By now you’ve probably, at the very least, heard that an Apple iOS 14 and 14.5 update exists, even if the particulars are a little hazy. The reporting of it is coming through a bit doom's day for marketers and business owners and a total reclaim of privacy for users. Neither is quite true. 

In saying that, no one can know for sure what it’s going to mean long term, including us, or if it is going to mean anything at all. 

However, we can help to explain what the iOS 14 privacy update is meant to achieve for users, and how this could affect digital marketing activity, particularly for social media ads.

So, what does it mean for you as a business owner? And what does it mean for us and our paid digital marketing service? What exactly does it mean for you as a user?

What is the iOS 14 update?

In its simplest form, it’s an ‘opt out’ option for Apple users regarding inter-app data sharing (once a user enters an app after the update). In-app information can still be used for developers, but if a user does not consent to it this data cannot be shared with any external party to help them target ideal audiences in their digital advertising. (You know, when a service or product follows you around your digital spaces via ads that are almost too perfect for you...). 

The function to opt in or out of this has always been available (at least for the last few years); the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) toggle in your Settings and Privacy (unless you are under 18 and/or you work in certain industries with a work-supplied phone). The update is now making the availability of this option more visible, compulsory and now, of course, changing the game for targeted ads. 

You can read more about the specifics of the change in this informative Adulcent article.

For Business Owners

Facebook would like you to think this is a very big negative deal for business owners who are just trying to target the right audience for a product or service you provide. To an extent, this is true. But, it’s certainly not going to end your ability to reach an applicable audience. 

A function of this opt-in or -out is the pop-up that asks for your consent. The only legitimate and effective one is the native Apple version, however developers are creating their own last shot preamble pop-up to attempt to remind users of the value data swapping provides them. 

For example, free to air streaming sites remind you of their ability to curate the movies, shows and documentaries you enjoy based on the data they’ve collected. Valuable enough to forgo added privacy? That’s not yet known.

If you have an app and this applies to you, creating your own value statement could be a good strategy to deploy. As long as what you’re promoting is genuinely valuable. 

In other words, maybe don’t do what Facebook (and subsequently Instagram) offered. Which was, well… not much. Instead they cited that opting out threatens the free component of their platform. Since the 2019 removal of the Facebook slogan ‘Free and always will be’, a paid version is a possibility. For business owners, this can seem scary. If users have to pay, will they? If they don’t, do you lose a valuable platform for sharing, targeting and interacting with engaged audiences? Perhaps… if it happens. Let’s cross that pay wall when and if we come to it. We're not yet convinced data-swapping is what this decision hinges on.

At the moment, this is merely a non-threatening threat. 

Where it matter most to business owners is in social ads, especially if functions like Facebook insights and targeting has made up the majority of your paid digital marketing activity.

Yes, you are going to experience a diluted version of targeting than you are used to. But, your outcomes are unlikely to be hit as hard as you think. 

Let us explain further…

For Digital Marketers

That’s us. We’ve been hit with a lot of hyperbole regarding what this all means. When we broke it down, the result is a slight shift in how some of the paid ads are approached. However, this is the very nature of digital marketing anyway and the changes are fairly minor. 

On an assumption that every Apple user opts out, we lose some data that we do indeed use for targeted ads, especially on Facebook. It affects look-alike audiences and a more granular understanding of what our clients’ desired audience are liking engaging in. 

Typically, and certainly at Zimple, digital marketing is never a case of throwing all your eggs in one strategy basket. While social media advertising plays a part, even a big part, of the paid strategy, it’s just one component. For example, many of our clients’ experience their biggest wins through search (some up to 80% of their overall conversions). 

Our ability to target an audience will also still be there; any data already collected is still available and the new data is still valuable. 

What we might see is a heightened interest in reach as a valuable metric (casting nets wider in lieu of having such specific information available), and innovative, creative workarounds for how ads are presented (without being able to rest on any laurels that the audience is on a silver platter) and concentration on inbound strategies (that is, be on top of your email lists!). 

For the user

This is all of us. If you are an Apple user you have gained a transparent and quickly available route to obtaining a bit more autonomy over your privacy while in an app. As mentioned, this has always been available, it just wasn’t widely advertised. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when making your decision to opt in or out:

  • If you opt out of Facebook but on Instagram, Facebook will be able to obtain all data collected on Instagram (being its parent company). There will be other versions of this. 

  • If you have already disallowed data sharing on your IDFA, you may not receive any pop-ups.

  • Opting out does not exclude you from exposure to ads. In-app data is still utilised for targeting, and legacy general interest targeting will still exist.  

  • Apple are offering in-house targeting tools such as SKAdNetwork that shares how many times an app was installed after an ad was seen. 

  • They’ll also offer Private Click Measurement that will tell developers how many times an ad was clicked for specific products.  

We get it, it’s a lot to unpack, and there’s a lot here we haven’t touched on (we’ve instead tried to pull out the parts that are most relevant to our service and our audience). 

Here are some articles that we found valuable that you might want to explore:

iOS 14.5: The Surprising Problem With Apple’s Big Privacy Update

The iOS14 Update: What You Need to Know

You can also contact us for any concerns you’d like clarified regarding our digital marketing strategies for forging forward through these changes. 


Photo by Mihai Moisa on Unsplash

Written By

Rikki Hodge-Smith

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