The following document offers insight into the recent developments in Apple's technology, their implications on the mobile advertising space, and the corresponding solution. For further information on the topic, please visit Apple's documentation, or reach out to your Remerge Account Manager.
The IDFA Technology
The UDID was permanently associated with the hardware, which increased the potential risk of confidential user-data exposure. The IDFA, on the other hand, was indefinitely associated with the device. iOS device users had control over their IDFA-specific information and could exercise various data privacy protection features enabled by Apple.
From a privacy standpoint, users' ability to manage their data (all while allowing Advertisers to benefit from precision targeting and attribution) made the IDFA superior to the UDID. Accordingly, Apple decided to step away from the UDID and turn the IDFA-based technology into the official user tracking and attribution method on iOS devices.
Shortly after, AdTech companies and Mobile Measurement Partners adopted the IDFA-based user tracking technology with the following goals in mind:
- Targeting - Facilitation in cross-app user tracking to serve highly personalized ads tailored to a user's actions or previously displayed preferences.
- Retargeting - Identification and re-engagement of users who have installed the app.
- Frequency Capping - Restriction of the number of times an ad targets a user within a given time frame.
- Measurement & Optimization - Determining the likelihood of a particular ad to promote an install/purchase and utilization of said information for campaign optimization and spend allocation.
User Privacy & Data Security
At this point, the IDFA information was available both to the iOS device users and Advertisers by default. Furthermore, over time, Apple offered its users a wide range of privacy and data control features. Device users could manage their IDFA-specific information (e.g., Limit Ad Tracking and Reset Advertising Identifier) and Geolocation data (e.g., Opt-Out Of Location-based Ads).
Device users could always OPT-OUT the IDFA technology and its respective tracking capabilities from the Privacy Settings menu on their device. HOWEVER, users had to familiarize themselves with the aforementioned internal option. Namely, unless a user disabled the IDFA technology on their device, it became automatically eligible for tracking.
iOS14 & AppTracking Transparency
Recently, Apple took steps to further enhance user privacy and data security by launching iOS14 and the OPT-IN feature. Accordingly, the IDFA information ceased from being the default option, as going forward, its availability became pending device user authorization.
iOS14 users MUST actively OPT-IN the IDFA technology on a per-app basis (contrary to former versions, which required an active OPT-OUT). The OPT-IN feature is made possible via the obligatory AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework: an authorization request Advertisers MUST serve each user upon app-install.
Developers MUST ensure app compatibility with the ATT framework before making the said app available to prospective users. Neglecting to integrate the framework in an app automatically results in a TURNED OFF IDFA tracking for the app in question.
Below is a potential scenario of an authorization request followed by user responses and their corresponding outcomes.
A pop-up dialog window, prompting the user to Allow Tracking/Ask App Not to Track, will appear upon a new app-install (or feature utilization).
- Allow Tracking - User has authorized cross-app tracking -> (device) IDFA is forwarded to AdTech companies and Mobile Measurement Partners -> Tracking capabilities of the user on this app.
- Ask App Not to Track - User has rejected cross-app tracking -> (device) IDFA string is zeroed out -> No tracking capabilities of the user on this app.
Developers MUST obtain a user's authorization for each app on their device, thus likely resulting in a mix of authorized and unauthorized apps per device. IDFA-based tracking remains applicable to all OPTed-IN apps.
- Targeting - Targeting a unique user segment by serving it highly personalized ads is no longer possible due to the inability to create user profiles and differentiate between the various users and their previously displayed preferences. Targeting is only possible on a small fraction of users who have authorized tracking for both Advertiser and Publisher apps.
- Retargeting - The inability to confirm whether or not a particular user installed the app on their device makes running retargeting campaigns impossible. Retargeting will apply to a fraction of users ONLY (i.e., device users who have authorized tracking in both Advertiser and Publisher apps).
- Frequency Capping - Restriction of the number of times an ad targets a user within a given time frame is no longer applicable. Without the presence of the IDFA, Advertisers cannot determine the identity of the targeted user. Consequently, any user-based targeting (such as frequency capping or exclusion targeting) is no longer feasible.
- Measurement & Optimization - The inability to employ the IDFA to follow a user's journey from ad click to in-app purchase makes it challenging to define the contributing factors (e.g., SSP, SDK version, or creatives) to the campaign's success and optimize accordingly.
- Mobile Measurement Partners Role - Deterministic (IDFA-based) attribution will apply to a small fraction of users ONLY (pending the device user's consent in both Advertiser and Publisher apps). However, Mobile Measurement Partners will continue to provide Advertisers with actionable insights and the following, but not limited to offerings:
- Dashboard Support:
- Effective Integration:
- Dashboard Support:
The SKAdNetwork Methodology
Although remaining available to any OPTed-IN apps, the iOS14 technology has taken away the IDFA's role as the industry's ultimate choice for user tracking and attribution. To that end, Apple introduced the SKAdNetwork method (2018) as an alternative approach to campaign measurement.
The SKAdNetwork is a user-privacy-preserving methodology that validates Advertiser-driven app installations, helps Advertisers determine the efficacy of their ad campaigns, and serves as an attribution measurement tool. For further information on the SKAdNetwork methodology and its implementation as pertains to Remerge, please visit SKAdNetwork-Based Attribution and SKAdNetwork & Remerge.