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Is the industry ready for the future after IDFA?

How big a problem will the change be for marketers and publishers, and what should you be doing in response?

Apple’s announcement in June that iOS 14 would ask app users to opt in to be identified to advertisers was greeted in apocalyptic terms by the industry.

Previously, a user installing an app to their iPhone would automatically have opted into Apple’s Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA), which allows the users to be recognised via a seemingly random indentifier Apple’s move, which looks on the surface like part of the continuing trend to give consumers more control over their privacy, was seen as an existential threat to mobile advertising, at least on iPhones. So how big a problem will the change be for marketers and publishers, and what should you be doing in response?

Goodbye IDFA

IDFA on scale is used to build segments of users. Aggregated, that information enables the calculation of payments and attribution, the measurement of campaign effectiveness, and the retargeting of ads via lookalike modeling on programmatic channels.

Recently it has been possible to opt out of IDFA, but you needed to know a) that the option existed, and b) where in your iPhone Settings Limited Ad Tracked was (LAT). With the proposed changes via iOS 14, if the app you’re installing wants to use IDFA, you’ll see a dialogue box saying “[App] would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you.”

Opt-outs increase

iPhone users were already opting out of IDFA. The immediate impact of Apple’s latest move will be to increase their numbers dramatically.

It may become harder for advertisers to identify where consumers saw their ads, and how valuable these users actually are. Targeting in-app campaigns could become more difficult, and it will also be impossible to frequency cap ads to opted-out users in the same way as before, risking damage to those users’ perception of the advertiser.

Another short effect will be to drive iOS traffic buyers to Android, at least until Google follows suite with changes to its indentifier, GAID.

The biggest question-mark hangs over Facebook. The new restrictions on IDFAs could put their massive share of brands’ mobile advertising budgets at risk. However, they hold massive amounts of proprietary data on their users, and they have vast engineering resources.

At PubMatic, we believe the “Open Web” outside the “walled gardens” will shift from targeting by anonymised third-party cookies or identifiers to known identities based on consumer choice and opt-in. This shift towards significantly more reliable and accurate consumer identity has the potential to significantly increase advertiser ROI and therefore publisher revenue.

Hello SKAdNetwork

At the same time, Apple is positioning its updated SKAdNetwork as a privacy-safe solution for mobile attribution, and the framework has already been adopted by some mobile attribution companies, such as Singular. The difference is that the attribution process will be carried out within the App Store before the data – which will contain nothing to identify the individual user or their device – is passed to the ad network. If advertisers want to maintain the level of information they’re used to about their campaigns on iPhone, they will have to switch to using SKAdNetwork, or work with a mobile attribution company that supports it.

Best practices for iOS 14

Apple rolled out iOS 14 on 16 September 2020, but is not planning to enforce its IDFA changes until “early next year”. This gives app developers, publishers, advertisers, DSPs and agencies an opportunity to prepare. PubMatic has come up with a list of what each group should be thinking about.

Publishers:

Think through app design. See if there are ways in which you can encourage users to opt in. One idea is to present users with a value exchange, for example if user opts in would there be a possibliity of unlocking a new feature or reward

Pass as many parameters as possible when bidding. DSPs are working on how to retrain their algorithms to optimise if there are fewer mobile identifiers. They’ll be looking at other signals including SKAdNetwork and Identifier For Vendors (IDFV). Check that the following parameters are populated in the ad requests: app bundle, app store URL, user gender and age, keywords, location (country, postal code and GPS-based lat/long) and device info (OS, make and model). Having this information accurately included in the ad request makes your inventory more desirable through non-IDFA signals.

Update and test your app monetisationSDKs regularly. App developers are in the process of updating all their monetization SDKs so that attribution can be done in the absence of IDFA. Keeping your app monetization SDKs up to date should help you get better yield.

Aim to attract programmatic and brand budgets, rather than just traditional CPI spend. This will help mitigate the impact of the IDFA changes on your revenue.

Advertisers:

Work with your adtech partners. Understand the impact of this change and how they are planning to adapt to the new environment. Use the time before the iOS 14 changes come into force to test their new approaches and keep on top of new developments with the mobile attribution companies

Buy through Private Marketplaces (PMPs). These use other dimensions, such as viewability, to bundle high-quality inventory.

DSPs:

Retool your algorithms to listen to alternative signals. Mobile DSPs that were more dependent on IDFA started testing Limited Ad Traffic (LAT) inventory – current traffic that doesn’t have an identifier because users already opted out – even before iOS 14 was rolled out. Results so far have been very encouraging.

Look for alternative approaches to frequency capping. For example, support some alternative signals, such as IDFV, IPv6.

Agencies:

Look towards curated PMP deals. You can still target traffic or audiences based on viewability, using the IAB’s Open Measurement SDK. Brand campaigns are very suitable for PMP deals.

Capitalise on any first-party data from apps. Apps that have the scale (apps that have large audience segments sizes) and ability to package and activate the audiences should be able to leverage the data they collect on their users. This should be privacy-compliant and can be offered to buyers as an alternative to IDFA targeting.

Use contextual targeting. Continue targeting audiences based on verticals, page content etc.

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