You may be wondering why Meta ads have grown so expensive. In large part, it’s due to widespread iOS updates. Whether due to limited tracking, changing attribution windows, less customer data making its way back to Meta, experts agree that Meta ads in a post iOS14.5 landscape, ads are more expensive.
Most advertisers are aware of the havoc iOS14.5 has wreaked on paid media. But are you doing everything you can to ameliorate its effects? If your ads are still struggling to gain traffic and customer volume has remained stagnant over time, you may need to update your ad strategy.
In this post, we’ll walk you through how iOS14.5 affects ads and what you can do to minimize its effects.
iOS14.5 – What It Is
In April 2021, iOS14.5 went live, and with it came huge changes to user data, privacy, and attribution for those on Apple devices.
3 Key Ways iOS14.5 Affects Ads
App Tracking Transparency (ATT) Made CPAs More Expensive and Attribution Less Accurate
With the mandatory rollout of iOS14 for all Apple mobile phones, Apple required developers to get users’ permission to choose whether to allow third-party sites, such as Facebook and other social media sites, to track their user data on each app — this is called App Tracking Transparency.
User data includes metrics like conversions, visitor tracking, and view-through data.
In other words, some of your conversions may not be counted within your choice of paid media platform reporting. So, your ad performance might look bad solely because conversions aren’t being properly attributed to your campaigns.
2. Meta – CBO, Reporting, and Targeting Impacted
The ability to opt-out of sending user data affected campaign budget optimization (CBO), reporting accuracy, and interest targeting.
Within Meta, there were 5 major changes from this rollout that lead to ads being more expensive and Meta data being more inaccurate:
- Mobile apps limited to 9 campaigns per app and 5 ad sets per campaign
- Mobile apps limited to one Meta Ad account
- Conversion events capped at 8 events per domain (Note: when an iOS user opts out of tracking, Meta will only report one event)
- 24 – 72 hour delay in event reporting
- Attribution windows change to 1- 7-day click and/or view; 28-day no longer be available for all Meta advertisers
Compounding this, in July 2021, Facebook Analytics went away. Without it, in-depth insight into things like landing page testing, user engagement, and more become more difficult to gather. Learn more about Meta’s alternatives to Analytics here.
As users continued opting out of privacy sharing, audience sizes decreased, making it challenging AND EXPENSIVE to locate customers.
In the data we compiled from over 20 DTC brands, from April to August 2021, they saw a 69% increase in average monthly on-Facebook CPAs, jumping from $52 in April to $88 in August.
3. Intelligent Tracking Protocol Also Affects Data Across Channels
With updates to iOS14 came updates to the Intelligent Tracking Protocol (ITP). ITP had already limited advertisers from using third-party tracking across multiple domains for Safari browser users. And with the update, ITP affected all browsers for iOS users, not just Safari.
ITP poses a particular problem for businesses in which conversions are often delayed. That’s because when a user clicks on an ad but waits a few days before converting, their conversion will not be attributed to your advertising campaign.
ITP also significantly impacts retargeting pools, making them much smaller for advertisers utilizing third-party data due to when cookies are purged. With ITP, it’s nearly impossible to use third-party data for setting up 60 or 90-day site visit retargeting, for example.
5 Ways to Counteract the Effects of iOS14.5 on Advertising Reporting
1. All Platforms – Set Up Server-Side Tracking
If you have not already, we encourage utilizing additional tracking tools to ensure Facebook and Instagram work as efficiently as possible. This includes triple checking pixel placement, installing the conversion API, and using off-Meta data trackers like Google Analytics, Segment or AppsFlyer.
In that way, you can triangulate data. For e-commerce companies, this is particularly important for determining what ad strategies and creatives work more effectively.
With Meta’s announcement last year that Facebook/Meta Pixel will go away in 2022, it is crucial to set up Facebook’s Conversion API to pass data on the server side if you haven’t already. (How to: Shopify Sites, WordPress, WooCommerce or other CRM Sites , and Custom sites: Set up using Zapier here)
We also recommend turning on Auto-Advanced Matching in Facebook Events. Learn how to do that HERE.
And make sure to implement event deduplication if you do intend on using both Meta Pixel and the Conversion API (CAPI) for as long as Pixel is still active.
While you’re setting up CAPI for Facebook ads, it is beneficial to also implement enhanced conversions for your SEM. You can do so with either Google Tag Manager or Google Ads.
2. All Platforms – More Time, More Accurate Data
Sometimes, ads will receive fill-in conversions. Therefore, Meta recommends looking at longer time frames to get a more accurate view of how your ads or creatives are performing. Try to give your campaign at least 72 hours for Facebook to optimize it before evaluating performance.
As Meta says, “Given the nuances of delayed data and modeled reporting, daily assessment is still possible for campaigns, but waiting should help you get a more accurate picture of performance.”
3. All Platforms – Utilize Direct Data Lists
For prospecting and retargeting audiences, you can upload data lists like site purchasers and email newsletter subscribers. By manually uploading, you can counteract the declining accuracy of third-party data that goes along with Intelligent Tracking Protocol and App Tracking Transparency.
4. Meta – Check the Order of Your Conversion Events
Because iOS14.5 limits conversion event tracking, make sure to check that your conversion events align with your priorities. Confirm the order of your 8 events to ensure the highest-priority conversions are indeed ranked first. Configure web events using Aggregated Event Measurement.
5. Overall – Focus on First-Party Data
The more you can rely on conversion data directly from your website—through server-side tracking, sales data, etc.—the more future-proofed your marketing strategy will be.
Not only is Meta Pixel going away in 2022, but Google has announced it will stop supporting third-party cookies, which also track user data, in its Chrome browser by the end of 2023.
Better Ads are Possible Despite iOS14.5
While the changes wrought by iOS14.5 have certainly affected the accuracy of Meta and other third-party data and contributed to less visibility into ad performance across accounts, all is not lost. By switching your source of truth to first-party data and implementing new best practices, you can still generate a positive ROI on ads.
At Primer, we utilize the Outlier Method and high-volume testing. This ensures our ads don’t grow stale, continue to perform despite iOS changes, and speak to current trends. With Facebook’s shift into Meta, it’s all the more crucial to stay up-to-date on platform changes and industry-wide trends that may affect reporting efficacy and ad effectiveness.
We Can Help
If you’re a current Primer partner, you’re in good hands. Our broad network of partners gives us greater visibility into shifts in digital marketing marketplaces, which is crucial to maintaining a high ROAS as the landscape evolves with new Meta, Google, and Apple updates.
We keep partners informed of changes to ad strategy and reporting that can affect their bottom line.
If you aren’t working with Primer and you have any questions about how to manage your media spend, right now we’re offering complimentary growth consults. We’ll discuss your goals, audit your account, and let you know how we can support your brand’s growth.