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4 problems and what to do about them

4 problems and what to do about them

The new private consumer protection measures that Apple implemented with the launch of iOS 14 brought major changes to the digital marketing world.

The Facebook iOS 14 update also shook the paid social world.

And since the announcement, no company has been more outspoken about the potential consequences for its platform than Facebook.

In fact, for many it was not a big leap to think that the update was the beginning of the end of the world – in terms of tracking.

But after months of preparing clients with training, documentation, tires, POVs and webinars, the moment came.

April 26 was D-Day. Facebook’s new policies to reduce tracking losses became mandatory. And then it started.

In this column you will learn about these challenges and what you can do about each one:

Pixel-based conversion reporting turned off … Road off Conversion rates are inconsistent Campaign optimization is less reliable Target audience retargeting is less: No surprise there

Let’s first look at what advertisers are experiencing as a result of Facebook’s iOS 14 update.

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Options vs. Opt-out

The main issue around iOS 14 was the use of Apple’s Identifier for Advertisingers (IDFA), Apple’s cookie that enables tracking on iOS devices.

Until implementation, Apple device owners were automatically selected for tracking, but had the option to opt out.

Now, after the update to iOS 14.5, iOS users are being asked and asked if they would like to be selected to be tracked, with the default now being opt-out.

According to mobile analytics firm Flurry, when iOS 14.5 messaging began, it is estimated that 2% of users chose to track. This figure has risen steadily since the end of April, but is now only at an estimated 10%.

How the update of Facebook iOS 14 affects marketers

Depending on your perspective, iOS 14 is a boon to consumer privacy. But there is no doubt that it is a big, fat loss for digital marketers.

Facebook in particular is a mobile-centric advertising platform. Now that they have lost the ability to track a large segment of their mobile traffic reliably, there will be implications.

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To reduce the impact iOS 14 has on tracking, Facebook implemented new measures. Recent updates have resulted in unpleasant restrictions for advertisers on the platform, including:

Delayed reporting for pixel-based conversions. Conversion modeling / estimated results. Shorter attribution windows. Conversion prioritization (aggregate event metering). Smaller targeting audiences. Fewer data sharing options.

What we have seen so far

Now that we’ve been living in this bold new era of reduced mobile tracking on Facebook for the past few weeks, let’s take a moment to examine the impact.

Was this really the apocalyptic event that many had feared? Or was it something more akin to a false alarm at the Y2K level?

The answer is, as is generally the case, somewhere in the middle. There have been some noticeable effects on campaigns, especially if your campaigns are heavily dependent on pixel-based conversions.

But has iOS 14 made Facebook a less viable channel for marketing demand?

Almost.

Nevertheless, here are a few common threads across the campaigns I help manage on the agency side, and perhaps more importantly, steps you can take to minimize their impact.

1. Pixel-based conversion reporting is turned off … Road off

Between fewer tracked mobile conversions, reporting delays, and a healthy dose of “statistical modeling” on behalf of Facebook, it’s no surprise that the numbers you see in Ads Manager do not necessarily reflect reality.

Take one of our customers, for example: A B2B technology company that runs leads using a landing page on their website.

With view-through attribution and a few fallen UTMs before iOS 14 was implemented, reported Salesforce leads were generally about 10-12% smaller than the reported Facebook leads.

After iOS 14 was implemented in late April, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, and Facebook began to drastically underreport the number of leads.

Although the relationship variance is inconsistent, it appears to be growing.

What you can do:

Implement Conversions API and optimize campaigns for back-end events. Use On-Facebook lead generation tactics as forms or messenger for more reliable results.

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2. Conversion rates are inconsistent

Perhaps one of the biggest and most frustrating effects we notice after implementation is the magnificent performance of evergreen campaigns. Sure, a degree of performance decline is expected as complex algorithms adapt to the new tracking realities.

But after a few weeks of rising CPLs and more data becoming available, we began to see some fundamental reasons emerge – unpredictable conversion rates.

The above client started experiencing erratic click-to-lead conversion rates for Facebook for their primary interest and lookalike-based audiences shortly after implementing iOS 14.

What used to be relatively minor changes from week to week allowed for significant fluctuations.

With unpredictable lead conversion rates, CPLs were just as unstable as Facebook struggled to optimize ad sets that yielded the best results.

The same was observed with most advertisers using pixel-based conversions in varying degrees of difficulty.

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What you can do:

Diversify targeting: Aggressively test a wide range of interest-based, lookalike, and third-party audiences. Keep an eye on interest-based audiences as they seem to have the largest fluctuations.

Campaign budget optimization is less reliable

CBO, or Campaign Budget Optimization, is a tool that allows Facebook to split the budget between ad sets based on performance dynamically. The target groups that perform better, based on your goal, get a bigger share of your daily budget.

Budgets are set at the campaign level instead of the ad set level.

This once powerful tool for maximizing cost allocation shows its vulnerability in the light of recent tracking changes.

Several client campaigns with CBO enabled showed that Facebook distributed a disproportionate amount to interest-based audiences with much higher CPLs, even when audiences with similar CPLs were available.

This is a strange case that encourages more manual intervention and distribution of expenses across different audience segments.

What you can do:

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Consider using automated rules as a “backstop” to prevent Facebook from spending too much on poorly executed ad sets.

With CBO-enabled campaigns and multiple audiences, you need to set a CPL threshold that is slightly higher than your goal. Then set a daily spending amount that you are comfortable spending on a given audience. and driven CPLs higher than your threshold. Don’t forget to set a rule to pause all ad sets at the beginning of a new day.

4. Retargeting the audience is smaller: No surprise there

The last impact is just a confirmation of what we all knew would happen. Pixel-based targeting is smaller and harder to reach.

Since we’ve just lost track of a large percentage of mobile traffic, retargeting based on user-visited sites will become a less viable tactic as people get older out of the custom audiences they currently are.

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Any site-targeted audience created during or after the implementation of iOS 14, and where this period is within the review window, has undoubtedly seen a reduction in the number of targeted individuals within these audiences.

What you can do:

Take advantage of alternative retargeting data sources, such as:

First-party data (custom audiences based on emails / phone numbers, etc.). Engagement-based retargeting (people who have interacted with your ads, etc.). Video-based retargeting (people who have seen a certain percentage of your pages video ad content).

Facebook iOS 14 update: the wake

When it comes to iOS 14 and Facebook, it’s safe to say that the worst of the storm is over. Marketers also know a lot more about what to expect when the cakeless future becomes more real.

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Tactics evolve as they always do. And marketers want to adapt to the changing landscape.

The Facebook iOS 14 update is a trial warning for the impending removal of third-party cookies from browsers like Chrome. At least we have until 2023 to get ready for one.

More resources:

Image credits

Featured Image: PanyaStudio / Shutterstock.com
Screenshots taken by the author, July 2021

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