Apple’s enforcement of App Tracking Transparency (ATT), starting with the release of iOS 14.5 in April 2021, has caused shockwaves throughout the mobile advertising industry. For advertisers who have long relied on device-level identifiers to run campaigns, ATT upends business as usual.
So what are advertisers and agencies doing now in light of these changes? Let’s take a look at the five most common options.
Can’t identify iOS users at the device level? Why not just switch in-app ad budgets to where you still can? In the short term, many advertisers simply reallocated their mobile ad budgets to spend more on Android. According to data from InMobi Exchange, in looking at numbers from July 2021 (post-ATT) as compared to January 2021 (pre-ATT), Android eCPMs rose by 20% while iOS eCPMs fell by 16% because of this widespread reallocation.
Still, most industry observers expect this to be a short-term pivot. Even though Android users are a highly valuable audience in their own right, many mobile marketers have historically seen a higher return on their investment when targeting iOS users. And in markets like the U.S., there are simply more iOS users than Android users now.
It’s important to note that ATT specifically governs the collection and sharing of device-level data. There are a number of ways in which advertisers can run campaigns without this information, even if they were reliant on IDFAs in the past.
For example, ATT primarily is about third-party data and data sharing. Any first-party data (I.e., data that is collected and used by the advertiser or publisher themselves) is fair game. Increasingly, many advertisers have taken steps to boost their first-party data capabilities, often through data lake initiatives, and then making that data available for use within their mobile advertising campaigns through data clean rooms.
The most well-publicized such workaround is SKAdNetwork (SKAN), which is Apple’s privacy-friendly framework for paid app install attribution. While SKAN has many notable limitations, including but not limited to its short postback windows and reliance on last-click attribution, it is being used more frequently. Between October and November 2021, the share of bid requests on InMobi Exchange that included SKAN IDs rose by 26%.
Further, many demand-side platforms (DSPs) and other ad tech platforms serving advertisers have updated their bidding algorithms to account for having less data than before. DSPs are using machine learning algorithms to more effectively determine the best bidding strategies even without device IDs.
Even despite these limitations, some advertisers and ad tech vendors don’t want to move away from the old status quo. In September 2021, months after ATT was first introduced, The Washington Post reported that dozens of major apps and their ad tech partners continued to collect and share personal data even if someone opted out of being tracked – a clear violation of ATT and privacy.
Needless to say, this is a terrible idea. It’s only a matter of time before Apple cracks down on ATT violations, and the short-term benefits of flaunting the rules now are unlikely to counteract the long-term pain of being found non-compliant. As AdExchanger’s Allison Schiff wrote last year, “just because Apple hasn’t started enforcing ATT doesn’t mean it’s not going to – and perhaps quite soon.”
For some advertisers, ATT has little to no impact on their iOS in-app advertising. For many brands, mobile advertising in this environment can more or less continue as normal.
Advertisers looking to boost brand awareness or otherwise running top-of-the-funnel campaigns can use the same metrics as before. For these kinds of campaigns, success was measured using KPIs like viewability rate, video completion rate, etc. These kinds of metrics are largely unimpacted by ATT.
While brand awareness campaigns largely will look the same as they always have in iOS, there are a few nuances that ATT brings to the table. For one thing, frequency capping with in-app advertising has long relied on device-level IDs, although there are workarounds. Many anti-fraud measures have also been historically using IDFAs in iOS, but these options are far from the only ones available.
In the wake of ATT and its changes, some advertisers elected to pause all of their mobile ad spending to regroup and better understand how to move forward in this new environment. Chief among this group were those who were heavily dependent on iOS advertising and/or mostly used Walled Gardens that themselves have been heavily impacted by the changes.
Needless to say, advertisers can’t stay out of the fray forever. The iOS audience is simply too big and too valuable to ignore. At some point, just about all advertisers will need to press play on in-app advertising again, especially if they want to reach consumers where they are and where they spend the most amount of time.
What should your business’s response to ATT look like? Schedule a consultation with the mobile experts at InMobi to find out.
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