Almost a year after Apple announced its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) initiative to tighten control over user data, a new report from AppsFlyer has revealed the impact on adspend from this measure. Data from Performance Index 14, shows that when comparing H2 2020 and H2 2021, 25% of total budgets shifted from iOS to Android. However, the change in the average app spend dip (excluding outliers), shows the adspend shift was lower at 10% to15%.
This shift was especially significant for media and gaming companies, this report highlighted. As many as 29 media sources saw their position change (up or down) at least two spots, while 20 fluctuated at least three spots multiple times in the rankings. This includes all top 10 media sources – self-reporting networks (SRNs) and non-SRNs alike.
SRNs are tools which allow data on events like new installs and in-app events to be collected on aggregators such as AppsFlyer, using software called an application programming interface or API which allows two programmes to talk to each other. However, each SRN has a unique attribution policy and reporting method, which leads to differences in data collated.
The other important highlight was Meta Ads captured the top power and volume positions in three out of four vertical rankings: in-app engagement non-gaming, in-app purchases (IAP), gaming, and IAP non-gaming. IAP or In-App Purchase Index ranks media sources based on their ability to drive a higher share of paying users.
This development is significant because Facebook and its parent Meta had specifically mentioned Apple's privacy changes as a key operational challenge in successive earnings calls. "Like others in our industry, we’ve faced headwinds as a result of Apple’s iOS changes," pointed out Meta's COO Sheryl Sandberg in the firm's latest call with analysts. "As we described last quarter, Apple created two challenges for advertisers. One is that the accuracy of our ads targeting decreased, which increased the cost of driving outcomes. The other is that measuring those outcomes became more difficult."
However, as Sandberg explained and this report has shown, the company has made some progress on this front. "We’re working to try and improve things, for example by making progress in closing the underreporting gap for iOS web conversions, and by introducing tools like our Aggregated Events Measurement solution to deliver better insights for advertisers," Sandberg had told analysts. "These efforts will help to mitigate some of the challenges, but we expect the overall targeting and measurement headwinds to moderately increase from Apple’s changes and from regulatory changes in Q1 and throughout 2022."
When Apple's SKAdnetwork attribution tool rolled out, the social network was ranked second in Edition 13, with the platform that dominated iOS earlier, feeling the impact of ATT. Meta seems to have wrested back its top place in the latest results, with better internal modeling for Storekit Ad Network (SKAN, Apple's tool for mobile app install attribution) driving better results for advertisers, the findings of this report revealed.
That said, this report also notes that volumes in SKAN are still nowhere near pre-ATT numbers (in Meta as well as other networks), which is one of the reasons why Meta — and mainly its Facebook app — is challenged by ATT as stated in its latest earnings call.
TikTok for Business, which Meta dethroned, actually fared decently in the latest study. The platform came second in the power and volume rankings in engagement for non-gaming apps and in the IAP power ranking in gaming, driven by its performance in Hardcore and Simulation categories.
Two other points stand out in this report. One, gaming marketers are especially struggling with this heightened focus on protecting consumer privacy, because of the industry's need for user level data analysis. Media companies' algorithms also "have had to be almost re-written" causing significant shifts in the ranking.
Finally, Google seems to have had a relatively harder time, according to the reports findings. In this edition, it came third in both the IAP and engagement power rankings for non-gaming apps, driven by coming in second in the Life & Culture category. In gaming, however, it did not perform as well, coming in fifth and sixth in IAA and IAP, respectively.