Facebook Announces Major Changes to its Platform, Signaling Defeat to Apple and the Ongoing iOS 14 Battle

. 4 min read

By: Tom Murray | Managing Director

Facebook recently announced some sweeping changes to its platform for 2021 in advance of the iOS 14 release. If you’ve missed the information on this, you can check out our previous articles around the changes that Apple announced over the summer and Facebook & Apple’s ongoing feud months later.

These changes are quite significant and can have major ramifications for advertisers. Here is a rundown of those changes, what needs to be done, and how it might impact brands.

The Newest, and perhaps BIGGEST Change

When Apple announced the updates, everyone assumed this would just impact mobile app advertisers on iOS 14. However, more information has been released that this also impacts “mobile web” placements, so pretty much any mobile iOS 14 ad on Facebook/Instagram, whether it is for a mobile gaming app, or your favorite sweater company. This means the universal Facebook pixel that powers Facebook’s algorithms to serve ads to the right users will be impacted here. It will lose certain tracking visibility, which means fewer reported conversions, and also weaker signals for user behavior, which will certainly have an impact on targeting efficacy.

The big change here is that advertisers will be limited to 8 conversion events per domain. This applies to both standard pixel events, such as Purchases & Add to Carts, but also custom conversions as well. Not only that, you will need to rank these 8 in terms of priority. If a user completes multiple events out of your 8, only the highest priority event will be reported. This is a big change, as if you are tracking things such as how many people viewed product pages, how many then added to cart, how many started their checkout, and then how many purchased, you will not only know how many purchased. It will be tougher to track campaigns where multiple events may be important, and that tracking will need to move to a 3rd party system, such as Google Analytics, which historically is not that favorable to Facebook campaigns & traffic.

In order to prepare for this big change, you should verify your domain in Business Manager as soon as possible, and then start figuring out what those primary 8 conversion events you would like to track are.

Other Changes Coming

Value Optimization is moving to events manager, which means it will be tied to these new rules. You will need to set up value sets for bidding ranges, but there is not too much information on how this will work right now. An interesting wrinkle though, if you wish to optimize for value, that will (for some reason) take up 4 of the 8 conversion event slots that were mentioned earlier, so if you choose to do this, realize you will be able to track fewer potential conversions.

While no changes are coming to Dynamic Ads for Retargeting (DPA), the changes will likely lower the available audience sizes for retargeting pools, which tend to be the best way to lower CPAs and increase ROAS, while also lowering the blended numbers while including prospecting campaigns. Make sure you check your product URL domains and that they match the verified domain in Business Manager, so that way you won’t have any issues on that front.

Some measurement changes are also coming, mainly around the 7 day view, 28 day click, and 28 day view attribution windows, which will now be going away for iOS 14 users. There will be some modeling used to show data for things that aren’t able to be tracked perfectly, which means the data won’t be entirely accurate. If you currently use these longer attribution windows, you should start looking to see what your CPAs/ROAS looks like after 1 and 7 day click levels to understand where you net out after 28 days. For example, if we are at a $2 ROAS after 7 days and a $3 ROAS after 28 days, you can then know in the future, that you need to increase the 7 day click ROAS number by 50% to show you where your performance will likely shake out (i.e. if you are now coming in at $1, then your old 28 day ROAS would have been $1.50).

The final change is a shift in the way certain campaigns can be set up for mobile app campaigns. Facebook will impose a maximum of 9 campaigns and 5 ad sets for a maximum of 45 permutations. It will be difficult to get detailed granular data in your Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP), such as Adjust or AppsFlyer, due to this change. If you want to get a creative insight for example, you will need to set up a campaign with 1 ad set and 1 ad in order to know "creative X" performed in a certain way.

Final Takeaways

Many are saying this might be the nail in the coffin for Facebook and cause them to lose a lot of advertisers, and therefore money. This might be true and they likely will see a hit. However, Facebook has many other signals to use to still target somewhat effectively. This will likely hit smaller ad networks and the less sophisticated ones with worse targeting signals even more, which means Facebook might actually gain in this situation. It is counterintuitive, but remember that when the biggest brands that spend hundreds of millions of dollars a month boycotted the platform, and Facebook’s revenues still went up.

I do think that we might be taking a step back to the times of 2012 - 2015 on Facebook, where niche targeting reigned supreme. Facebook has been touting broader audiences, and we’ve seen better performance for broader targets over the past two years. However, the power of broad audiences is the underlying pixel signal data that helps cut out waste efficiently and immediately. With fewer signals, specifically the transaction signals, that targeting capability should be lower, which means it might take longer for broader campaigns to get off the ground, and people may find more success with smaller, more refined targets.