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The Impact That iOS 12 Will Have for Paid Social Tracking

So, what is the update? 

It seems like there is an increased pressure on the digital advertising industry at the moment. In my opinion, this is due to the gradual change in perceptions over privacy of our personal data as long as issues around transparency, viewability and brand safety. Then you add in the fact that people tracking for data collection purposes is now under increased legislative scrutiny, there is certainly an uneasy feeling within the marketplace. In light of all of this, Apple made two key announcements last month (4 June) regarding ad-tracking with Safari for the upcoming iOS 12. They were:

1. Individuals will be empowered to perform conscious opt-ins that allow for tracking on any website,

2. The share of device characteristics will be reduced to minimize a device’s fingerprint.  

How does this affect tracking? 

This update impacts every social publisher, particularly Facebook Inc. (Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network). There are two ways that these publishers can track people across the web:

1. People have an active session (they are logged into a network) and browse websites.

2. People do not have an active session (they are not logged in), but engage with a social plugin on a website (i.e. press the Facebook Like or Pinterest PinIt button below an article).

The announcements also impact the way people are tracked outside of the native in-app experience (i.e. Facebook App and Twitter App).  

There’re two areas that need consideration once the changes kick in. 

First, understanding the customer journey will need to be monitored client-by-client. Here are two examples of impressions served by device for two campaigns currently live in the UK with similar impression count and no limitation on device targeting. 

iOS 12 update image

In the example of the Beverage client, the data shows that the share of iOS-served impressions is 44%. However, in the example of the Luxury client, this is even higher at 47%.  


Two things that stand out here:  

  • While the global share between Android and iOS is about 80/20%, the Facebook delivery report shows significant uptake for iOS with as high as 53/47 Android vs iOS in the Luxury example. 
  • With iOS being a signal for affluence, relevant verticals such as Luxury might be particularly impacted by this. 

With all this in mind, impressions attributed to iOS devices may still go down and we may see impressions attributed to unknown devices that are populated by people signing out of ad tracking.


Attribution is a second area of focus. Altered device breakdown data will impact any attribution models that are being fed by device data. Therefore, this can misrepresent the impact that social is having on the overall media mix.


What do brands need to consider? 


People engage with social media owners through mobile devices. In May 2018, the majority of Facebook users (95%) access the network using their smartphone and this won’t look much different for any other social media owner. This needs highlighting as these changes are irrelevant for the in-app experience. They only become a factor outside the app experience and only for people using Safari on iOS 12. It's important therefore to understand people by reading device information. This is because it is a factor of relevance predominantly for App developers who are looking at the OS as a factor, particularly clients with App Install or Lead Gen objectives. 


We recommend using analytics tools such as FB Analytics to understand the shift of device reports over time and monitor if new unknown metrics are introduced and how they populate over time. We also recommend deploying the conversion pixel on landing pages that allows for consistent cross-device measurement and attribution.