Advertising on Facebook? What You Need to Know Now About Apple iOS14 and How Facebook is Responding

Posted: February 16, 2021

Chriss Thompson Director of Media and Optimization

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4 min. read

Although usage by the 15-25 age demographic has declined in recent years, Facebook remains a highly effective advertising channel in higher ed. VisionPoint-managed Facebook campaigns produce a high volume of quality leads, often at industry-beating cost per actions (CPAs). And these leads are trackable through the entire student life cycle, making them exceptionally valuable during this time of downward enrollment pressures.

But this may soon change due to tracking updates coming early this year. An on-going feud between Facebook and Apple is ratcheting up further thanks to Apple’s iOS 14 rollout. VisionPoint continues to monitor the situation closely and is advising our clients to begin preparations now.

What is Happening

User preferences and general sentiment around data security and data sharing are driving significant changes worldwide. Regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States are having – and will continue to have – major impacts on all sectors, including higher education.

In iOS 14, Apple is making a significant change in response to these evolving protocols. One of the main changes in this update is that Apple will now require users to opt in to sharing their data instead of opting out. This makes it easier than ever for Apple users to gain some control over where and how their data is tracked and shared.

However, this change will make it more difficult than ever for advertisers to target and track their audiences effectively. (For context, iOS 14 is installed on 81% of all iPhones, and Apple represents 47% of all smartphones in the United States, so the impact here is sizable.) Even a company as large as Facebook is subject to Apple’s new policy changes in iOS 14. Facebook users will soon begin seeing Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt, which is Facebook’s one chance to sway users into opting-in to the new tracking protocols.

What is Changing

In response to iOS 14 changes, Facebook is making several updates that will impact your advertising campaigns going forward. The changes are in three main areas:

  1. Domain Verification: Advertisers (and agencies) are now required to verify the domain associated with any campaigns. This will entail changes in your Business Manager account along with adding a code snippet to your website and/or landing pages.
  2. Campaign Organization & Tracking: Facebook will now only allow eight (8) website pixels at the primary domain level. Pixels must be ranked in priority order. For users that remain opted-out of Apple tracking, only the highest-priority event will be tracked. Additionally, Facebook will now limit each Ad Account to nine (9) campaigns with five (5) ad sets each. These are major changes that will limit the amount of tracked conversion actions and the flexibility historically enjoyed with different campaign types and ads used within each ad account. 
  3. Reporting Modifications: The new defaults for click attributions will be seven (7) days instead of 28 days. The longer click-through and view-through windows will no longer be supported. Data segments will also no longer be supported, which will prevent reporting datasets by age, gender, region, and/or placement. And finally, “real-time” reporting will no longer be supported. Facebook is indicating that data may be delayed up to three days once the new protocols are in place.

What Happens Next

These changes are anticipated at any time, most likely by the end of Q1. The most immediate action needed is to begin the Domain Verification process. VisionPoint is beginning to work with our current client partners right away – whether they are using their core domain or a separate landing page domain.

Our teams are also beginning a review of Ad Manager accounts to determine which changes need to take place immediately, including accounting for new limitations for conversions and deployed campaign assets.

And our Data & Analytics team is reviewing our DecisionEngine connections with Facebook and planning for upcoming reporting cycles. Once these changes are in-market, we’ll work closely with our clients to determine new baselines and findings on best practices as well.

Our Expectations & Other Recommendations

We anticipate seeing a decrease in reported conversions on Facebook, due to the upcoming limitations with the number of conversions and their click-through windows. Cost Per metrics (CPAs, CPIs, etc.) are expected to rise as well. We’re also expecting smaller Custom Audience sizes going forward, as more users will choose to remain “opted out” which will further limit our ability to retarget.

The limitations to event tracking (domain level) reinforce our recommendations for dedicated campaign landing pages with separate domain URLs. This gives you, the advertiser, as much flexibility as possible to define and control the tracked conversions (up to eight) on each landing page. And while this change impacts Facebook primarily, we expect other platforms to adapt to Apple’s updates – meaning further refinements will be necessary for campaigns on Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Google in the near future.

To our clients – VisionPoint remains committed to providing clarity and action with you now and as further best practices are determined. We’ll continue to keep you informed, and please reach out to your Client Services team with any immediate questions.

Not a VisionPoint client but would like to discuss this topic with us further? Reach out today to set up a free call with our team. We’re always looking to chat with our higher ed peers.