The Apple iOS 14 update and how it has affected advertising

Tech giant Apple has implemented some significant changes that will allow users to opt-out of having their data tracked by any app on iOS, the operating system used by iPhones and iPads. Apple have now sent a second update where those that didn’t opt-out the first time can choose to opt-out again, which has caused a double-dose of users choosing not to share their data.  

Targeted advertising, as we know it today, works by analysing user data gathered by a few different methods. The data is then used to create a profile of a person as a changing record of their needs and interests. To decide which advertisements Facebook shows you when you’re scrolling through your timeline, the application checks this record to find out what type of advertisement you would be most interested in.  

So now, instead of a room full of Don Draper types making guesses about which magazines are likely to cast the widest net over a theoretical customer demographic, we can show an ad directly to someone who is interested in that product.  

So why is it changing? 

The first generation of this idea was introduced by Google in the early 00’s. Beforehand, they had no real way of generating income via the search engine alone; a fact that was beginning to scare off investors in the wake of the infamous dotcom crash of the era. 

In recent years, the use of this new marketing style has come under scrutiny because of its use in the American presidential election in 2016, and by Cambridge Analytica during the Brexit campaign of the same year.  

Unprecedented influence on democratic politics caught the eye of both the British Parliament and United States congress. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and several other tech CEOs were called in front of national inquiries to defend their use of targeted advertising.  

A change towards increased user privacy is generally viewed as positive by customers, and Apple has a history of banking its reputation on user privacy. In 2016, Apple famously denied a request by the FBI to provide them with a method of bypassing iPhone security features. This approach seems to be paying off. As of March of 2021, some outlets are reporting the percentage of people using iOS, as opposed to android, in the UK to be as high as a staggering 51.5%.  

Arguments between the big players about privacy are nothing new, but the raft of changes proposed by Apple is the biggest shift in recent years. Because of the impact the changes to privacy features will have on the ability of apps on the iOS platform to gather information on users, both Google and Facebook have loudly voiced their concerns. 

Apple’s relationship with Google is already strained. Google initially refused to update its apps with the ‘privacy nutrition label’, a notice letting people who download the app know what kinds of information the app sends home, which is now required by the app store. This led to a lot of confused users being threatened with outdated security on Google’s suite of apps. Apple has also occasionally threatened to replace Google’s search engine with their own proprietary version across their operating systems, should the company continue refusing to follow changes to privacy rules.  

How does this affect us? 

The place where our concerns are focused, and where Facebook have aimed their argument too, is on the negative effect the changes will have on the huge number of small businesses that use the marketing services on their platform.  

Users of Facebook marketing will feel a drop in performance now that the app has reduced access to user data. As a result of the changes, a marketing budget dedicated exclusively to Facebook advertising will not stretch as far as it did previously. The lack of information prevents Facebook from being able to reliably place your advert in front of relevant customers, based on their earlier engagement with your business. Generally, the changes will make it more difficult to make informed decisions on the efficient allocation of marketing budgets.  

While the benefits of user privacy are plain to see, the negative impacts of the incoming privacy changes will be felt more painfully by smaller businesses with limited marketing budgets, than by their giant competitors. Facebook are taking steps to try and limit the damage to its marketing ecosystem from Apple’s changes, but there will have to be some fundamental changes to the way Facebook gathers and uses marketing data to really get around it. 

So, what do we do? 

In light of the shake-up of privacy and Facebook marketing, it’s more important than ever to diversify the spending of a marketing budget across several platforms. Relying solely on a single method to drive an entire digital marketing campaign is only going to get less effective as the tech giants, and a few governments, settle their differences on the contentious privacy battleground.  

Small businesses and marketing agencies aren’t really the target of these changes but might feel the worst of the consequences. The marketing tools used by Facebook, reliant on user data, have been one of the best ways smaller independent businesses have had to effectively compete with larger rivals. Having a much larger marketing budget means less reliance on specifically targeted advertising, with higher conversion rates that are invaluable to smaller organisations.  

Take advantage of other services and marketing avenues that don’t rely as heavily on the iOS platform to put your ads in front of relevant potential customers. Making sure your business takes the most comprehensive approach possible to its digital marketing will be key in avoiding the worst. 

Give us a call to find out more about how we can help you with your marketing needs on 01453 798555. 

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