Apple vs. Facebook: The Impact on Your Ads

Apple vs. Facebook: The Impact on Your Ads

Brand Strategist, Cody Gross, is walking us through Apple's new operating system and how it impacts advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. What does this mean for your ads? And what does this mean for user data on all platforms? Come get a little off topic with Cody and our team of VPs as we explore these questions.

Roberts: Hello everyone and thank you for joining us. You're listening to A Little Off Topic, one agency's water cooler chat on digital marketing, business, and all the things that get in the way, presented by Speak Creative. Let's get into it.

Kindra: So in our last episode, our content specialist, Sarah Vaughan dropped some knowledge on us and mentioned the iOS 14 updates and the impact that they're going to have on social. So for today's episode, we wanted to dive into that a little bit more. We have a brand strategist from our team, Cody Gross, on the podcast. Hi Cody.

Cody: Hey everybody. What's up.

Roberts: Welcome to the podcast.

Kindra: That's right. So we want to jump right in and talk about this update. What it is, how it's going to impact organizations, what we're already seeing. I know that we've been talking about it as a team, so I'd love to just get the knowledge out of your head and to the listeners. So I'm excited to have you with us. If you want to just start, maybe give a little background about the reason for the change and the update that Facebook and iOS 14 are going through.

Cody: Sounds like a plan. So basically at the core of this, Apple is emphasizing data privacy for their users. We've heard about it for a while now. You hear in different varieties, data privacy is important and users being able to protect their data is important to our company. But then again, we always see that everyone can get tracked all the time. So who knows what really the deal is there, but Apple is trying to enforce it now. So in this latest update, they are really emphasizing data privacy. One thing I'll pitch to you right now is consider how effortlessly ads show up in your feeds, whether you're on Instagram or Facebook right now, they just show up based on what you saw maybe two seconds ago, two minutes ago, two hours ago. Based on what you were shopping for or what you were scrolling through on your phone, that's because of what's called your unique identifier. What it does basically is it allows these social applications like Facebook, which is the big topic for this one, to basically track where you're going on mobile. We've been able to give permission. We don't necessarily know that we give permission because it's just baked into how we operate each of these applications.

Kindra: All of those terms and agreements that we just say "I agree"

Cody: That's right. I'll be the first to admit I don't ever read any of them. I have no idea what I'm agreeing to, but we always just check yes and move right along. Well, that may not quite be the case anymore because Apple is getting a little more strict with that. Apple really believes all users should have the ultimate choice to not be tracked and be a little more private. So they're going to make it more of a priority to help users identify those opportunities where they don't necessarily have to be tracked. I think one quote that really stands out is one that Tim Cook said probably about two months ago in January 2021. He said "if a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform." So I think if you hear that quote, you'll know why these are coming and why they're targeting Facebook.

Ervin: Shots fired there.

Roberts: No kidding. Am I mistaken in believing that Cody is maybe the first guest to ever come with a quote ready?

Cody: You gotta be prepared.

Roberts: That was great, man. Look at you.

Kindra: Cody's always prepared.

Roberts: Yeah, that doesn't surprise me.

Kindra: Yeah. I think though that it is important that as we talk to clients, it's been one of these things that we heard about it a few months ago, and then it's like, "it's coming, we don't know what's changing" and now we're here. So we've got actual notices in Facebook and we're having to re-install pixels and update some of our agreements and we're here. The change is absolutely happening. Cody, can you break down exactly what that changes?

Cody: For sure. There's a few different components to this. So the first one is just app tracking transparency. What you'll see is when this update does come into effect, which we don't know exactly when it will be, but at sometime this Spring, perhaps Quarter 2, what you'll see is a notification that comes up when you open Facebook, Instagram, and other apps that this impacts that basically asks, "Hey, would you like to opt in or opt out to being tracked?" If you read that directly, most people are probably going to say no. If we're being honest, if you don't know that that's an option and like Kindra had mentioned earlier, when you disagree to the 20 pages of PDF that you don't read through, you agree to it, but you don't really know you agreed to it. Well, when it's right there in front of you, the likelihood that you opt out is pretty high. So that'll be the first change that we'll see that could impact ad performance because a lot of people are probably going to opt out.

Kindra: I'm interested to see what happens just in my own experience with social media, because right now I have such a tailored experience and don't even realize it. My unique identifier knows more about me probably than I know myself, but I feel like I'm getting relevant ads. So if that goes away, I don't think we'll see less ads. I just think we'll see less targeted and specific ads, right? There's going to be a lot more clutter.

Roberts: I just was going to say, I think that that's one of those things that maybe is easy to just bypass because it feels like, "Oh, this is unequivocally positive for the user." And I guess, for the fact that your data isn't being stored, that's absolutely true. But it's not so altruistic that it's removing ads from the experience. So you're going to get, I don't know, lawn ads and you don't give a rip about lawn stuff, whereas that really should be targeted at me. I'm all about the lawn stuff. It's just interesting to think through.

Kindra: We're so catered to now, like with our interests and hobbies and all of this, I think that if that level of curation disappears, I think engagement will really take a nosedive too, because it will feel a lot more like junk than it does now.

Roberts: Do we think it's likely that folks will opt out, realize the ad experience that they're getting is drastically different, and then opt back in? Or do we just think people are just going to opt out and be okay with it?

Ervin: Or do you think they'll opt out and go, "Oh my gosh, you know what they knew about me?"

Cody: No, I think both of those points are very valid and that's one of the questions that'll come in the month following the launch of this new update. What is that ad experience like, in the month after if you opt out. Like Kindra and Matt had said, the amount of ads aren't necessarily going to change. Facebook still has to sell their ad space. People are still going to put money behind ads and behind campaigns on the platforms. So the ads are going to be there if you're opting out and you forego that tailored solution, what does that new experience look like? You are perhaps going to see all those products that really do fit right up your alley, or the attractions to the city that you're already planning a vacation for, because the data knows you're planning a vacation. Those are beneficial. You may not realize they're beneficial, but they are beneficial. So that'll be interesting.

Kindra: I think it will be generational too. I think probably younger millennials, generation Z, and beyond will understand that in order for the world to feel relevant for them, there's gotta be some targeting going on. They're a little bit more okay with giving up that privacy. But if you think about the people who are already sharing content, like "adjust your settings, Facebook's taking control of this at midnight!" and some of those conspiracy things. I think if they get a privacy notice that Facebook is telling them, "Hey, protect yourself." They're absolutely going to take it. So I think it will be harder to reach older people on Facebook than it probably is now. I'm interested to see how that plays out.

Cody: Which is interesting because what's the most engaged audience on Facebook right now? The older folks. So that'll be interesting. A few more changes. Private click measurement is a new concept that Apple is pushing out. What that does is basically limit the amount of user data that can be accessed once a user bounces off one of the platforms. So think if you're a local store and you're selling products, you're selling through Facebook, but you try and bounce them to a landing page to make the sale. With the new private click measurement, that's going to be a lot harder to attribute sales to that. That gets a little tricky. It's a little harder to prove ROI in those situations. So time will tell what the answer is on there, but you'll still run the ads because they've worked in the past, but you may not be able to exactly prove that's where the sales are coming from. Facebook is launching solutions to all of these. They're launching what they believe will be an answer to "keep data private" and protect users' privacy, but then still allow for your campaign to run smoothly. Of course, they have to say that. They're going to say that because they want you to keep spending money with them, but we'll see how that shakes out. That'll just be another one to watch in as the coming months unfold.

Kindra: I think you could do a 28 day attribution window, or like 7 to 28 days. And now it's 1 day.

Cody: That's right. The 28 day attribution window is going away. So if you see an ad, you click on it, you don't purchase it at that time, because you're at work or you're doing something else, but then, 15 days later you remember, "Oh I love that product that I saw, let me go purchase it." In the past, you could still give credit to Facebook or Instagram on that. That's not really going to be the case anymore too. So the attribution windows are closing, which is another consideration that advertisers, especially folks who use the e-commerce side of things will have to consider when they're looking at recording.

Kindra: I think it was probably 2019, maybe 2020. I took part in a paid Facebook study. They asked me about my usage with attribution windows and put a lot of money into attribution and helping small businesses get up to speed on how to use it. So it's interesting that I can't imagine how much money they've invested into it. Then Apple has just taken it away. So really interesting to see them at war with each other.

Roberts: It strikes me that everybody on the marketing side is going to have to take a little bit of a step back and have a more disciplined approach to be able to look at proving ROI. I think Facebook makes that super easy right now through just the aggregation of data, but it's going to be a thing where it sounds like you'll have to set up individual landing pages for each campaign, so that, if there's a conversion on that landing page, you know exactly which campaign it is. It just feels very linear now and like a real headache.

Cody: And it'll just be something that folks will have to adjust to. Set up UTM links, use Google analytics to your advantage. A lot of people right now rely solely on Facebook reporting because they're comfortable with it and you don't necessarily have to exit the platform. You can just do all your ads in Facebook. You can report through Facebook, you can look at your data through Facebook. But if that's going to be limited, you're going to have to use other platforms to get as much data as you can. Then in places like Google analytics, which is relatively simple to navigate once you jump in there, you're just going to have to use it to your advantage.

Kindra: We've been fortunate enough to have that double layer we've been using UTM for quite some time. So it is nice to know that it's there, but I'm interested to see how that will change as we go along. So we've been talking a lot about Facebook, which obviously owns Instagram and that impacts a big chunk of the social ads that are out there. But if we back up and look at digital marketing a little bit more broadly, it will impact Google ads eventually, too, right.? So I would like to ask, I guess, Cody, what's the future of that? How's it going to impact digital campaigns and digital marketing in general?

Cody: It is interesting because this update seems pretty targeted at Facebook and Instagram. There's no way of getting around that, but data privacy and data protection is a conversation, like you mentioned, that's going to be going on in the months to come. I think seeing how ads are impacted in this first level of this update, mainly with Facebook and Instagram, will be a good indicator of what the next steps and what the next platform may be impacted by. So I'm interested to see just what it looks like going forward, as a result of all the changes that are happening on Facebook and Instagram, because you may see that people don't want to spend money on Facebook and Instagram because they can't prove ROI there anymore, or they can't prove ROI as well as they once could. So they're a little more uncomfortable or timid about using the platform because they can't prove to upper management what's going on and that's totally understandable. You need to be able to prove your worth. If you can't do that or if you can't explain that, you get yourself in a bit of a pickle. So that'll be interesting. I think what we talked about a little bit earlier. What's your experience like versus opting in and opting out could also play into it. Like I'll probably opt in personally because I work in the industry, so I understand that ads should be tailored and you're going to have a better experience being tailored. So if everyone recognizes that opt out isn't everything you think it is, and then opt in may be a better experience. The experience may not be that different come six months from now. But I do think just data protection and data privacy for all platforms will be interesting. Google doesn't seem to be too impacted right now, but I'll be interested to see what it looks like down the road. What do yall think?

Roberts: First of all, for people who are advocates of data privacy, I think the actual ability to have choice is totally valid. So, I think that it's not just about what's best in the marketing world and what's going to change and be shaped. That's obviously the discussion that we're having. But I think in the world of data privacy and for folks that are advocates of that, this is a win. I think that that's probably a positive thing, because I think there's just a lot more information that gets collected than we realize. Going back to your quote at the beginning, there's really no choice at this point. So to actually have a choice, I think is fantastic. Setting all that aside, it strikes me that Apple seems to be gearing up for a fight with Google. They're essentially cutting their teeth on Facebook and Instagram to see how all this works out. Because Google's approach to data privacy is just diametrically opposed to Apple's stance. That's not new. They've had a pixel for, I don't know, a couple of years. Right out of the gate, it's like, "Hey, we're going to track everything you do, and we're going to customize all your experiences." And it's weird to just know that that's happening. But that's the general direction that Google has been going for a long time. I don't see them changing and Apple knows that. So it seems like this is an opportunity for Apple to almost get into the early rounds of trying to knock out Google as a device provider. They're coming at it at an angle that I think is very unique. So from a business operational standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, from a leveraging public sentiment standpoint, I can appreciate everything that Apple is doing on a lot of different layers. It just changes what we do and how we do it on a daily basis.

Kindra: It strikes me as really interesting, just the contrast between this new wave of data protection versus the general data protection regulation, the GDPR stuff. Because GDPR for the majority of sites is like, "Hey, we're doing this, thanks!" And it's just letting there's very few sites that really allow you to opt out without major effort. But this is really in your face opt in or opt out. It would behoove Facebook to make it as exciting of a choice to opt in as possible, that's going to protect their bottom line, but I'm wondering how we'll position that with end-users.

Cody: That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that. I don't know the answer to it, but it is a good question. I think it's interesting. We've mentioned Facebook, we've mentioned Google, alphabet, whatever. So we were mentioning all the big names that seem to be going to war a little bit with each other. If you're talking about the other big tech companies, how does Amazon get impacted by these data privacy concerns? I don't know the answer, but that could be something down the road. I think that'd be beyond Google. But you shop all the time on Amazon. Your data protection may not allow you to have a lot of those tailored approaches to that. So it's interesting that just all these big techs are going to war with each other. It'll shake out pretty interestingly.

Kindra: I guess this is a question for the group, but how do you think businesses need to get ready for this? I mentioned that in ads manager, we're already making the changes that are necessary, but just generally speaking, what's changing for businesses as it pertains to targeting audiences?

Cody: I think one thing just to note is to diversify your ad spend don't try and put it all into one bucket. I would hope you're not putting it all into one bucket anyway, but if you're doing that at this point, maybe now is a good time to switch it up a little bit. Try different platforms. We know that Facebook and Instagram are cost-effective, we know they're efficient. We know you can reach your audience well, but we don't know what these new changes look like. So test out some other platforms. If you know a lot of your audience listens to music, there's no harm in testing out Spotify or Pandora or something along those lines. If you know your audience follows a lot of mom bloggers on Instagram, try and connect with a few of them. That's a different strategy, but it could be just as impactful. So as a business, just really try and understand your audience and don't put everything into one basket. We talked about attribution windows. So I want to hit on that real quick. Download what you can right now, while it's still there, and then so download your 28 day, download your 7 day and just compare them. You may be able to see drastic differences on those reporting, which will give you good insight into what you could expect in the coming months, so that when your numbers may look down in June 2021, you can confidently report. Well, they're not really down. It's just the attribution window has closed up. A Lot of the attribution actions are happening between day 8 and day whatever.

Roberts: To toot our own horn here a little bit, it strikes me that Facebook has been heading in a direction with their ad platform to make it extraordinarily easy, to be self-service and for a small business to go and be able to get ads up and going and be able to provide reporting. I'm certainly not trying to say we're wizards by any means, but we do this all day every day. So the idea of finding a partner who does engage all day, if you are in that self-service mode, things are going to look a lot different for you. But it's probably worth engaging with a partner that's willing to talk through strategies to help you understand where your spend could be effective, where you can hit the same audiences, either on Facebook or Instagram. Engage them, for a quick conversation, just get a strategy session and talk through some ideas. Or like Cody was saying, just get real comfortable with diversifying where you spend. At least for the first little bit, while behaviors shake out, they're probably going to be better places for you to spend your money. I don't know that you doing that on your own, that you need to be the one leading the charge and being the Guinea pig of how this is going to shake out.

Kindra: Sure. We're in Q2 of 2021, but if you haven't in a long time take stock of the security practices and the targeting practices that you're doing, just knowing this is how I'm targeting people. This is how I'm using their data. This is what I'm collecting. I don't think people realize all the data that they probably have, and if they did realize that they'd understand that like, "Oh, that makes me susceptible to want to need to know these things" or "I need to take specific actions to make sure I'm not putting my user's data at risk". So I think it becomes real once you just understand how much data is out there that we have control over.

Roberts: That's a great point.

Ervin: So the one thing I was thinking is that anytime you have a big change like this creates a lot of chaos, right? Everybody's been doing things the same way. Facebook's obviously highly invested in by lots of people using their products. So around the edges, there are new opportunities that are created. Cody mentioned a couple like using Spotify or something else. So I think the other thing to look for is, now that we can't attribute this data very well or we won't be able to as well with Facebook, what else is out there? What else is there that we could do that will bring us good results or that will allow us to be really highly targeted or really good at converting leads being generic. It's going to create a whole new field of opportunity because Apple's going to just shut it down. So people are going to have to change quick. So having a good partner, like you were saying, Matt, that can help keep you engaged, help you think through some of these things, help you dig into some of the areas that are much more on the outskirts now is going to be really important.

Roberts: Alright, Cody, we've rounded third. We've been incredibly disciplined about being on topic. It's now time for our off topic question, we know you're a #sportz with a Z guy.

Cody: That's right. That is right.

Roberts: What is one game, I love in our show notes that it says past or present, is there a game going on right now that you want to be in attendance for?

Kindra: Opening day.

Cody: Well, considering that it is opening day of baseball in 2021, I would love to be in Cincinnati to watch the St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds. Kindra is an avid Royals fan. So we have a little bit of a rivalry here. But that's okay. Honestly, any opening day would be great, given the past year when no fans were allowed at any baseball games, I'll take any game. I'll even go to a Kansas city royals game.

Kindra: Even as if it's such a hardship to go.

Roberts: I just was going to ask, have you ever been to an opening day?

Cody: I've never been to an opening day. For the early part of my life, that was pretty tough when you're in school or in college, it's April. So you can't really get there, but now I can.

Kindra: The early part of his life up until four years ago.

Cody: No one can see my face on this podcast. So we're okay.

Ervin: So I want a prediction though. It's April 1st. Who's winning the big dance this year? Then you'll have to predict this now. Then when this comes out, it will have already happened. You could look really brilliant here.

Cody: This is the first time I'd have something go live to make my prediction either correct or wrong, but we only have four teams left and Gonzaga looks far and away better than everybody else. So I'm going to go with the easy answer and go Gonzaga. They're undefeated. They beat everybody by double digits.

Ervin: The only reason I wouldn't pick them hands down is because that's a pretty big set of expectations, because the last perfect season was the year I was born. 1976 was the last time anybody's done it.

Cody: It is a big expectation.

Kindra: Cody, did you have Gonzaga on your bracket or are you switching that mid-bracket?

Cody: My brackets stinks, but I had them going all the way.

Ervin: Did you really?

Roberts: Nice.

Cody: Yeah. They're undefeated. They are undefeated and they have looked so good all year.

Kindra: I had Alabama and you see how far that got me.

Ervin: I had Oral Roberts on mine. It didn't make it either.

Kindra: Hey. There was a chance there for a second.

Roberts: Our producer, Jessica, has noted that she thinks Baylor will take it all. So I don't know anything about anything.

Kindra: Baylor is the school I always forget about until March madness. Well, Gonzaga too, honestly.

Ervin: You're not a big zags football fan or baseball fan?

Cody: The Washington people are going to come after Kindra for calling them "zah-gah" just then, they're the zags, Gonzaga.

Kindra: My bad.

Cody: That's alright. If we have anybody from Eastern Washington, listening to our podcast, they'll come for you.

Ervin: We're huge in Eastern Washington. Huge. Our market share there is really large.

Roberts: From myself, our panel today, and all of us at Speak. Thanks for getting A Little Off Topic with us. If you liked today's episode, you'd love the content our team is cranking out on our blog, head over to to check out the latest and greatest. If you enjoyed the show, subscribe and leave a review on your podcast platform of choice and see you next time.

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Posted by A Little Off Topic at 07:30