IOS 14 Update: What Facebook Advertisers Need to Know

As Apple's iOS operating system upgrades to version 14, it is introducing privacy policies that will affect how Facebook handles ads. Find out how this is going to play out after the dust settles, and the story behind the story.

IOS 14 Update: What Facebook Advertisers Need to Know

When big technology companies fight, most of us have an urge to just grab the popcorn and watch. But this time the online digital marketing industry has a horse in the race. It affects how Facebook marketing will behave on Apple devices, as well as data tracking for marketing purposes on other social media platforms.

RELATED: Are Your Facebook Ad Campaigns Ready for iOS14?

Before we dive into the steps you need to take, let’s review the backstory of this clash:


iOS vs. Facebook: What’s Going On?

iphone ad

So we know that online digital marketing involves some user data tracking; you search Google for “marketing automation software” and then the next time you watch a YouTube video, it runs an ad for Salesforce or Hubspot. This is the difference between showing the user “personalized ads” and just any random ad.

On the desktop, tracking of user data is done with good old browser cookies. On the mobile platform, since mobile users are more prone to use apps, user data tracking is done with a cookie-like data snippet called an IDFA, an identifier for advertisers. On Apple devices, users always could disable IDFAs, but this option was buried deep in menus.

Now, Apple has announced that iOS 14 will instead put that option upfront in a dialogue over every app, requiring the user to decide on whether or not to allow their data to be tracked. The concept is very similar to the pop-up we see from websites when they ask something like “Our site uses cookies, is that OK?” This became more common after laws like the European Union’s “General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”

facebook privacy settings on iphone

The change at Apple is the latest blow in a long-standing fight between Apple and Facebook over user data privacy issues. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been making dramatic speeches about companies tracking user data, with cries of “A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe!” Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg considers Apple a competitor and ponders filing a lawsuit, while sharing his doubts about Apple’s sincerity: “Apple may say that they’re doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track their competitive interests.”

Facebook and Apple CEOs

Aren’t they just precious?


What’s the Fallout for Facebook Marketing on iOS?

We have covered the dichotomy between digital marketing and user privacy concerns before. Studies have shown that users, while expressing concerns about their privacy, just go ahead and opt-in for tracking anyway. When the media polls users on the street, user data tracking becomes a scary Big Brother. When users get home, they want the convenience of Wayfair remembering the throw pillow set the user was eyeing when they come back for it on payday.

However, it’s best to prepare for the worst and middle case scenarios. We anticipate that for a short time frame, there will be some impact on advertisers. Let’s take a look below.

How iOS 14 Will Impact Facebook Advertising Performance:

  • IOS 14 will impact how advertisers can track and receive information from conversion events that use tools like the Facebook Pixel unless users have “opted in” to share their information. This will affect all social media platforms, not just Facebook and Instagram.
  • You can expect to see an initial decrease in conversions as people opt out of tracking. Actual results will be under-reported from the Facebook platform, which will lead to a rise in cost per action (CPA). This will happen in the short term but Facebook is working on solutions to better estimate an accurate CPA.
  • The attribution windows Facebook uses to calculate CPAs will shorten from 28 days to 7 days. If your conversions happen within a shorter time frame, the impact is likely to be minimal.
  • Retargeting audiences will naturally shrink as people opt out of tracking, meaning that it will be harder to reach back out to the same person once they see your advertisement, minimizing available touchpoints.
  • Reporting will be delayed by up to three days with the new update, so campaign analysis and reporting should take place at least four days after the reporting period ends.
  • The Facebook Audience Network, which is typically used in best practice, will be less able to reach audiences with custom messages and may reach users with less relevant messaging, initially causing higher CPMs.
  • There will now be a limit on the number of ads that you may publish per Facebook page. This will only be an issue for businesses with several locations and or ad sets. See new limits here.

This is assuming that every Apple user on Facebook is radically motivated by Tim Cook and denies all user data advertising access. Which, as we pointed out earlier, they have always been able to do already, if they go to Settings → Privacy → Advertising, and check “limit ad tracking.”

Limit ad tracking setting on Apple devices

Come to that, if users are that concerned about privacy, they can search using only DuckDuckGo, switch to a VPN, and so on.

It’s not like Apple is blameless in this issue. Apple allows advertisers to target users based on their history in the App Store and News app; they’ve been doing it for years. Apple’s Advertising & Privacy policy states “Contextual information may be used to serve ads to you,” including searches, location, carrier, and connection type. It also states “we create segments, which are groups of people who share similar characteristics, and use these groups for delivering targeted ads.” Pot calls kettle black, film at 11.

We’re guessing that if Apple users were going to be all that concerned, they would have taken some steps before now. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Action Steps For Facebook Advertisers:

To mitigate any negative impact here’s what Facebook advertisers need to do:

  • In the events manager, update Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 to version 8.1.
  • Facebook is encouraging verification of your website domain, especially if your domain has a pixel used by various businesses or a personal ad account. Not sure if you need to verify your domain? Check here.
  • Advertisers will be limited to 8 conversion events per domain until further notice. You may need to reduce the number of conversion events in your events manager.
  • Pay closer attention to demographic breakdowns. if you notice a sharp increase in upper funnel metrics, the audience may need to be trimmed of less efficient age groups.
  • If impressions rise too sharply and reduce campaign efficacy, lookalike (LAL) audiences may need to shrink.
  • To counteract high CPMs, test removing the audience network and using manual placements.

If you notice any unexpected performance dips, consult with your Facebook advertising agency to investigate the root of the change.

Facebook is fighting back, with a campaign to educate users on the usage of user data. Facebook is also showing users prompts to turn off data tracking as a pilot program, just to see what users do. Mark Zuckerberg has also been very vocal in the media about this issue, but for most people, it’s just popcorn entertainment.

Want to sign a petition? Facebook is providing a space where you, as a member of the global electronic commerce market, can add your voice if you disagree with Apple’s new update. Which, as we’ve shown, basically comes down to anti-competitive behavior in favor of its own Apple Search Ads product.


Thinking of growing your business and taking it to the next level? Facebook advertising can help you get there. Cardinal Digital Marketing specializes in Facebook advertising, which can drive leads to your digital front door. Interested? Feel free to contact us to learn how we can create and implement a successful Facebook advertising strategy for your business.

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