iOS 14: Get your Ad Monetization Ready! All you need to know. (UPDATE Sept'20) - Appodeal

Монетизация - 12 min read  - 27 августа, 2020

iOS 14: Get your Ad Monetization Ready! All you need to know. (UPDATE Sept’20)

Apple has caused the APPocalypse, the IDFAs are dead, an $80 billion ad industry is trembling, the oceans are rising, and the sky will fall on our heads.

Updated: added new questions that have emerged in the latest days & also useful links for App and Game Devs. I will keep this article updated as new info arises.

Apple has caused the APPocalypse, the IDFAs are dead, an $80 billion ad industry is trembling, the oceans are rising, and the sky will fall on our heads.

This is what we all have been hearing for the last months. Everyone in the mobile industry has been talking about iOS 14 and the potentially catastrophic effects it will have. You probably have been bombarded with so many, many emails, blog posts, podcasts, tweets, and much more. Am I right?

I have been in the same situation, trying to make sense of every new piece of information that has emerged, and from Appodeal, we have decided to make this article, so you don’t suffer the same headaches. For the last week, I have been gathering the most relevant and frequent questions you sent to our support team and solving them

In this post, you will find all the answers & information you need. Stop stressing yourself, get your Ad Monetization ready for iOS 14, and go back doing what you really want to do: developing your awesome mobile game.

So, let’s start with the basics:

UPDATED (Sept): IDFA removal delayed until 2021

IDFA removal should have arrived in September. However, Apple has recently announced that it has been delayed and IDFA removal will now go into effect in early 2021.

“We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”

Apple Inc.

While this gives developers more time to get their Apps ready, it may also mean that, when the time comes, the enforcement of the new guidelines may be way stricter.

Why iOS14 impacts your Ad Monetization?

In short, iOS 14 introduces an opt-in form on every app to let users chose if they want to be tracked by ad purposes. And it looks like this:

The first time a user receives the “Apple’s iOS14 Opt-In” pop-up, looks rough. You can barely customize it, and when users open your game, they will get a notification like this:

If the user accepts, then you can keep monitoring their IDFA (Identifier For Advertisers). If not, you will get their SKAdNetwork.

SKAdNetwork is a framework that allows mobile apps to attribute installs while preserving the end-users’ privacy. You can track which of your Marketing Campaigns led to new users installing your apps or making purchases. However, you will not get in-depth user information such as real-time data, user-lever data, view-through & click-through metrics, advanced attribution services (cohorts, LTV, deep linking…).

This is revolutionary.

Does Appodeal support SKAdNetwork?

Yes.

Appodeal Ad Mediation supports conversion tracking using Apple’s SKAdNetwork with all the ad networks that you can integrate, check here our list of ad demand sources.

At the same time, any ad networks you choose to work with (and are compatible with our platform) can attribute app installs even when IDFA is unavailable.

You will not find Appodeal registered as a SKAdNetwork. Targeting and attribution of ad creatives is the logic of an Ad Network, but a mediation & growth platform for your apps. We are 100% unbiased!

Appodeal Mediation SDK will still allow you to connect your ad units with different ad networks and control your ad waterfalls.

What should I do to be ready for iOS14?

There are just three steps if you want to have your Appodeal Monetization Platform ready for iOS14:

  1. Update your app to provide authorization requests by the App Tracking Transparency framework. You do this entirely from your side.
  2. Then, to work with SKAdNetworkItems, you will have to update to Appodeal 2.7.3. This update will allow your integrated ad networks to attribute your user by SKAdNetworks.
  3. And after that, you will need to follow the updates of the list of SKAdNetwork’s IDs. They probably will change over time, and you want to keep each SKAdNetwork ID adequately tracked.

And with that, you will comply with Apple Guidelines, and your apps will not be deleted from the Apple App Store. 

Do you have support & technical documentation on Appodeal?

Yes!

You have at your disposal a dedicated page on how to integrate iOS14 to your Appodeal SDK 2.7.3. You will find all the details on our Appodeal Wiki.

If you’re facing issues during the integration of any part of the document, do not hesitate to contact our support team. They will help you with any problems and guide you through all the process.

What challenges will iOS14 present to my current App Monetization?

iOS14 puts a wall between your users and the data that you can collect from them. Now you will have to explicitly ask them for permission (through the apple opt-in form). As you can already guess, any barrier is an extra step that your users may not overcome.

According to some experts in the industry, around 85% of the mobile users may decline to be tracked if you show them a raw opt-in. 

Later tests and studies have shown that Opt-In Rates may not be that terrible. During this month of august, a multi-variable test was launched to a non-controlled casual-gaming audience of ~10K users, and they got between 40% to 73% opt-in ratios. 

Adikteev

For all those users who have declined opt-in in your monetization, you will not be able to:

  • Use user-level data or behavioral targeting based on previous users’ app activity.
  • Retarget networks within your waterfall.
  • Get real-time data from your campaigns.
  • Make small campaigns (Apple will send you the accumulated data only after an undisclosed amount of conversions occurred for the same app and campaign ID). 
  • Use Advanced Attribution Services (deferred deep-linking and long cohorts / LTV)

These effects will translate into a decrease in the fill-rates of your ad units, and lower eCPMs since the quality of the ads you’re sending is less specific and relevant for your audience.

However, from Appodeal, we have already identified some ways to reduce the potential damage caused by the iOS14 update. Keep reading to find it out.

How to convince my users to accept being tracked?

Who would really accept being voluntarily tracked, spied, or followed?

However, these past years the Privacy Laws, such as GDPR & CCPA, are enforcing apps and mobile games to get consent from the users to collect their data. You may already have a “Consent Pop-Up” completely customized that shows in the FTUE (First Time User Experience).

From Appodeal, we got you covered. We created a Consent Management Platform to collect all your users’ consent.

If you have customized your “Consent Pop-Up” with an appealing message that drives the user to accept being tracked, we recommend you to place it before the iOS14 prompt pops up.

Try several versions of your customized Consent Pop-up, use an adequate language, keep it simple and straightforward, and highlight its advantages. Don’t just say that you want to “track” them and tell them how they will benefit.

And again, update your App’s info.plist. This step is a must, or you won’t have the ID of each advertising partner.

What alternatives to SKAdNetwork do I have?

Some people think that certain actors in the mobile industry will not be pleased to work only with the aggregated data received from SKAdNetworks, and they will look for other types of user-level matching to acquire granular data.

Probabilistic matchmaking models such as “fingerprinting” will probably still be available. This has always been the second-best alternative option when IDFA matchmaking wasn’t possible, and companies wanted to track user-level data.

Fingerprinting is a technique to identify the user’s device at the time of an ad click. It takes a snapshot that collects device information (IP, Brand Device, OS…) & user’s parameters (screen size, timestamp, plugins…). It is often used in the ad industry to attribute installs.

And other less common alternatives are statistical models like “Media Mix Modeling”. However, this seems a big turn-around, and in digital environments, we have more accurate methodologies.

There are drawbacks to using these methodologies, though.

They’re less accurate, more susceptible to fraud, and it will be harder to identify duplicates. At the same time, the GDPR & CCPA privacy legislations are trying to prevent the abuse of these techniques. Even the prevailing trend for browser-based platform developers is to remove access to data points that could be used for fingerprinting.

iOS14-fingerprinting-appodeal

We don’t even know if Apple will end up forbidding these techniques too.

So far, the mobile industry does not have any clear alternative. Unless something big happens, you better be ready for what iOS14 will bring, because experts agree that SKAdNetwork and similar technologies will stay for a while.

Can I use IDFV for ad attribution?

IDFV is an identifier for Vendors. This means that the IDFV is assigned and shared by all the apps in the same company.

It is useful for publishers and developers that have several apps released on iOS. IDFV is an identifier that will not change unless the user uninstalls all the apps from this particular vendor, and it’s used mostly for marketing purposes.

However, IDFV can’t be used for Ad Attribution.

Any more Opt-In changes in iOS14 that I should care about?

So far, we have been speaking about getting the user’s consent to track their advertising identifier.

However, if you are a mobile publisher or an app developer, there are two other Opt-In Prompts that you should be aware of.

First, it is the “New Location Permission Prompt”.

So far, users were able to choose if they wanted to be located via GPS. That gave precise coordinates to the analytic tool of your choice. However, now they will have an extra option: approximate location. This will allow them to limit the geographical data that is sent to your app.

And the second one is the “In-App Data Collection Prompt”.

This prompt it’s not new, but it will include further alterations. In iOS14, you will now be required to list the data you collect about users. This will be displayed as the following picture shows: a high-level overview of how your app accesses, uses and shares your user data. Also, all this information is displayed in the App Store Connect.

iOS14-opt-in-approximate-location

How does SKAdNetwork work at a technical level?

Since iOS14 SKAdNetwork has been the topic in the Mobile Ad Industry, you may have heard how it works.

However, for those who still don’t know how SKAdNetwork framework works, here is a more extense explanation along with a self-explanatory picture too:

“When a user taps an ad, advertisers display an App Store product screen with signed parameters that identify the ad campaign. If a user installs and opens an app, the device sends an install validation postback to the ad network. The Apple-signed notification includes the campaign ID but doesn’t include user- or device-specific data. The postback may include a conversion value and the source app’s ID if Apple determines that providing the values meets Apple’s privacy threshold.”

Apple Developer Documentation

The source of this brief explanation is the Apple Developer Documentation, where you can find a longer explanation and all the deets.

Will these new iOS14 Updates change the in-app behavior of my users?

The first thing that will happen is that users who didn’t accept to give you their IDFA will start receiving more irrelevant and noisy ads.

Irritating ads can cause several consequences to our users, but the most obvious one you should expect is frustration.

If users get tired of your app cause tiresome ads, they won’t install the next one through your in-app ads (since your ad units will be pushing mass media content instead of hyper-targeted and valuable services for them). They will probably have to find new apps on the App Store Search, and ASO will become more relevant.

Simultaneously, since you may not be able to use granular data to reach potential paying users so quickly, the new users you acquire may have lower retention rates (which ironically could affect your positioning on the App Store Ranks). And if you don’t have a finely tuned monetization strategy, your ads may not be so popular on the RTB auction mechanics, causing you to acquire low-quality users that may alter your metrics.

Again, we are speaking with conditionals and suppositions.

The optimists are saying that, sooner or later, “Users will realize that it’s better to accept the opt-in to improve their overall experience.”

Even if some users will definitely understand it that way. You can expect that people may be influenced in a different direction. Just imagine: what do you think will happen when all the iPhone users have to accept an annoying and alarmistic pop-up for each app they open?

  1. Do you think that influencers will create videos and blog posts explaining why it is good to accept the opt-in, each time, for hundreds of apps installed on their devices, and how good it is for their in-app experiences to receive relevant ads?
  2. Or do you expect them to show how to enable the “limit all ad traffic” option by default, and just forget about it?

And also, do have in mind that the IDFA opt-in is not the only change on iOS14, but it also updates several other features.

So yes, we should expect behavioral changes on your user base when iOS14 will arrive.

How my UA Campaigns will be affected?

Again, it is hard to say. To properly answer the previous question, we can only speak hypothetically.

The iOS 14 update will affect your app in a different measure depending on which kind of app do you have. Taking the Mobile Game Industry as an example, the UA Campaigns will not affect the same way different genres.

On one side, we have “hardcore” games with long-term retention tails that use UA Campaigns to acquire potential VIP and paying users. Most of their revenue is based on marketing campaigns whose goal is to drive those VIP users to spend more money (on In-App Purchases), and they do so by tracking granular data and in-app events.

On the other side, we have a long list of companies developing dozens of hyper-casual games that monetize exclusively through hyper-segmented mobile advertising and acquire users thanks to the pull of becoming a temporary hit.

We believe that the UA Campaigns of all the games that fall in these two categories will struggle a bit more.

However, the UA Campaigns of “mid-core” games with average retention rates, a balanced ad vs. IAP monetization strategy, are visually appealing to all the public, and/or have a proper ASO positioning, may not be affected that much by the new iOS14.

And what about fraud on UA campaigns?

In the SKAdNetwork framework, Apple is vouching for all the installs of your apps. By doing so, they expect that this will reduce the likelihood of ad fraud.

According to the latest State of Mobile Ad Fraud, the analysis in the first half of 2020 show that gaming apps have a lower risk of suffering fraud in their UA Campaigns than non-gaming apps.

AppsFlyer SMAF

This depends mostly due to the dimensions of a UA Campaign. It’s been reported that substantial mobile marketing campaigns with high payouts typically attract more fraudsters, and this happens more often on non-gaming apps.

However, the incentives for fraudsters are high. They are continually finding ways to break through these barriers.

Can iOS14 negatively affect any other areas of my app?

Expect the unexpected.

iOS14 comes with so many changes, that we should not be surprised to hear dozens of stories about it’s positive and negative effects.

So far, during the iOS14 (beta), social media and specialized online magazines have already covered polemical situations from top-chart apps.

To keep it short, here you have a list of useful links. Maybe you can extract a valuable thing or two from these cases, and check if your app could get any of these issues, or similar ones.

Why would Apple want everyone to use the SKAdNetwork?

The official answer from Apple is to improve the user’s privacy. They want to protect their users from all the apps in their iPhone & iPad ecosystem.

Even if iOS 14 hasn’t been so well received by the industry, the mobile ad ecosystem consistently changes. Apple have already made similar moves, such as Safari’s anti-cookie Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). So it is not uncommon that new standards and regulations roll out every few years, making previous models obsolete. 

We cannot forget either that Apple has “Apple Search Ads”, a service entirely focused on mobile user acquisition on the iOS App Store. No matter the company’s ulterior intention, by limiting data availability, one of the possible consequences of iOS 14 is that the Apple may become a walled garden (like other big actors in the industry such as Google, Facebook…).

But apart from that, from Appodeal, we strongly value our user’s privacy as well, and we cannot do anything else but to applaud this course of action.

Ultimately, these standards help the mobile industry and make it move forward. Apple, with iOS 14 allows users to have the right to choose how apps will treat their data, and that should ideally be the goal of the mobile industry.

Are we sure IDFA is truly “dead” and won’t come back?

Again, IDFA is not “dead-dead”, but since we may expect a lot of people not accepting the opt-in, we should not rely that much on it.

Mobile developers and publishers shouldn’t get their hopes up by thinking that this move will be reversed. Industry experts believe that the Big Tech companies will probably toughen their privacy policies and restrictions in favor of the end-user.

Updated (Sept): if you want to know more about IDFA, its history and predecessors, here’s a great article from one of our partners, AdColony.

We have a similar example with the Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari. It was disruptive. Developers and advertisers complained. But Apple stood firm like a tree.

Should I change my app on GooglePlay and other Stores too?

Right now, there is no need to make changes on GooglePlay or any other stores.

The same way Apple has IDFA, Google has GAID (Google Advertising ID). They haven’t made any statement about “killing” GAID, but now that Apple has thrown the first stone, it wouldn’t be surprising that other companies follow.

However, the industry experts say that Google may change their privacy policies in a not-so-distant future. So be ready.

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