Understanding Facebook’s updated iOS14 advertising guidance

Back in August, Facebook published guidance around how its ad platform would change to accommodate the upcoming privacy restrictions coming to iOS14 with the App Tracking Transparency framework. Facebook’s initial guidance was published ahead of Apple’s announcement that it would delay ATT compliance until some point in early 2021. Facebook published an update to that guidance in late October, and that most recent guidance was updated yesterday, after a press call that mostly took aim at IDFA deprecation as an attack on small businesses and which coincided with full-page ads critical of Apple being run in a number of US newspapers.

The purpose of this article is to unpack the new guidance offered to advertisers by Facebook, and an analysis of its PR narrative, which highlights the burden that IDFA deprecation will place on small businesses, is not in scope. My broad thoughts on the effectiveness of Facebook’s press strategy can be found in the below Tweet storm:

Regarding Facebook’s updated guidance, three key takeaways are worth exploring:

  1. Facebook will expose the ATT prompt to users;
  2. Facebook will treat app-to-web campaigns with the same privacy rigor as app-to-app campaigns;
  3. Facebook will work with MMPs around conversion value management.

Facebook will expose the ATT prompt to users

This is a dramatic about-face for Facebook, which announced back in August that it would not expose the ATT prompt to users and, as a result, would be excising the IDFA completely from its internal analytics. In its new iOS14 web advertiser guidance, published yesterday, Facebook explicitly states that it will expose users to the ATT prompt in the Facebook blue app and in the Instagram app:

In early 2021, Facebook will begin to show Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt. Once Facebook and Instagram show Apple’s ATT prompt, those that optimize, target, and/or report on mobile web events from any of our business tools will be impacted given Apple’s required limits on data sharing.

This is a substantive change in direction: Facebook had previously announced that it was abandoning the IDFA completely. My sense is that Facebook changed its approach to ATT prompt exposure because it realized it was bound by ATT privacy guidelines not just for app advertising campaigns, but also for web advertising campaigns from within its apps.

Facebook will treat app-to-web campaigns with the same privacy rigor as app-to-app campaigns

In the aforementioned iOS14 web advertiser guidance, Facebook provides an overview of changes that are coming to advertising campaigns that link to websites from within Facebook’s first-party mobile apps. Note that Facebook had only previously provided guidance around campaigns that promoted apps from within Facebook’s first-party mobile apps. This is a monumental development: it means that app-to-web campaigns are no panacea to the limitations imposed by ATT for advertisers.

In its guidance for web advertisers, Facebook makes four important points:

  • Web event attribution will now be governed by what Facebook calls Aggregated Event Measurement. Facebook is light on details around what this entails, but my sense is that it represents the web analog to SKAdNetwork campaign-centric conversion value counts, meaning that events will only be counted at the level of campaign granularity;
  • Web campaigns will be limited to eight conversion events per domain. This is similar to the 64 conversion event limit imposed on app advertising campaigns, although obviously it’s much more restrictive. As with SKAdNetwork conversion events, these eight conversion events will exist on a priority spectrum, and only the highest-priority event that was triggered by the user will be attributed to that campaign. In other words, if a user triggers three of the eight conversion events instrumented for a campaign, only the highest of those will be attributed to the campaign, with the other two essentially discarded;
  • Value Optimization (VO) campaigns will still be available to web advertisers, although VO campaigns will only allow for four conversion events to be tracked (because the campaign will need to utilize four of those events for testing);
  • 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through attribution windows are being deprecated. Data for some attribution windows will be modeled.

Facebook will work with MMPs around conversion value management

This last point surprised me and is one about which I was wrong. Facebook updated its guidance for app advertisers with a few small tidbits and one significant revelation:

  • Advertisers will be limited to one ad account per app for iOS14 campaigns, but, as was announced in October, advertisers will not need to create a new, dedicated account for iOS14 campaigns;
  • iOS14 campaigns will require standalone campaigns, and a limit of nine active campaigns will be imposed for iOS14 traffic. This isn’t new and was announced back in August. What is new is that each of these iOS14 campaigns may utilize up to five ad sets. These limitations are imposed because Facebook needs to utilize the other 91 campaign identifiers (SKAdNetwork only allows for 100 campaign IDs per app per ad network) for testing purposes, as explained in this article;
  • Facebook will support the existing 14 standard events for App Event Optimization campaigns, and it will allow advertisers to configure these events to conversion values however they’d like. This is actually a meaningful update: it wasn’t clear that Facebook would allow advertisers to choose which conversion values it could map to these events.

The most surprising, and notable, update from the new guidance is that Facebook will work directly with MMPs for conversion value management. From the document:

Facebook is committed to supporting businesses to minimize disruption caused by the Apple iOS 14 changes, and continuing to partner with our Mobile Measurement partners to support third-party measurement. As part of our efforts, we continue to work closely with MMPs to solve for limitations with the SKAdNetwork (SKAN) API conversion bits, which are shared between platforms. This collaboration has led to the formulation of a methodology with MMPs to enable advertisers to uniformly apply measurement across platforms using SKAN conversion bits. We have shared this methodology with all our MMPs so that clients can utilize the Facebook or MMP SDK for ads delivery, optimization, and measurement on Apple’s SKAN.

It’s not clear what the mentioned framework for SKAdNetwork conversion value management is, but my interpretation of this statement is that the existing relationships that advertisers have with MMPs (read: SDK integrations and event mappings) can be preserved and extended to SKAdNetwork.

This reduces the overhead of adapting to SKAdNetwork considerably and is likely welcomed by most advertisers, although, as I discuss with the CEO of Headlight in the most recent MDM Podcast, it will re-define the value proposition of MMPs absent the possibility of install attribution. But the importance of this revelation shouldn’t be understated: Facebook will not insist on updating conversion values itself, and it will not insist on “claiming” any of the 64 available conversion values for proprietary Facebook events (Eg. Tutorial Complete). This means that advertisers will have a high degree of autonomy in structuring their conversion value logic and optimizing Facebook campaigns toward the most meaningfully predictive conversion values.