Mobile Marketing

What is an IDFA (and How Will Apple’s iOS 14 Update Impact Advertisers)?

BREAKING NEWS: Apple iOS 14.5 update is here. Check out our latest announcement, “iOS 14.5: A Survival Kit To Help You Keep Calm and Carry On“ Apple announced that, as part of the iOS 14 update, it will be giving users the choice to block the IDFA identifier at the app level. Among other changes, … Continued

BREAKING NEWS: Apple iOS 14.5 update is here. Check out our latest announcement, “iOS 14.5: A Survival Kit To Help You Keep Calm and Carry On

Apple announced that, as part of the iOS 14 update, it will be giving users the choice to block the IDFA identifier at the app level. Among other changes, what this means is the iOS 14 update will require apps to ask users for permission to collect and share data.

According to reports, Apple has taken the strategic stance that privacy is a user right and is currently taking steps to grant users more ability to opt-out of any type of targeting or tracking. This change is expected to occur across Apple’s entire product portfolio.

“Privacy is a fundamental human right and at the core of everything we do. That’s why with iOS 14, we’re giving you more control over the data you share and more transparency into how it’s used.”

Apple, Inc.

In the following post, we cover everything advertisers need to know about the iOS 14 update including our expert recommendations for the next steps.

What is an IDFA?

IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) is a unique identifier for mobile devices and is used to target and measure the effectiveness of advertising on a user level across mobile devices.

What is Apple Planning for IDFAs?

During their annual Developers Conference, Apple revealed new features of iOS 14, their upcoming operating system for iPhones and iPads, which will include large changes to privacy management that have the potential to greatly impact how mobile is utilized for insights, targeting, and attribution.

Apple has announced that it will give users the ability to choose to block the sharing of this unique identifier at the App level. Previously, consumers had to opt-out. Now when a user installs or updates the new iOS, a prompt will appear alerting the user to opt-in or opt-out of the sharing of this information.  

Currently, about 70% of IOS users share their IDFA with app publishers, after this change it’s estimated that this number will drop to 10% to 15%.

This pop-up notification follows a similar approach to Apple’s iOS 13 update which informed users that an app was tracking their location and offered the choice to “always allow”, “limit its use”, or “deny access”. Additionally, iOS 14 users will have a dashboard for “App Privacy” to see what permissions their apps have access to.

Why is Apple Making Changes to IDFAs?

The changes to Apple’s IDFA are not unexpected as Apple has taken the public and strategic stance that privacy is a user right. Apple has repeatedly taken steps across its product portfolio to give users the ability to opt-out of any type of targeting or tracking. 

After all, Limited Ad Tracking (LAT) has been a feature on iOS devices for years, albeit buried in the settings of iOS. This new privacy prompt follows closely to the previous privacy initiatives Apple already put in place on its Safari browser, where it restricts third party cookies and limits the use of first-party cookies.

When Will IDFA Changes Take Place?

We expect the release of iOS 14 in the early Spring of 2021 (the date is still TBD). That being said, just because we don’t know the exact date, doesn’t mean advertisers should kick back and relax. We work as if the date is tomorrow. Once this launches, you don’t want to be behind the ball.

How Will the Apple iOS 14 IDFA Update Impact Advertisers?

Most platforms (Facebook, Google, Snapchat, TikTok, DSPs, MMPs, etc.) will be using SkAdNetwork, and Apple Search Ads will have its own framework.

Apple’s SKAdNetwork enables privacy-safe to install attribution and measurement. This framework appends attribution parameters upon the ad click, so when the app is installed and opened for the first time it will send an install postback to the ad network including information such as campaign ID. Currently, the SKAdNetwork has had very low adoption levels from ad networks.

BREAKING NEWS: Facebook Releases Update on iOS14 Guidelines

Advertisers will be impacted in the areas listed below:

Ad Targeting – Many targeting types (including retargeting to users based on device-level targeting) will no longer work for users that have opted out of sharing their IDFA. Platforms like Google and Facebook have other deterministic variables they can use to identify devices (email, phone number) but other programmatic platforms that don’t have such deterministic ID graph information are likely to see a reduction in targetable audiences.

Ad Measurement – Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) built their measurement and fraud capabilities around the IDFA identifier. While Apple has announced a replacement API (SKAdNetwork) that will allow for conversion data to be passed back at the campaign level, we’re still going to see a reduction in the fidelity of data that MMPs have to identify fraud and performance across mobile campaigns. 

How Will the Apple iOS 14 IDFA Update Impact Users?

For people who choose to opt-out, it doesn’t mean they will no longer see ads, it just means the ads they see will just not be personalized to them and potentially irrelevant.

“The advertising industry will rally together and develop new, alternative methods for delivering targeted advertising. We will see a wave of new measurement solutions and identifiers emerge in a collective effort to set new privacy-compliant industry standards.”

– Kolin Kleveno, SVP of Addressable Audiences at Tinuiti

What Are The Next Steps for Advertisers?

If you have a mobile app, you’ll need to update your measurement SDK to the latest version to ensure proper tracking on iOS devices. 

“First-party data is king. Our advice to all advertisers is to start the process of creating a usable identity graph of customers and prospects with an email address and/or phone numbers as your primary key to ensure your organization can continue to market on a 1 to 1 level across ad products”

Nii Ahene, Chief Strategy Officer at Tinuiti

Follow this checklist for general updates [Updated February 2021]:

  • Get ready to implement the ATT prompt in your app for early Spring implementation (exact timing from Apple TBD)
  • Update your SDKs (MMP, Facebook, Firebase, etc.) to support SkAdNetwork and Apple Search Ads Framework
  • Set Conversion Value Schema
  • Talk to your Tinuiti team (or the agency you are working with) to discuss how to set-up each channel moving forward as well as success metrics for paid media
  • Do a “Tech Stack Evaluation” and make sure there is consistency across your stack to ensure there are no breaks in reporting/attribution
  • Focus on building a “First Party Data Strategy”
  • Build a strategy for mobile engagement after the first install or action leveraging marketing tools like email, push notifications, in-app messages, SMS, and/or chatbots

Frequently Asked Questions about IDFA and iOS 14 Update

Brands must not wait to prepare for the inevitable loss of ad targeting and measurement, which is going to have an impact that goes way beyond mobile campaigns.

In a recent webinar, our top advertising experts answer the most frequently asked questions about the upcoming iOS 14 update including our recommendations for the next steps. You can check out the entire recap here.

If you have questions about preparing for iOS 14, feel free to reach out to us!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Want to learn more? Check out “The Future of the Web” to find out everything you need to know about the new restrictions, cookies, IDFA, first-party data, and all things privacy from our Tinuiti experts.


Navigating the IDFA Opt-In on iOS 14.5 [And How To Create App Tracking Transparency]

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