iOS 14.5 isn’t coming. It’s already here. 

We won’t fully understand the impact this change in privacy on mobile devices will have on app publishing and advertising for a while yet, but we do know that we entered a brave new world around lunchtime on April 26, 2021, when iOS 14.5 surfaced from the depths of Apple development and took its first breaths.

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Now, we can’t track app installs and other behavior on iOS devices using the industry-standard Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) unless we get explicit permission from users. Clearly, that is a big change from the old ways, but what does it mean for app publishers and advertisers? That’s what we explore in this blog post.

For help navigating the app advertising landscape in a post-iOS 14.5 world, reach out to the experts at Playwire. We’ve been tracking and preparing for these changes for a long time, and we’re ready to help you get through them.

The End of the IDFA?

Is iOS 14.5 the end of the IDFA? Not exactly, but it’s certainly not doing the IDFA any favors. Publishers and advertisers have used IDFAs to track specific users’ devices after they see an in-app ad. They track whether the user leaves the app and installs the app that was advertised to them, for example. This is how app-install attribution has been measured for years.

But with the launch of iOS 14.5, tracking an IDFA is no longer a given. The user has to opt in to being tracked. Apps must show a stark message that explains that the app would like the user’s permission to track them. Here’s what it looks like:

“[App name] would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you.”

If the app user opts in at that point, all is well with their IDFA. You can track it and use it for attribution. But with increased public awareness of online privacy, it’s difficult to imagine many people actually opting in to being tracked.

Introducing SKAdNetwork

While reactions to Apple’s iOS 14.5 strategy vary—with the privacy-minded applauding it and the cynics calling it the attempted murder of competing platforms—it looks like all interested parties are going to have to at least partially embrace Apple’s privacy-focused alternative to IDFA tracking: SKAdNetwork.

Apple is offering up SKAdNetwork as a solution to the new attribution problem, but this platform isn’t new. Apple introduced this ad campaign management platform three years ago, with the same stated goal of protecting user privacy.

How does SKAdNetwork protect privacy, exactly? It tracks in-app ad campaign key performance indicators (KPIs) like app installs and provides that data to advertisers and publishers, but it doesn’t attribute the installs to a specific user in the same way an IDFA would. 

Put simply, advertisers can use SKAdNetwork to get conversion data and attribute app installs, but they can’t get that data at the user- or device-specific levels. 

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Post-iOS 14.5 App Ad Strategy

Devices running iOS 14.5 can’t be tracked the way they used to be. So, how should you tweak your strategy for app install attribution data to conform to this new world we suddenly live in?

Promoting ID Tracking Buy-In

Remember: The IDFA isn’t going away. It’s just not the default anymore. Users have to opt in. The IDFA will provide attribution and behavioral data that will likely be much more valuable than any data you can glean from SKAdNetwork, so in most cases, you will want to push buy-in for IDFA tracking from your user base.

Unfortunately, consumers almost automatically refuse any sort of tracking, if given the choice. That said, you do have an opportunity. Although apps must still show Apple’s default tracking opt-in message, app publishers can show an explainer message beforehand. 

This might be the time to get real with users. Let them know that ads and tracking are what keep the app running, and they can make a real contribution to the future of the app by opting in to tracking. While this isn’t likely to work on huge numbers of users, the more you can convince to opt in, the better.

Smaller app publishers might have better luck with this strategy than the giants like Facebook and Twitter. Users may feel less threatened by the idea of a smaller, independent app publisher tracking their mobile behavior than they would by the idea of Big Brother watching their every online move.

Using SKAdNetwork

Like it or not, you will probably need to embrace SKAdNetwork to some degree. While the data IDFA tracking provides is superior, the information you can get from SKAdNetwork is certainly better than nothing. It’s a way to at least get something useful out of the users who refuse to opt in to IDFA tracking.

Keep in mind that the software development kits (SDKs) you use to monetize your app must have SKAdNetwork set up properly. One small mistake could hamstring your app monetization efforts.

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How to Survive the iOS 14.5 Update: Partner with Playwire

If you’re overwhelmed by not only the prospect of IDFA tracking slipping away but also the idea that you have to ensure SKAdNetwork is set up properly within your SDKs, you’re in good company with hundreds, if not thousands, of publishers and advertisers who are struggling to see their way through this enormous change. 

The good news is that top app monetization partners like Playwire have anticipated this shift, taken a deep dive into SKAdNetwork and IDFA opt-in strategies and laid the groundwork for publishers and advertisers to thrive with or without IDFAs as we once knew them. We even have a wealth of first-party data that can help you keep your yield high with the loss of IDFA tracking information.

Want to learn more? Reach out to the app advertising experts at Playwire today. Call us at 1-561-206-4621 or reach out online.

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