SO MANY ACRONYMS IN DIGITAL ADVERTISING!
It’s hard to keep up with them all. There’s been a major change in mobile marketing in the last couple of years with regards to two acronyms you may have heard: IDFA and ATT.
Sometimes marketers use these two words interchangeably as they both reference mechanisms in Apple’s iOS user tracking.
But they’re not the same thing.
Here’s everything you need to know about IDFA, ATT, and the future Apple advertising.
What is IDFA?
In the same way that third-party cookies might track interactions in a browser, IDFA enables marketers to attribute user actions like installs, clicks, and purchases. This is very important so that mobile advertisers know what is and isn’t working with their programs. It also helps them target and personalize ads based on what they know about the user on the other end of the mobile device. For example, if you know the user has installed your app, you might promote a new micropurchase to them versus just showing them a generic ad.
In 2012, Apple introduced the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to its mobile devices as a replacement for its Unique Device Identifier (UDID) and Media Access Control (MAC) Address. The IFDA gives a unique, anonymous identifier to each mobile device in order to allow advertisers access to data around consumer behavior both in-app and across the web. Users were automatically opted into IFDA but could turn off tracking manually using their device’s privacy settings.
IDFA enables advertisers to use advanced measurement, optimization, and other tactics to drive mobile performance. Since the inception of IDFA, Apple users have always had the ability to turn to track off or reset their IDFA within the privacy settings of their devices.
What is ATT?
Last year, Apple introduced its new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy. ATT does not replace IFDA. Instead, it switches consent for tracking, asking the user to opt-in to sharing data instead of opting out. These changes, of course, have a major impact on the ways advertisers will target and measure campaigns in the future.
ATT effectively limits the amount of app data developers can provide to other companies and changes how users are notified about ad tracking.
This has completely changed the mobile marketing game and has cascading impacts on every major mobile ad publisher. To learn more about these effects and how marketers are coping with the Post-ATT world, read Skai’s complimentary report, The New App Marketing Best Practices in the Privacy Era.
Used together, you could say, “Under ATT, Apple only passes the IDFA for users who opt-in to being tracked.”
IDFA changes under ATT
While users have always had the ability to opt-out of data sharing, ATT means that they will now be asked to opt-in to ad tracking. Before ATT, users opted in by default; now, the reverse is true.
Under ATT, when an app would like to use IDFA on a user’s device, a message appears that reads, “[App Name] would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies.” Below that, in smaller text, companies can include a customized two-line message, ostensibly to explain how their customers’ data will be used.
In 2020, 30% of Apple’s mobile users had chosen to opt-out of tracking, and experts report that, since ATT, only a fraction of current iOS users choose to opt-in.
And while ATT definitely means that advertisers will have a more difficult time collecting data to deliver personalized messaging and measure campaign success, if the death of third-party cookies taught us anything, it’s that privacy changes breed innovation. Focusing on user consent and education around how data is being used is likely the best way forward as Apple makes opting into tracking a priority.
Google also plans to make similar changes to its Android mobile operating system at some point in the near future.
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