Apple’s new AAK: AdAttributionKit and creative with Dataseat’s David Philippson

By John Koetsier June 13, 2024

Dataseat CEO David Philippson and I got very lucky this week when chatting about Apple’s new AAK, or AppKit, or App AdAttribution framework, or SKAN 5 — whatever you want to call it — on the Growth Masterminds podcast this week.

The reason?

We recorded 90 minutes before the WWDC keynote, which didn’t mention AdAttributionKit, and a whole day before the WWDC session on AAK was released … and we didn’t get anything major completely wrong. Plus, we also highlighted a key addition with AAK: an updated sense of how Apple’s privacy-safe ad measurement framework deals with advertising creative placements.

As usual, click play and keep scrolling …

AAK: 3 modes of displaying and engaging with ads

In SKAdNetwork, there’s not really much concept of creative types at all: image, interstitial, playable, video, rewarded, you name it, they’re pretty much all treated in the same way.

“One of the widest criticisms of SKAN is that it doesn’t differentiate between a banner and a rewarded video, albeit the price is 20X the difference,” says Philippson.

Essentially, what SKAN knows is an impression for a view-through attribution and a click for — you guessed it — a click-through attribution. That datapoint is encoded in SKAN’s “fidelity type,” and what ad networks optimize for is a fidelity type of 1 (a click), because it’s higher in the attribution food chain and has a much longer measurement window (30 days versus just 1 day for an impression or view).

Under AdAttributionKit, there are still only the 2 modes of engagement, impressions and clicks.

But AAK understands 3 different ways of displaying ads:

  1. Custom click ad
    Anything that’s clickable, such as a banner ad.
  2. View-through ad
    This is an ad that is not clickable, such as a video.
  3. Recommendation, or StoreKit ads
    Apple is calling SKOverlay, which is a clickable banner to install an app, and SKStoreProductViewController, which is a full-screen presentation of an app listing page on the iOS App Store, “recommendation” modalities.


AAK AdAttributionKit


The first, custom click ads, will click someone out of the publisher app into an app marketplace in order to download and install the advertised app. Note, Apple is calling it an app marketplace because it could be a third-party app store, but it could also be a link right into the iOS App Store as well.

Note that this custom click ad offers a deeplink right to the requested app, wherever it is.

Apple’s documentation specifies that “if the app specified by the impression’s advertised item ID isn’t installed, the system launches the app’s product page on the App Store or alternative marketplace according to the user’s preferences in Settings.” The deeplink, naturally, will be in Apple’s Universal Links format.

View-through ads are pretty obvious, and are not clickable, but will certainly be built into complex ad units by ad networks as they are today, with clickable components and/or end cards, including SKOverlay or SKStoreProductViewController.

Ultimately what most ad networks will use if they support AAK is the recommendation-style ads.

That’s simply because they are the most powerful: they can trigger an impression, which can lead to winning an attribution, and they can also trigger a click, which can also win an attribution but is more powerful thanks to its longer measurement window.

In some ways Apple is depreciating the value of the Custom Click ads, because showing a Custom Click ad doesn’t give you any view-through benefit, whereas the StoreKit-enabled ad units using either SKOverlay or SKStoreProductViewController will generate both views (on open) and clicks. This is a subtle privileging of the iOS App Store, because these high-value ad units won’t work with third-party app stores.

It’s also looking like a big update from SKAN, where the mere opening of SKOverlay registers a click … which is not really in line with user intentions. (Note, this is something I wrote about in February of 2023: Bad ads.)

Industry adoption: open ad ecosystem vs the giants

One of the things Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv and CTO Eran Friedman discussed in our LinkedIn Live on AAK was industry adoption. If my temperature gauge is accurate, most of the industry sense right now seems to be that AdAttributionKit adoption is going to be slow at best and nonexistent at worst, simply based on the turtle-like pace of SKAN 4 adoption.

That might not be 100% fair.

After all, the industry has largely adopted SKAN 3, with the giants slow to move to the more complex SKAN 4. (Also, the giant self-attributing networks have basically all built their own modeled measurement capabilities which they are likely to prefer to Apple’s framework.) But AKK offers re-engagement measurement, one of the key missing ingredients in SKAN 4, and given that it is fully compatible with SKAdNetwork, doesn’t require much more work to support than SKAN 4.

(Which the big platforms already can support if they wish: 5-20% of their postbacks are SKAN 4 postbacks for testing, but it’s under their control to boost that to 50% or 100%.)

Also, there’s definitely a difference between the open ad ecosystem and the giants, Philippson says. The giants were largely against SKAN 4, he says, but not the rest of the mobile adtech ecosystem.

“I measure something else with SKAN 4 and that is every other publisher out there, every other programmatic publisher out there, and we’re at 70-80%,” Phillippson says. “So 70-80% of bids that we receive as a DSP are SKAN 4 compatible.”

That’s impressive, and it speaks to a potential divergence in the principle measurement methodology between the large walled garden platforms and the open ecosystem.

But adoption overall would also take a big leap, he says, if Apple found a way to ensure probabilistic attribution was impossible or at least much harder.

AAK, creative type, and the value of an ad

While there’s more built into AAK about the types of ad displays, that doesn’t really translate to another big ask from the industry about creative types and attribution windows under SKAN.

As Zynga user acquisition head Nebosa Radovic wrote recently on Medium: 

“Fidelity Type 1 ads leveraging SKOverlay have a 30-day window. They don’t distinguish high CPM, highly intrusive placements like a non-skippable 30s (rewarded) video or a skippable 15s video. If an ad is SKOverlay rendered, it defaults to a 30-day window.”

(Fidelity type is another way of saying click or view, with a click worth more than a view. AAK doesn’t have fidelity type, but it will have what Apple is calling “ad-interaction-type.” We don’t have all the details yet in the documentation on how “ad-interaction-type” will work.)

Similarly, as Philippson put it in our Growth Masterminds episode, “SKAN would attribute an install equally to a 320 x 50 banner to what it does a 30-second rewarded video that is paid a lot of money for.”

Radovic asked for more options. Where SKAN has fidelity type 0 for views and fidelity type 1 for clicks,  Radovic wants options for different kinds of creative:

  • Preloads
  • Static banners
  • Long videos
  • Shorter videos
  • Skippable videos

There’s no mention of anything like that so far in AAK, but I do know via a source that Apple plans all further attribution innovation on AdAttributionKit, not SKAdNetwork.

So perhaps we’ll see more there, eventually, in “ad-interaction-type.”

Much more in the full podcast

Check out the full episode for much more, including a discussion on modeling and what kinds of measurement and attribution are needed by different levels of the marketing organization.

Find Growth Masterminds wherever podcasts are published, or on our YouTube page.

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