.   

We expect the opt-in rates to increase if the permission dialog is shown later in the lifecycle of an app, rather than at first launch. Publishers should also consider ways to encourage users to provide consent through notifications or better onboarding experiences that are less intrusive and can drive higher opt-ins.  For example, notification banners can be used to urge users to opt in and, when clicked, leads to app privacy settings, where the user can simply opt in with a single tap. 

In the long run though, irrespective of the opt-in rates in a post-IDFA world, we would recommend publishers consider incentivizing users to enrich first party data as a best practice and continue to educate app users with higher degree of transparency.   

Identity and iOS 14 

Since most key in-app advertising tactics currently rely on using IDFA as an identifier, the quest to find a substitute identifier, one that is privacy compliant and can stand the test of time (measured in ad tech years!), becomes even more significant.    

InMobi will continue to support alternate signals to address basic ad serving use cases includingfrequency capping and setting other rules or measurement use cases including fraud detection that are critical to ensure a positive ad experience for users within an app.    

While IDFA was universally accepted for targeting due to its scale, there are other unique and near-deterministic signals which can be equally effective for such use cases. This includes IDV (the unique device identifier available to publishers across their apps on a given device), independent third-party device graphs and other surrogate identifiers with reliable match rates like IPV6 that could be used at scale for advertising effectiveness.    

Advertisers and iOS 14 

The impact of an IDFA-less world is no different on the advertiser side for demand-side platforms (DSPs). While optimizing advertising campaigns at the publisher and placement level will still be possible, it will definitely not be as effective as a user ID is to bidding strategies and personalization of ad creatives. In its absence though, in-app SSPs/Exchanges with data enriched inventory at scale and robust programmatic pipes will be able to provide specific performance data or contextually relevant signals that DSPs can immediately leverage.   

Although generating installs without a user ID will be challenging, performance-focused DSPs can leverage historical ad metrics (including session depth, historical CTR, historic VCR, domain information, etc.) and fingerprinting based on various data signals to drive user acquisition campaigns.   

For more brand-focused DSPs, that is DSPs focused on upper-funnel branding spends, we will be providing audience capabilities via deal IDs based on historical ad interaction metrics. All of this will happen without data leaving the users device which is in line with the spirit of Apple’s policies. On the other hand, brand-focused DSPs can also rely on a plethora of contextual signals that InMobi is able to provide thanks to its large in-app SDK footprint.  

This includes enriching bid requests with app metadata like content category or page content classification (as per standard IAB taxonomy), device signals (hardware type, operating system version, IPV6, network speed, sound settings, etc.), demographic information-based audience segments and precise (or broad) location information, as permitted by the user on iOS 14.   

We are currently in touch with all our DSP partners preparing the programmatic pipes to read and consume these signals, as InMobi begins passing them in the bid stream. 

Attribution and iOS 14 

That brings us to the last piece of the puzzle - attribution. Attribution is a double-sided problem since IDFA as a signal is required from our publishers (impression and click) and advertisers (when app is open and events within app) for install measurements. Therefore, the opt-in rates will determine the success of user-level app attribution.  

As we understand today, Apple is trying to enforce a privacy-safe install attribution mechanism with SKAdNetwork. While it works for all users and does not require an opt-in, the granularity of attribution is limited.  

Alternatively, advertisers can also choose to deploy attribution fingerprinting models provided by mobile measurement platforms (MMPs) instead of using the SKAdNetwork, in addition to using their services for operational tasks including aggregating install receipts and reporting. However, in case advertisers choose to move away from MMPs and prefer the more deterministic, last-click attribution via Apple SKADNetwork, then InMobi will work with our DSP partners to ensure that the attribution is seamless. This includes helping DSPs distribute the ‘registered Ad Network ID’ to our publishers, enriching oRTB stream with new SkAdNetwork specific objects, all relevant documentation and any other details to enable postbacks, so that the optimization challenges are unblocked.   

How We Are Moving Forward 

There is much to speculate at this point in time. Our intent at this juncture is to help our partners on both supply and demand side clarify questions or doubts on how InMobi can support both monetization and advertising during this transition. While the long-term impact of removal of identifiers on the mobile ad ecosystem needs to be seen, it is indeed a significant move towards providing more control over data to users. Advertising and app monetization, meanwhile, will learn to evolve around these changes on a trajectory that works best for publishers, advertisers and, most importantly, the users. 

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