Perspectives of Human Talent in the Face of Digital Transformation
4th January 2021 – 3 Minutes 40 Seconds read.
Early in 2021, I was sitting in my home office doing my daily optimizations on an ad account for a rapidly growing fitness brand. Over several months, I had doubled their revenue from paid social while increasing their ROAS by about 50%. I was pretty happy with the results.
My phone rang and it was from area code 650 (Palo Alto). Anyone who has run Meta ads for any period of time is used to receiving these calls on a regular basis. Like many of us, I can get busy and ignore those calls from time to time, but in this case, I decided to answer. “Phil…this is Heather from Facebook (now Meta). I’m just calling to see if you’re ready for iOS 14.5.” This conversation was eye-opening to say the least and it kicked off a months-long effort to get my clients ready for the upcoming iOS 14.5 release, which would present significant challenges to online advertisers.
Beginning on April 26, 2021, Apple began enforcing App Tracking Transparency (ATT) on all devices using iOS 14.5 and above. What this meant in the most simple terms was that advertisers would need iOS users’ permission to track their activity and behavior across other apps and websites used on their devices. Previously, app developers could track this activity by default.
The implications for advertisers were significant because:
Most advertisers (and many people at Meta) anticipated 50% of users would opt out of tracking. Unfortunately for advertisers, the opt-out rate was closer to 95%. So if you were an advertiser who got a significant percentage of traffic from iOS, you were about to be in a world of trouble.
Most advertisers expected a 50% opt-out rate. In reality, it was closer to 95%.
Meta knew this and had more than $100 billion in advertising revenue at stake. So a solution was needed, and quickly.
Meta’s multifaceted solution to ATT (although likely the best they could do) was imperfect at best and created a lot of angst among advertisers.
In a nutshell, the solution was to try to provide as much information as possible to advertisers without sacrificing the privacy of users. They tried to achieve this by:
In particular, the shortened attribution window created havoc for advertisers, particularly the ones with high-price-point or long-consideration products. Most of the reduction in reported conversions seen by advertisers following iOS 14.5 was likely due to the shortened attribution window (now advertisers would only receive credit for clicks made 7 days prior to purchase instead of the previous default of 28 days).
Additionally, Aggregated Event Measurement has sometimes shown incomplete data. And modeled data had a problematic rollout, also with incomplete data (it’s much better now).
From a performance standpoint, advertisers saw their remarketing audiences shrink significantly and their lookalike audiences lose effectiveness. Unless you had an extremely helpful Meta rep or were an experienced advertiser with in-depth platform knowledge, it wasn’t clear what (outside of Meta’s official solutions above) could be done to mitigate the impact of ATT.
After April 26, 2021 (and particularly in June 2021), many advertisers looked at their results, saw a 50% decrease in conversions, and simply switched their campaigns off.
It’s been 16 months since I got that call from Meta (and a year since Apple began enforcing ATT), and I’m now the Paid Social Director at Incubeta. As part of my job, I audit all prospective US paid social accounts. And it’s like going back in time. So many have obviously been switched off in frustration. Some in April-June 2021 and some a bit later. Most clients don’t fully understand the impact of the attribution window changing, and most have done little to mitigate the real performance impact of iOS 14.5 (as seen in their decimated remarketing audiences).
To complicate issues, turning off their Meta campaigns has often resulted in a downward spiral in other channels, particularly branded paid search. Many are desperate for a path forward, both from a paid social perspective and from a business perspective.
The good news is that the path forward is pretty straightforward. Here are the steps we take to help clients quickly mitigate the impact of iOS 14.5 and get back on track:
All of these audiences are not subject to iOS opt-outs and we now often see ad sets with these on-platform and owned audiences outperform those with site-based audiences.
Following these steps has allowed us to quickly increase reported ROAS on nearly all accounts that have come to us without these steps in place, sometimes by as much as 50%. Many have seen a significant increase in branded paid search volume as well. Businesses who don’t take these steps are leaving money on the table.
A year after the release of iOS 14.5, so many advertisers are still stuck believing paid social (particularly Meta Ads) no longer works. If you are one of them and you are interested in learning more about how we might help your business get back on track with a full-funnel paid social strategy, get in touch today.
Browse: Industry Insight
4th January 2021 – 3 Minutes 40 Seconds read.
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