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Episode 121: What Apple’s Ad Tracking Changes Mean For Outdoor Industry Advertisers (minisode)

We're back with a minisode! Iris takes a dive into the controversial iOS 14.5 update and what it means for advertisers in the outdoor industry. If you start to see changes in your social media ad campaigns, this is why! Tune in to find out what's happening, what the impacts will be, and what you can do about it.

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Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome to another episode of Outside by Design! Thank you to all the outdoor professionals, creatives, and industry experts that tune in to the show, we’re very honored to be able to make these episodes for you.

I’m Iris, I’m on the creative team here at WHEELIE, and I am coming at you today with a minisode! This week I’ll be discussing Apple’s iOS 14.5 update and what it means for outdoor industry marketing. This is a buzzing topic in the social media world right now, but I haven’t seen as much talk about it in the outdoor industry specifically, which is why I wanted to cover it on the show. So let’s get started!

First things first, let’s talk about the update. At the end of April of this year, Apple launched iOS 14.5 - and as part of the update, iOS users started receiving pop-ups where they had to opt in or opt out of data tracking within each of their apps. This feature is called App Tracking Transparency. If you’re an iPhone user, you may have seen these prompts popping up: they read “Allow [app name… Facebook, Instagram, etc] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” and you can choose Allow, or Ask App Not To Track. This choice can also be changed at any time within your iPhone’s settings. When you choose no, that particular app can no longer use a device identifier to follow a user between apps and websites.

That may seem a little complicated, so here’s an example. You have the REI app on your phone and you shop around for a new tent, but decide not purchase one right now. You toggle back to Instagram (as we always end up doing, right?), and there’s an ad for the same tent right there on your feed. This is the type of between-app tracking that Apple is allowing users to turn off. You can probably guess that most users, when faced with these prompts, choose to turn the app tracking off.

Now, while this update has been applauded by some privacy fans, advertisers - especially Facebook - have spoken out against this update. They argue that these prompts will drastically lower the ability to target advertising, raising costs for advertisers both big and small across their platforms. Facebook has even added their own in-app prompts asking users to opt into tracking, saying it will help keep Facebook and Instagram free of charge. Twitter and countless other apps have also added their own warnings begging users to leave app tracking on. I think the other day I saw one on my sudoku game app. While the claim that they might charge for these platforms is most likely an empty threat, there are going to be impacts on marketers. Here are some of the projected impacts.

First, it’s looking like the estimations that these prompts would cause the majority of users to opt out were correct. Current reported data estimates show that anywhere from around 29% to as low as 3% of US users have chosen to allow tracking. Because the majority of users are choosing to turn tracking off, advertising platforms like Facebook can no longer use traffic data to optimize ad targeting and retargeting - the features that make the ads you see on your feed more relevant to your likes and tastes, like “climbing” or “camping” or “snow sports”. Now, Facebook will know less about these users and won’t learn their purchasing habits as intimately, so they will be served less relevant ads.

So, in turn, as targeting capabilities are hindered, Facebook (and other platforms) can’t guarantee that they place your brand’s ad with someone who is likely to purchase. This lowers ad targeting effectiveness, potentially raises ad costs, and decreases targetable audience sizes.

There will also be less data available about audiences to advertisers, making campaigns less easily optimized than in the past. There will be limited demographic breakdowns, and Facebook has announced that 7-day click and 1-day view reporting will not be available for opted out users. There will also be a new limit of 8 preferred web conversion events instead of the previous unlimited number of pixel placements that you could use on Facebook. Now, Facebook targeting will adapt and learn user preferences based on in-app activity, but that will be operating more so on assumptions than on cold, hard data as they were able to before.

Outdoor brands commonly have a mix of direct-to-consumer and retail sales, so retargeting ads and prospecting audiences have been effective for finding interested audiences on social platforms for years. These changes will impact every advertiser differently, but they will have some sort of impact on nearly every advertiser that targets ads. That makes this update a pretty big deal.

So what can you do as everything starts to shake out from iOS 14.5?

First, have a talk with your social ad team - whether they’re in-house or through an agency. You and your team will want to stay on top of how your social ad strategy is playing out under this new update to determine if costs are rising, if results are dipping, and if your audiences are shrinking. Don’t make any drastic decisions right away, but keep an eye on trends more closely than you may have before. Determine if the update is impacting your return on ad spend, and take the next few months to evaluate your budgets and your ad funnels.

This is also a great time to make sure your brand has in-app shopping on Instagram and Facebook set up and you are utilizing product tagging in your feed posts. This will allow the apps to gain in-app data about your users’ shopping habits and let them better understand their likes and dislikes, even if they have tracking turned off.

Lastly, take a deep dive into the Google Analytics of your site, as limited pixel numbers mean Facebook’s analytics won’t be as effective as they have been to determine information about those who click through to your site from ads. Regardless of these updates, we recommend sifting through your Analytics data regularly to find opportunities in your digital marketing strategy - so let this be a good excuse to fall head over heels into the plethora of data your Analytics account will provide you.

All in all, it’s difficult for anyone to predict exactly how this change will shake out over the rest of the year and if it will prove as drastic as Facebook has made it out to seem. But at least staying aware of how this new tracking consent will change social media advertising (and how it may continue to do so in years to come) will allow you to be proactive in adjusting your digital strategy for your outdoor brand. If there’s anything we love around here, it’s being proactive instead of reactive.

I’ve included some links to more in-depth information on Facebook’s changes in the show notes if you’d like to take a deeper dive. And if you’d like more information on the show you can find us at or at @wheeliecreative on the ‘gram. This podcast is produced by WHEELIE, a creative agency for people who thrive outside - drop us a line if you have any questions about your brand’s digital strategy. And as always, thank you so much for being here. Bye!

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