In April, Apple unleashed a new update called Apple iOS 14.5 for iPhone users. The update requires apps to allow users to opt-out of tracking when they download an app from the iStore.

Data is money — and tracking users’ movements and actions online is gold to many companies, especially Facebook, which uses this data to improve ad targeting.

Here’s what the Apple iOS update means to your social media advertising and the potential ramification of Apple’s first strike in the battle for user privacy.

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What Is the Apple iOS 14.5 Update?

Like all companies, Apple periodically updates its software to accommodate changes, fix bugs, and shore up its security. The iOS 14.5 update focuses on privacy issues by updating Apple’s app Tracking Transparency Framework (ATTF). The update is intended to provide greater clarity and transparency into companies’ monitoring, tracking, and use of consumer data.

Apple iPhone users always had at least some measure of control over their privacy, if they knew how to go into their settings and set it so that tracking was disabled, but few people had an awareness of just how much and what kinds of data was being tracked. Now, however, every time they download an app to their iPhones, they will be prompted with a message that shows all the types of data that the app will have access to. A pop-up box will appear prompting users to actively accept tracking. The default is now to block tracking on apps installed on iPhones.

What It Means for Social Media Marketing (Especially Facebook)

More control over personal data is a good thing, right? Well, to most consumers, it certainly is a good thing. Consumers were spooked a few years ago when the sheer volume and detail of Facebook’s data tracking activities became known. This, coupled with European GDPR requirements and similar pro-privacy ripples across the world may have encouraged Apple to focus on user privacy in their latest update.

What’s the big deal, then? Consumers may herald this as a ‘win’ for privacy rights. But companies are viewing it with trepidation.

The Impact on Facebook Advertising

One such example of the possible negative impact of Apple’s new privacy stance is with Facebook advertising.

Facebook currently tracks users’ movements through the placement of pixels. Pixels are small pieces of code stored in an app or on a website. When a Facebook user visits a website and takes an action (such as adding a product to the shopping cart or moving on to page or another website), the pixel captures that information and sends it to Facebook. This adds data to the Facebook campaigns which advertisers can use to assess how well various Facebook ads perform.

With the new iOS 14.5 update advertisers will now only be allowed to set up eight prioritized and ranked optimization events for a pixel on a single domain, choosing which event is most important for each campaign, rather than tracking all activity from each visitor to a website. According to Facebook, “Only the highest priority event will be sent whenever a customer takes multiple actions during a conversion window, all other events may report numbers that are lower than expected, even if they are within the 8. These events may still be happening, but they might not reflect in reporting.” That’s going to limit the data that sites are allowed to collect. What if a site has 100 product pages? That will severely curtail the amount of data that can collect from a Facebook campaign.

Another way this will impact marketing is to decrease companies’ abilities to personalize ads. Without data, companies cannot show visitors personalized content. Marketers know that personalized ads work better than impersonal ones.

If advertisers know you’ve been shopping on pet product websites for dog food and toys, showing you ads for dog training products provides you with an ad focused on something you may want. But without the data that shows you own a dog (because you shopped on websites related to dog products, and advertisers track that information), you may see advertisements for rugs instead.

Perhaps you need a new rug (a new puppy in the house?) But it’s just as likely that you’re satisfied with your current rug. It would have made much better sense to show you dog training ads after you visited an e-commerce pet store to purchase dog food, but without the data, advertisers cannot target customers’ interests as effectively. The result may be ads that aren’t as effective because they do not target consumers’ current interests and needs.

Without the relevant and timely data collected from tracking activities, advertising online returns to the digital equivalent of billboard ads: untargeted, generic ads shown to a large number of people in the hopes that one among many is interested in the product.

Revise and Rethink Digital Advertising Strategies

As you can see, the new iOS 14.5 update is likely to have a major impact on digital advertising strategies. We recommend contacting Dashboard Interactive Marketing immediately for a consultation to review and adjust your digital advertising strategy.

There are specific steps that we can take to refine and retarget your ads so that they continue to get you the best possible ROI for your advertising dollar. But we need to take action on your behalf now to prevent the update from negatively impacting your advertising response.

It is likely that other companies will follow Apple’s lead, or that social media sites, that depend on the wealth of data they collect from their users to fill their bank accounts, to push back in other ways against the new privacy updates. This continues to be an unfolding and evolving situation, so we will keep you apprised of any developments.

We welcome your calls to schedule an advertising check up to ensure maximum ROI for your digital ads. Call Dashboard at 763-242-2454 today.