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Is Apple Hurting Your Facebook Advertising?

The moral is to wait and watch.




MOM AND DAD are fighting. And we’re all caught in the middle.

In this case, Mom and Dad are two tech giants, Apple and Facebook. And at this point, we’re still not sure if the collateral damage will be like Hong Kong after the Godzilla vs. Kong battle. Let’s take a look at why.

War of the Pop-Ups

On April 26th, Apple released iOS 14.5, an update to the software that runs the iPhone. This update adds a one-time popup for Facebook (and other apps) asking if you’d like them to be able to track you. You can answer, “Ask App not to Track” or “Allow.”

This little popup is giving Facebook an ulcer. So much so that Facebook has one of its own. According to the Washington Post:

In one pop-up message that Facebook is testing, a drawing of a smiling woman on her cellphone, flanked by a cup of tea and a vase of flowers, precedes a plea to get users to allow their “app and website activity” to be used to “support businesses” and “get ads that are more personalized.”

Why Is This Such a Big Deal?

And what’s that about “supporting businesses”?

Well, Apple’s popup is basically a new on/off switch for apps who want access to your device’s IDFA. “IDFA” looks fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not. It just stands for “Identifier for Advertisers.” And Apple created it, put it on all their devices, and shared it with advertisers by default for years.


So, if Facebook is partnering with, say, a proposal planning app, that app might share all the IDFA identifiers it has with Facebook. Facebook can then match those with its user’s IDFAs and determine which ones are in the market for engagement rings. This way, Facebook could have a way to understand your interests even if you’ve never said or done anything in Facebook itself to indicate what they are.

In theory, this would hurt local jewelers who are targeting people on Facebook who are interested in engagement rings. Without that extra information, Facebook perhaps can’t offer you as many people with such specific targeting. Instead, advertisers would target smaller pools and fill in the rest with generic demographics like age and gender.

While Apple might seem altruistic in adding this feature, some have pointed out that if apps make less money from ads, they’ll be more likely to charge money for the app instead. And who gets a cut of money paid for apps? Apple, not Facebook.

Is That Really What’s Going to Happen?

We have no clue. This technique is one possible way that Facebook could use the IDFA to gather relevant info for advertisers. But we really don’t know the breadth of their data collecting techniques or how much they are affected by access to Apple’s IDFA.

Worst Case

Right now, it’s estimated that “41 percent of the time, people tapped ‘allow’ to permit the tracking”. If that number holds true (or shrinks) and users demand this same type of privacy on Android devices, it all comes down to how Facebook actually works. If the IDFA is a substantial and irreplaceable tool for Facebook, we’re talking about a 59% reduction in people that Facebook can help target effectively on mobile devices. But that’s the worst-case scenario. It’s probably not going to happen.


More Realistically

It’s more likely that Facebook has well-diversified technology and advertising concepts that they are working on every day. It’s also not necessarily likely that Google will follow suit on Android devices. And that 41% allow rate might not be accurate for the long haul at all.

Wait and Watch

The moral of the story is to wait and watch. Not all Apple devices will be updated right away. Not everything that Facebook knows about its users will disappear overnight. Facebook could simply be fighting against what they see as a slippery slope rather than an imminent threat.

We keep close tabs on the effectiveness of our Facebook campaigns and give our clients quarterly reports and updates on their ads. This type of attention helps us to spot trends and adjust accordingly. Doing the same with your Facebook ads will help you stay ahead of potential issues. Even when tech behemoths are bickering and we’re caught in the middle.

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