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May 10, 2021

The Digital Marketing Landscape Changes as Apple’s latest Mobile Operating System iOS 14.5 goes Live

The hive at Digital Marketer Bee and across the digital marketing landscape has been abuzz for months in anticipation of Apples latest Mobile Operating System – the new iOS 14.5 update.

Now that it’s here, what is it and importantly what does it mean for digital marketing for your business?

Apples Mobile Operating System iOS 14.5 and App Tracking Transparency

iOS is a mobile operating system created and developed by Apple Inc. The latest update, iOS 14.5, has a raft of important changes to the Apple iOS including implementation of the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy.

After a user has updated their iOS version, whenever they open an app that collects data, a prompt will be presented to the user that allows them to opt out of sharing their data with the app.

It is a reasonable assumption that many users will avail themselves of the increased privacy this option provides them.

Under Apple’s policy, tracking parameters that users may opt out of include but are not limited to:

  • Displaying targeted advertisements in your app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies.
  • Sharing device location data or email lists with a data broker.
  • Sharing a list of emails, advertising IDs, or other IDs with a third-party advertising network that uses that information to retarget those users in other developers’ apps or to find similar users.
  • Placing a third-party Software Development Kit (SDK) in your app that combines user data from your app with user data from other developers’ apps to target advertising or measure advertising efficiency, even if you don’t use the SDK for these purposes. For example, using an analytics SDK that repurposes the data it collects from your app to enable targeted advertising in other developers’ apps.

ATT is Apple’s way of responding to the growing paranoia of people being tracked, monitored or having their data sold to third parties.

The Effect on Businesses

This update has a direct effect on businesses that rely on keeping data and using that data.

Two examples of major businesses that will be impacted are Facebook and Google, highlighting just how significant this update to Apple’s mobile operating system is.

Platforms like Facebook, Google Display Network, and YouTube, allow advertisers to preferentially target audiences.

But with these changes, this may no longer be possible for users who have opted out of data sharing.

So what does this mean for digital marketers?

One of the immediate effects is under reporting.

If you review your reports on Google Analytics and Facebook Insight regularly, you’ll notice that there’s always a slight discrepancy in metrics like ‘New Users’ or ‘Impression’ when segmented into, let’s say, Gender.

The user’s attribute might not have been gathered for reasons like they aren’t logged in, previously deleted their cookies, or viewed your website or social media post with a VPN.

We can expect that discrepancy to grow in the coming days.

This holds true not only for your organic campaigns but also for your paid campaigns. We can expect numbers to not add up. The reports will reflect input data such as Views, Clicks, or Impression, but can’t attribute those events to qualities like gender, location, age, and interest.

Down the road, we’ll see its effects on users.

While the ATT does give users the ability to opt out of tracking, it also limits their ability to personalise their ads.

It is worth noting that a user that opts out of tracking can still be shown ads, they are just not going to be personalised.

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The Trade Desk’s CEO Jeff Green predicts that companies will go back to inviting users to “upgrade” their experience according to a The Motley Fool article.

They also mentioned that Facebook is the platform most affected by this move. And rightfully so. According to Clario’s independent study, Facebook does the most tracking among the most popular apps.

Others apps like Instagram, Tinder, and Spotify are also on the top 10 apps that track you.


It’s so affective that Facebook is shuttering Facebook Analytics by June 30, 2020 to adapt. That in itself is a different rabbit hole to dive into.

For now, Facebook recommends business owners to implement their Aggregated Event Measuring (AEM) Tool.

Users are to assign Pixels to events on their domains. The events need to be ranked according to importance (only 8 events can be ranked).

Facebook can show ads to users that triggered the event, prioritizing those that aggregated more points by triggering the most or higher ranking events. It’s basically their version of Remarketing.

Speaking of Remarketing, this should also affect Google Display Ads, and YouTube ads targeting at the least. It will have no effect on Search Ads targeting but it will have an effect on the data that will be gathered.

Don’t know where to start on getting your brand abuzz?

What Can We Do

It is possible to estimate the potential impact of this update on your business. You can start by referring to your Facebook or Google Analytics and look at how much of your audience are on iOS.

This will help you with expectation setting. You may also set your date range to a year to get a broader estimate.

Some digital marketers might also be more affected than others. In Australia, 55% of users are iOS with 45% Android users. However Not all countries are predominated by Apple users.

You can also set expectations and modify marketing approach based on your target locations.

There are marketing approaches that require a greater level of specificity. If it’s disruptive to your campaign that your potential audience can’t be attributed to certain qualities (most likely yes), you can also try targeting your ads by device. However this will mean that you’re only targeting non-Apple users.

Ask yourself ‘should this change my marketing’?

Most industries cater to specific audiences, whereas some industries like food, tourism, and entertainment have a more generalized audience. Knowing your place in the conversation is helpful in determining what you should or should not do.

These changes lead to a traditional advertising problem.

In the old days of tri-media marketing, you can never really tell who watches your TV ad, reads your print ad, or hears your radio ad. Traditional marketers and advertisers worked around this by finding patterns.

School kids are watching TV at home in the afternoon.

The working class passes by a big LED billboard on the commute after work. How did traditional marketers make this work for their brand?

It pays to know your customer and their customer journey. Sure, they might opt out of tracking, but certain people have certain digital habits. Try to refine your advertising efforts using traditional marketing and advertising principles.

Hot Takes

While there are not very many ways to solve the issue, there are a many ways to look at it.

We should take this as a step forward in the right direction.

Apple put its users first by giving them more agency over their privacy. It’s a bold and noble move in an industry that has thus far largely taken privacy for granted.

This is a win for users. As digital marketers, we should celebrate with them, too. Let this be a challenge on how we’ll improve marketing approaches to not compromise user experience.


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