BREAKING NEWS: The Clash of the Titans in 2021

Elke Farnworth
January 15, 2021
Digital advertising is shaping up for a major showdown - and it's only January. Facebook is throwing down the gauntlet on its battle over the looming IOS update, giving consumers a privacy option plan that will dramatically limit targeting of relevant ads. This is in direct response to a change that Apple is making 'in the name of privacy’. Apple is discouraging people from consuming relevant advertising and forcing businesses to adapt to their model, which allows Apple to take a cut through subscriptions and in-app transactions.

Here is what we know from hours of reading the fine print.

Apple is planning - date still TBC - to enforce an in-app prompt (affecting Facebook and ALL other apps) that will ask all users for permission to track them across apps and websites. All users must choose to 'opt-in' or 'opt-out'.

This will change Facebook's advertising reporting to a Restricted, Aggregated & Delayed framework:

  1. Restricted; Access to certain types of data will be removed.
  2. Aggregated; Measuring certain events at ad level will be available but not the full funnel of events / or the entire event path.
  3. Delayed; Events will be reported from Apple randomly between 24-48 hours after they happen.

Our head of digital advertising gave us a breakdown of the main changes that you should know:

  • Changes will affect all mobile device advertising, not just to IOS devices. Facebook won't run multiple operating systems for android or IOS, they have chosen to continue with one operating system that conforms to IOS requirements.
  • Multiple Facebook pixels connected to a domain will change to 1 pixel per domain.
  • Unlimited pixel events per pixel are changing to up-to 8 events per domain, however, advertisers will have the ability to choose the 8 events and rank them in order of importance. Advertisers will have the ability to track those 8 events from users that choose to 'opt-in', but only 1 event from those that choose to 'opt-out'. That 1 event will be the event reached with the highest rank from the nominated 8 events.
  • Event reporting will be delayed up to 48 hours due to Apple's delay in providing data. Facebook may offer some 'modelling' (predictions) of events before receiving the data from Apple.
  • The current attribution model of 7-day click, 1-day view with 28-day reporting will be changing to 7-day click, with 1-day view 'partial' data.
  • Get used to the term 'partial' as this will refer to 'some' events or 'some' conversions based on the data available from those that choose to 'opt-in' and allow tracking. 'Partial' also means other events like purchases are likely still occurring, they just won't be reported on within Facebook.
  • Event breakdowns will no longer exist. This means insightful funnel data and the journey of events leading to the conversion will no longer be available in Facebook Analytics, but may be available in other platforms like Google Analytics 4.
  • Data on the exact conversion value (purchase value) and ROAS (return on ad spend) will become less available, making it a less reliable source of data. The introduction of 4 'value sets' will allow a conversion with value to fall into 1 of 4 predefined groups, e.g. $0-$50, $51-$100, $101 - $200, $200-$300.
  • From implementation we will immediately see a performance decline across advertising. Conversions from those that 'opt-out' will still occur, but will not be reported on within Facebook.
  • Custom audience sizes will decline as advertisers lose the ability to create custom audiences including those that choose to 'opt-out'. This will also produce audience overlaps as we can no longer exclude audiences from campaigns, e.g. excluding an existing customer from a prospecting campaign will be harder. 
  • Apple has not confirmed their launch date, so Facebook cannot provide a date that advertising changes will take place.
  • Changes to Facebook's operating systems will begin from January 19, so having professional advertising management is more important than ever for optimising the new solutions available for your business to adapt successfully. 

These changes will impact businesses of every scale, including publishers and developers. It will be very disruptive, especially for small businesses that rely on self-managed advertising.

Further, these changes won't just affect businesses and their advertisers, but consumers too. Don't be misled into thinking that choosing to 'opt-out' of Facebook's tracking will block you from seeing ads, it won't. It may change the type of ads you see and make them less relevant to you. You may no longer get a handy reminder that you left an item in your cart that's now discounted an extra 20%. Or you may keep seeing an ad offering a deal that you already signed up for. You're also less likely to see personalised ads or with similar products based on your online research.

Multiple updates will also be needed throughout 2021 to comply, adapt and readapt as the industry creates new solutions. Facebook has already said that more measurement solutions are in development.

At April Ford, we are following Facebook's advice and preparing our clients for these changes. Our advertising team will begin with simple steps including addressing Facebook's new request for domain verification, determining the new top 8 events for optimal campaign reporting, removing multiple pixels from websites, and reconsidering strategies and retargeting requirements for all clients to minimise disruption when changes begin. All this makes it an ideal time for everyone to consider industry predictions that website cookies will no longer exist past 2022, making it even harder to track and retarget. Now is the time to start reviewing your combined advertising and marketing results, conversion attributions and looking to a platform like Google Analytics for a holistic view of your business, brand and results.

The very good news for our clients is we're working on creating tailored action plans and will contact you directly this week with our advice. So don't panic, it's just evolution!