Facebook brings the mobile advertising industry to a standstill

In late August, ahead of the then-impending iOS14 privacy restrictions that were originally planned to commence in mid-September but were ultimately delayed until some point in 2021, Facebook announced a radical set of updates to its ad platform to accommodate Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework and deprecation of the IDFA. These updates posed fundamental changes to Facebook advertising, and their implementation would have required substantive changes to almost every aspect of the process of campaign management and measurement.

Then, on September 3rd, Apple declared that it would delay the forced implementation of the ATT framework. The mobile advertising ecosystem let out a collective sigh of relief.

But it has been more than a month since that delay was communicated, and no additional clarity about how Facebook will address the loss of the IDFA in its ad platform has been publicly surfaced by the company. Facebook has not released its iOS14 SDK, and it has not provided any further detail around which events it will ask advertisers to implement in their apps as conversion values (more background on that here).

Anecdotally, I believe that most high-spend advertisers know the general approach they will take with post-IDFA advertising, in some combination of real-time LTV estimation and conversion value management. But without the clarity of the changes required by Facebook, advertisers can’t make forward progress with the implementation of campaign management strategies and infrastructure development roadmaps for the post-IDFA environment.

Why is this clarify incumbent on Facebook and not any number of other ad platforms? Because for most advertisers, Facebook represents a plurality — if not a majority — of ad spend, and because Facebook’s mobile SSO functionality is used widely for in-app authentication. As quickly as it can, Facebook should provide guidance to advertisers around:

  1. Conversion value management. When it released its iOS14 advertising FAQ, Facebook revealed that it would ask advertisers to implement some standard set of events into their apps, mapped to specific conversion values, in order to continue to run AEO campaigns. Facebook has provided no further information to advertisers on that topic.

    Advertisers need to know which events they must instrument in their apps, and to what conversion values those events should be mapped. This information is critically important: the degree to which an advertiser can incorporate conversion value strategy into campaign measurement depends on which 6-bit conversion values Facebook insists on claiming.

    If, for instance, Facebook provides a library of 14 AEO events that mirrors the existing library, but it asks that advertisers map the highest 14 six-bit conversion values to those events, then no events outside of that library will ever be transmitted to Facebook via the SKAdNetwork postback.
  2. Facebook’s iOS14 SKD functionality. Apple seems to have softened its stance around SSO requiring opt-in, according to a late-September update to its App Store Privacy portal. But a tremendous amount of confusion surrounds just what data the Facebook iOS14 SDK will transmit if the user has opted out, and whether the new SDK provides for an SSO mechanic that does not track user data. If the SDK does not provide for an ATT-compliant SSO mechanic, advertisers need to know that as soon as possible so as to replace Facebook’s SSO functionality with proprietary authentication. Facebook also needs to address what will happen in various edge cases, such as when a user that is logged into an app via Facebook SSO opts out of ad tracking when presented with the ATT consent form.

These are not minor considerations: conversion value management will profoundly impact the degree to which advertisers can efficiently optimize their marketing campaign spend, and implementing an authentication system in an app is not a trivial amount of work. At the very least, Facebook should provide advertisers with a timeline across which they can expect guidance on these topics so as to help them avoid the kind of chaotic, frenzied crunch that many experienced ahead of Apple’s announcement of the delay of IDFA deprecation.

Facebook is drip-feeding its iOS14 plans to the advertising ecosystem, exemplified in its announcement on Friday that FAN would transition exclusively to header bidding in Q2 of 2021. But Facebook is keeping advertisers in the dark with respect to the specific requirements it will impose on them for SKAdNetwork conversion value management, as well as the feature set and functionality of its iOS14 SDK.

Without clear-cut knowledge of Facebook’s adaptations for iOS14, advertisers cannot make progress with their own iOS14 mitigation strategies, and many feel that the respite granted to them by Apple in delaying IDFA deprecation is being squandered.

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