iOS Update 2021 – Impact on Facebook Ads

THe iOS update 2021 is possibly the most significant & challenging change for Facebook Advertisers since Facebook Ads began almost 2 decades ago.

Facebook ads are complicated – there’s no doubt about it.

I was one of the lucky ones who were able to start using Facebook Ads way back when you could just post a picture up on your business page and everyone following the page would see it.


Retargeting was not a thing back then – nor even were adsets or Cammpaign budget Strategies, Events or multiple layered campaigns.

Tracking Pixels weren’t even a thing at that time.

Nowadays, running a Facebook Campaign without pixel event based retargeting is almost like trying to fill a bucket with holes in the bottom.

Facebook Ads run on data based insights to customer behaviours. The iOS update 2021 will remove large sections of that data.

Let’s take a look at what it’s about.

ATT (App Tracking Transparency) is an Apple decision to enforce an opt in or opt out for all Apps used on iPhones with iOS of 14 or higher.

This means that Apple will not accept Apps without this option. Users are not just given the opportunity to opt out – they have to select their choice when they install the App.

This is a massive change for Facebook Ads because a section of the data will in effect be absent.

Before you panic – it’s only iPhone users with operating system 14 or higher, and it’s only those who opt out. It is nonetheless going to create a hole in the data or a data driven machine.

Step One is to assess how this impacts by going to Google Analytics and finding out what percent of your audience is on iPhones.

For me for my main E-Comm site, it’s about 18% of my audience on iPhone and fewer on the latest version. It’s not massive, but it is inconvenient.

Next, understand the other things that will change.

Restriction of events to optimise for.

Each domain will have a maximum of 8 pixel events to optimise ads for.

Pixel events are tracked actions on a website – and can be ‘clicked a button’, ‘commenced registration process’, ‘viewed product’, ‘add product to cart’ or ‘completed purchase’.

These are all standard events and are used in ad campaigns for visibility on how far down your funnel a consumer may be (and to enable you to send the best and most impactful message to this person based on the stage of their journey).

Once ATT kicks in (Northern Hemisphere Spring is the timing we have been notified of), advertisers using multiple events will have to trim down to only 8 custom or standard events. It’s a really big deal for experienced ad managers. Campaigns that have been build on complexity will now have to be unpacked and rebuilt.
Not only that, the reporting will also be less rich. Only the ‘deepest’ conversion will be reported – so if a consumer views a product, adds it to the cart then completes their purchase, complete purchase is the only event that will be reported.

This makes it a bit harder to track conversion at each stage, and assumptions will have to be made.

Attribution Windows Change

Attribution is the window of time between your customer seeing your ad and completing the purchase. it is a useful piece of information when designing how many layers of campaign a brand will require to complete the purchase.

Attribution window reporting will change to a 7 day from click default window once the ATT changes are in place.

 Facebook Ad users are strongly advised to learn more about their attribution windows by running a report in the ad manager before the changes apply – you can find out how to do this in the PDF download below.

Exclusion Audiences will be incomplete
No good ad campaign is without exclusions. As your customer travels from one event to the next, you exclude them from the ones they have completed and target them for the next one in the funnel. 
Advertisers will have to figure out a new way of managing exclusions, such as uploading purchaser lists for exclusion of actual data rather than relying on pixel event data.
Interest based audiences will be smaller and relatively weaker, due to less data being available overall – impacting on all campaigns (including desktop).

What could and should you do now to prepare?

Being aware of the changes ahead and knowing that your reported conversions will decline is important – so that you don’t misunderstand the reason – the conversions through the pipeline are likely to still be happening, they just are not being reported as they were.

Learn as much as you can now about the conversion path and attribution timeframes – because this will enabe you to create rations to adjust to for measuring in the initial window.

Verify Your Domain
This is actually critically important. in your Facebook business Manager, get the code snippet for Domain Verification (you will find it under Brand Safety in the menu). Add that code to your Domain Name Settings, then click the green Verify button. only brand owners can get the code. Fortunately, it’s easy to do!

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