3 IDFA Myths and What You Need to Know

Michael Zaslansky | August 19, 2020
VP of Business Development

It’s been almost 2 months now since Apple announced its changes to its IDFA policies at WWDC. In that time there has been lots of talk about the changes and what it will mean for the mobile ecosystem. Some of this talk has been on point; the rest, not so much. Here, we tackle IDFA myth vs. reality and the information you need to take action in preparation for IDFA nerfing.

But, first, some quick background. Historically, IDFAs have been one of the most precise ways to track a mobile advertising campaign on iOS. This tracking occurs by assigning a device to a unique identifier. Apple’s changes to the use of the IDFA with iOS14 includes the launch of its new AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework. This framework will manage access to the IDFA gained through user consent. 

As an alternative to the IDFA opt-in provided by the ATT framework, Apple has also presented a second solution to attribution and ad measurement: the SKAdNetwork. The SKAdNetwork (SKAd) is an entirely different approach to attribution that removes user level data.

IDFA Myth 1: This is the death of the IDFA

It’s important to remember that Apple’s privacy changes only apply to iOS14 and while iOS users do represent the most valuable users in the mobile ecosystem, Android users are still the majority in most countries. Keep in mind, Google’s ‘GAID’ (Google Advertising ID) is very much alive and well.

Globally, Google Android remains the market leader with a 51.8% share of the smartphone market. While Apple’s share of smartphone users has risen 20% since 2012, the majority of growth has been in the U.S. The countries dominated by iOS will be most affected. Specifically, the United States with 50% iOS market share, Japan with 60% and Australia with just under 60% market share. Globally, Apple’s market share of smartphone shipments has dropped to around 10%

Some experts have predicted user opt-in rates for IDFA access will fall between 10-20%. Given the 1.4 billion active iOS users, this projection means roughly 420 million iOS users will still be accessible via the IDFA.

Additionally, Android inventory holds more opportunities to optimize and scale because it covers a wider range of brands, devices and screen sizes. There are more inventory opportunities with different device manufactures. There are also partnership opportunities to work with players who understand the Android ecosystem and have experience in Android-dominated markets (such as SEA/INDIA/LATAM). With all these expanded avenues, it’s no wonder many app advertisers are shifting budget to the Android ecosystem as iOS uncertainty looms.  

IDFA Myth 2: No one will opt-in to data tracking

As noted above, current opt-in predictions average around 10-20%. While this figure is aptly realistic, our internal testing has pointed to much higher potential rates of opt-in. 

We understand that when big changes are first announced, general panic will ensue. The mobile ecosystem has fared through many “apocalypses” over its history. What’s become clear over the last 2 months is that there are strategies available to marketers to successfully persuade users to opt-in to data tracking while also abiding by Apple’s messaging guidelines.

Additionally, marketers are now aware that there are messaging flows outside of just showing an Apple opt-in pop-up that can be leveraged to get a higher opt-in. This includes showing users what will happen with the data they provide, rather than just presenting a pop-up opt-in message. 

Marketers can also present the opt-in invitation at key moments. For example, showing the ATT pop-up after letting users understand the value of the app in a custom pop-up. This could be a screen from the developer explaining why push notifications will improve their experience, after which the permission opt-in is shown.

A Caveat About Opt-In Across Verticals

It’s important to shift opt-in predictions based on the vertical. For example, an opt-in rate will likely differ for an ecommerce app than a hyper casual game. This makes intuitive sense since casual games have historically depended on advertising and users are used to seeing ads. Furthermore, the data collected by a game app is different from the data collected by a shopping app. A user could be more suspicious of tracking around their buying behavior than their mobile gaming behavior.

This is all to say that the initial 10-20% prediction rate of opt-in could differ across different verticals. It also might be smart to assume that for game apps, the opt-in rate could be much higher than these predictions. This caveat as well as the response to myth #2 would affect our previous response to myth #1 (e.g. the IDFA is dead in the water).

IDFA Myth 3: Retargeting is dead

As stated above, the IDFA is not going away completely and therefore, neither is retargeting. 

For those users that opt-in to data tracking via the ATT framework, marketers will have the same access to user-level data with which to re-engage users with targeted messaging.

And, again, the GAID is not going away on Android, allowing retargeting for a majority of mobile users in the world. 

The expectation that retargeting will be inhibited is understandable given the fact that activities like building lookalike audiences, retargeting, white-and blocklisting, all rely on the IDFA. 

Now is a good time to start looking into diversifying your re-engagement options – whether through push notifications, emails, SMS etc. You should also focus on building the right mechanisms to collect consent for these options. Through combined efforts, marketers and ad tech companies will come up with alternative ways to re-engage users that will not rely on the IDFA.

Takeaways

It’s been almost 2 months now since Apple announced its changes to its IDFA policies at WWDC. In that time there has been lots of talk about the changes and what it will mean for the mobile ecosystem. Some of this talk has been on point, some of it, not so much. 

  • Myth: This is the death of IDFA
    • Fact: The IDFA is not going away for a majority of smartphone users in the world that use Android.
  • Myth: No one will opt-in to data tracking
    • Fact: our tests have indicated that more than the predicted 10-20% of users will opt-in. This rate would also likely fluctuate across verticals with many more users opting in on a mobile game app.
  • Myth: Retargeting is dead.
    • Fact: The IDFA will continue to exist, therefore, retargeting is not dead. This is an opportunity to diversify your user-level data sources via push notifications, emails, etc.