What’s the Impact of iOS Updates on Facebook Ads?

June 30, 2021


We’re back with another episode of The Digital Marketing Troop.

Paid Media and Analytics Manager TJ James visits the Digital Marketing Troop to discuss recent iOS updates and their impact on Facebook, specifically. TJ walks listeners through the key things Facebook marketers need to know:

  • Reduced demographic information in reporting, including gender, age, etc.
  • Limited insight into device- and platform-specific conversions
  • Campaign consolidation to maximize machine learning signals
  • Lower match rates and importance of lookalike audiences

Google’s decision to delay their third-party tracking crackdown until 2023 gives marketers some breathing room, but privacy settings on Apple devices will have more of an impact as users update to the new operating system. Listen to get the insider intel from our expert, TJ James.


John Tyreman: Howdy folks. Welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we talk about changes and trends shaping the world of digital marketing. I’m your host John Tyreman and I’m joined today by TJ James, paid media and analytics manager at Silverback Strategies, and we’re here to talk about what we’re seeing on the ground with Facebook ads as they continue to evolve. Now TJ, this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of talking with a fellow Radford University Highlander. And I love the New River City. I’m curious, what’s one thing that stood out for you from your time down at Radford?

TJ James: One thing that stood out would definitely be the tight knit community that it is. It’s a college town, everything is walking distance, so no need for a vehicle and really great people. When you go to a college that’s a small town like that, you kind of know everyone. And it’s just, it’s more of a family than a university.

John Tyreman: Really cool. That totally sums it up. So let’s dive into our topic at hand today. There’s been a lot of stuff going on with new data privacy laws having an impact on ad platform changes. This new Apple iOS 14.5 and soon, iOS 15 to come out, will have another ripple effect on these platforms. I’m curious, what have you seen in terms of, let’s start with measurement and reporting, have you seen that change on Facebook so far?

TJ James: Yes it has. So, yeah with Facebook iOS 14.5 update, I guess the first noticeable difference would have been the release of aggregated event measurement. So, for the listeners that, you know, maybe, are asking what that is, you know aggregated event measurement is essentially a protocol for ad performance measurement, which is going to process your web events from opted out devices to help you run your effective ad campaigns, while supporting customer choices regarding ad tracking with the Facebook platform. Another question you might ask is, how does this work? So Facebook is going to apply these events for people that have iOS 14.5 devices, which will pick the highest priority event to send whenever a customer takes multiple actions during a conversion window,

John Tyreman: Can you give me an example of what kind of an event might be within that window?

TJ James: An event that could be within that window could be a lead form or a purchase, or maybe view content. And the way that you would select that as far as highest priority, if a user filled out a lead form, and also made a purchase, this would essentially show up as the purchase because the purchase is more valuable to the client than the lead form would be.

John Tyreman: Outside of that aggregated event measurement, is there anything else that you’ve seen kind of reporting changes or measurement changes?

TJ James: As far as measurement, we’ve definitely seen a loss of visibility in a few different dimensions. One would be demographic dimensions. So, just to kind of explain what demographic dimensions are, an example of that would be Website Conversions by age, Website Conversions by gender. Typically you could segment this and look at it to see, you know what age groups are converting, and which genders are essentially converting for your ads and are relevant targeting indicators for most campaigns, where now that would probably show up, majority as unknown, you’re going to be able to see less of the pie, going forward. Another example of that would be platform and device dimensions. So, example would be, Instagram versus Facebook, where did they convert at? You would also lose some visibility there as well.

John Tyreman: So this information, it’s not necessarily that Facebook doesn’t have it, they’re just not sharing it with us right? So, I guess for marketers will have to trust Facebook that they’re serving the ads to the demographic audiences that are most likely to convert – is that kind of what I’m hearing?

TJ James: Exactly. Facebook definitely still has this information, but they’re not going to, essentially, open the floodgates for us to view it because the way that we’re essentially kind of trying to frame this is that Facebook is probably trying to prevent people from seeing the true impact impossible overcorrecting of campaigns made by the ad managers, based off limited data. So, this is going to be somewhat of a drawback, as far as placement level data, it will make it a little bit harder to inform what creative considerations to be made, as far as optimizations, which is definitely something to be concerned about moving forward. However content will continue to be king.

John Tyreman: You mentioned creative optimizations, I just want to follow up with that real quick. So with all of these, the demographic data that’s being stripped away. Marketers can’t have, they can’t see that. We have less audience insights to react to, to measure, to analyze. It sounds like ad creative is going to be probably even more of a factor when it comes to action rates and conversions. Can you speak a little bit about the importance of creative as it relates to conversions?

TJ James: Yes, creative is going to be really important. You won’t be able to measure it by platform, by device type, or age and gender, essentially placements, however, you will still be able to see which creatives are driving the most revenue, right? So it’s very imperative and important to follow Facebook’s best practices as far as creative, and also to run a full funnel strategy. That’s the video, that’s display, text ads, message extensions and definitely would promote using Facebook leads, like lead gen forms.

John Tyreman: I can see how the audience insights, those are being stripped away, I’d imagine some of the targeting capabilities are being rolled back too. So, essentially, a workaround could theoretically be targeting users based on, with the creative that you’re putting out there, right? If a certain piece of creative resonates with a certain audience that could be a way to attract that audience. Right? 

TJ James: Exactly. Using any type of personas are definitely going to be something you’d want to utilize going forward because creative is going to be the number one driver of your success here especially on Facebook.

John Tyreman: That’s a great dot to connect, TJ, because the certain personas, they’re going to be able to relate to certain imagery, to certain text. Curious, outside of the measurement and reporting changes that you’ve seen on Facebook, have you noticed any other notable changes now or do you foresee any other notable changes in the future?

TJ James: Yeah, we’re essentially expecting a decline in uploaded email list match rates, and there’s also going to be an increase in minimum thresholds for uploaded customer lists. So this could be a challenging task for small businesses that don’t have large CRM data to kind of leverage here as this increased minimum threshold grows.

John Tyreman: Yeah, that was actually going to be my next question. In creating these audience lists and Facebook has the capability of creating lookalike audiences, which I had imagined – is that what you’re referring to in terms of uploading lists?

TJ James: Yes.

John Tyreman: Yeah, I was talking with Haley Nininger the other day and she was telling me a story about how filtered users, there’s just been this like incredible increase in the filtration rate, the more users that are being filtered out because they’ve either opted into privacy on their device, privacy settings on their device, or probably for other reasons. But, yeah, that seems to be a big challenge. So the increase in minimum thresholds for that I guess that just kind of underscores the importance of making sure that you have a robust strategy for collecting and harvesting audience first party data.

TJ James: Exactly. First party data is going to become even more important than it has been in the past, especially for targeting, you know, current users, or creating lookalike lists based off current users. So collecting that data, as far as lead forms, are going to be really, really strong place, and the size of those lists will be a more important factor in the future. So, definitely important to start now.

John Tyreman: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. It’s important to start now especially if those minimums are increasing. It takes time to build lists. I mean that’s just the bottom line. So, yeah, that’s a great piece of advice.

TJ James: I think one thing that listeners might want to know is, what does this kind of mean for them, right? So ultimately, long story short, Facebook is going to use a combination of measured and estimated conversions for reporting for your optimization purposes. So there’s gonna be more importance on scaling your account in your campaign structure that’s going to provide Facebook with enough data significance to maximize machine learning signals. And I think that’s important with this update, to keep in mind that a consolidated structure that’s going to give Facebook enough data to get out of the learning period is also going to be a big change with this update.

John Tyreman: Let’s unpack that real quick. Thank you for touching on that because I think that’s probably the most important point here. Are you saying that, if you’re running a Facebook campaign targeted at, maybe it’s a niche audience, that those campaigns may be at risk, would you say, of not having enough statistical volume to help the machine learning build that and grow that campaign? And that’s why you need to consolidate? Is that what I’m hearing?

TJ James: Exactly. The more segmented your campaigns are on Facebook, or the more siloed your campaigns are, it’s going to be a lot more riskier to be able to reach that volume for Facebook to use the machine learning to optimize correctly. All in all, the safest approach to having the best performance on Facebook would be one, low funnel objectives need to be measured and reported in your CRM, either manually, or through any other means right? Another thing would be, first party data. We need to make sure that you’re collecting that data for your targeting strategy moving forward, and then on platform ad formats like lead gen forms. That’s going to be your safest route to success. Where the more risky would be, you know, continuing to stay as you are, which I’m assuming majority of people have a heavy reliance on pixel based remarketing, just because that’s been the standard for so long now. And that’s going to be a lot riskier because there’s going to be a lot less opportunity to kind of look at those audiences as they decrease with the deprecation of third party data.

John Tyreman: That’s great. I’m glad you brought that up too, because, at least from an outside looking in, I think everyone in the marketing community has heard about the deprecation of third party cookies but I don’t think that a lot of marketers truly understand what that means, per se. And so I’m glad that you connected those dots to the pixel based retargeting or remarketing campaigns that rely on those cookies, that pair of shoes that follows you around. The marketers who are trying to push products or services that have a longer consideration timespan right? So it’s not something that’s an impulse buy, it’s something that you’ve got to think about. I can see there needing to be a significant shift in strategies promoting those products and services.

TJ James: Exactly, exactly. Especially with, you know, remarketing becoming less effective with this change in availability. So I think moving forward, I think reaching those customers that have been to your site is still going to be possible, but it’s not going to be as effective. So, with that being said, there’s going to be, or there’s going to be you know, a stronger inclination for for general targeting signals such as geo, you know demographic and contextual targeting is still going to be important for user specific signals, but ultimately first party data is going to be the most valuable.

John Tyreman: Well, TJ I’d like to shift our conversation a little bit. You recently had a bit of a horror story with two factor authentication with one of your Facebook accounts, would you mind sharing that story with our listeners. 

TJ James: Yeah, so I unfortunately broke my iPhone 7. That was the device that hosted all of my Google authentications. So the issue that I ran into with Facebook was when I did receive my iPhone 12, I wasn’t able to get an authentication on that device that could sync up with Facebook and generate a new QR code. And in my specific case as well, SMS recovery didn’t work as well. And that was my backup plan. So, my recommendation for anybody who does have two factor set up, I would recommend setting up two factor using the Authy app, and also setting it up on multiple devices. This way, if one device breaks or you lose that device, you can still access your accounts from other means. Because Facebook’s customer service isn’t known for being very speedy.

John Tyreman: I’ve heard that. I’ve heard that they’re a bit slow. Can you just, for our listeners, can you tell us the name of that application one more time?

TJ James: Authy. It’s a pretty good app, and I believe you can put it on multiple devices so that would be a quick and easy solution. There’s also a way to, I think, set up a backup as well. I would definitely recommend that to avoid any loss of access.

John Tyreman: Well, TJ, thank you so much for taking the time to hop on this podcast chat with me today. If folks want to connect with you and learn more, where can they find you? 

TJ James: They can find me on LinkedIn. 

John Tyreman: LinkedIn, that’s the place to be these days. Well TJ, thank you so much. Folks, connect with him on LinkedIn, and we’ll see you next time The Digital Marketing Troop. 

John Tyreman: If you found this podcast episode insightful, please subscribe, tell a friend and leave a rating and review. And to learn more, head on over to silverbackstrategies.com where we have a wealth of digital marketing insights on our blog and Resource Center. We’ll see you next time on The Digital Marketing Troop.