App Tracking Transparency prompts that don’t suck

By John Koetsier May 17, 2021

In some mobile marketing fantasy world, people’s main goal, urge, and key driver in life is to achieve the utter nirvana and extreme bliss of PERSONALIZED ADVERTISING. I know this because marketers smartly only craft messages that speak to what their customers want, and never what marketers themselves want.

(Just joking about that second part.)

Since iOS 14.5 hit, I have been studying App Tracking Transparency prompts.

And they suck.


ATT for everyone

As every mobile marketer knows by now, iOS 14.5 requires apps to surface Apple’s App Tracking Transparency prompt for pretty much all app installs. Even companies that didn’t think they needed the IDFA and considered themselves not to be tracking users have been pressured to show it, in some cases having their app updates rejected. And as we’ve all seen, consumer acceptance rates of the ATT have been abysmal. Below almost every previous estimate, ranging from 4% to 20%.

(Singular’s going to be releasing some extremely interesting data on this very soon, by the way.)

But part of the problem here with getting people to tap “Allow” on the ATT prompt is that the messaging is awful. The strategy is horrible. And the execution is poor.

app tracking transparency prompt examples

As I said, I’ve been studying ATT.

74% of App Tracking Transparency prompts tell people that tapping “Allow” will give them personalized advertising. The phrases appear to have been minted in the same 10-cent-a-word content foundry: “better ads experience,” “personalized ad experience,” “better personalized ads,” “personalized ads,” “more relevant ads,” “most relevant ads.”

Look: getting personalized ads is not high on your users’ priority list. They do not wake up in the morning and think their days would be even better with personalized ads. They rarely reflect on how much richer and more fulfilling their lives are thanks to personalized ads.

Marketing 101: get people to do what you want by either giving them what they want, or less of what they don’t want. Just once, I want to see an ATT prompt that is honest.

“Look, we know ads mostly suck. This makes them suck less.”

I challenge an app developer to try this.


8 keys to better App Tracking Transparency Prompts

1) Treat the ATT as marketing
Everything is marketing. Your logo, sure. Your product and user experience, absolutely. Every interaction and engagement with a user or customer is both utilitarian (actualizing both what they need and what you need) and part of the overall experience of your brand. As such, it’s marketing.

Treat App Tracking Transparency the same way. And invest in a great message that resonates with what people care about.

There aren’t a lot of great examples to show here — at least until someone takes me up on the challenge above — but here’s a particularly bad example:

“Your data can be used for app crash tracking …”

In other words … this app crashes a lot? So … why am I downloading this app again? This is anti-marketing. Avoid it, or people will avoid your app.

2) Don’t be creepy
Tracking, targeting, and personalization involve the use of a lot of data. That data can and should be handled responsibly, and increasingly that data is anonymized and aggregated so that everyone has more digital privacy.

So a message like this ATT prompt is unlikely to make anyone feel good about the app that they just downloaded:

“Your browsing activity will be used to show you personalized ads.”

In other words, ve are vatching you. Much better to just say “This helps us show you personalized ads.”

Another one highlights the tracking aspect:

“We work with [MMP Name], who’ll tell us where you downloaded the app from.”

Can anyone say TMI, too much information? No user cares which tech vendors you use. Simply state the benefit of tapping “Allow” in the ATT, which is: “this helps us know if our marketing worked.”

(Note: this is only a benefit for the brand, not the customer, and as such it’s horrible marketing, but it’s at least marginally better because it’s simple and brief.)

3) Mention your brand
One of the single biggest reasons people are more inclined to allow tracking and measurement via App Tracking Transparency is brand. In Singular research, we’ve seen that knowing and trusting the company that makes an app is a major factor for 59% of people to consider clicking “Allow” on the ATT.

Facebook uses that insight:

“This allows Facebook to provide you with a better ads experience.”

So does TikTok, with an almost identical message. Glovo, Flo, Depop, and Coin Master are other examples of apps that use their brand in the ATT pop-up. If people like and use your app already, personalizing the prompt transfers some of those positive associations to the choice that people are currently facing … and makes acceptance more likely.

Of course, if they don’t like your brand or app … you have bigger problems.

4) Be brief
Brevity is always a good policy. In a pop-up prompt that is interrupting your customers’ flow of installing your app to using your app, that’s even more important.

The longest one I found: 50 words and 287 characters.

In a pop-up!

“Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads. If you “Ask App not to Track,” we may not be able to deliver certain personalized experiences, but may still serve ads and use your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Learn more about “tracking” in Apple’s privacy control documentation.”

Being wordy is one thing. But providing way too much information is another egregious sin of bad ATT prompts. This one is much shorter, but it includes way too many items in the list.

“Allow [App Name} to use your location for local content, tailored advertising, attribution, analytics, and research as well as personalized product enhancements.”

Look: don’t list the kitchen sink.

In the real world of real people who are not in the tech space, mobile development world, or marketing ecosystem, no one knows what one of the listed items — attribution — even means. Simply saying “This helps us give you local content and a personalized experience” would be fine.

5) Ask, don’t tell
Consider asking people what they want and allowing them to make a choice based on their answer to that question instead of telling them what they should do (read: what you want them to do).

For instance:

“Want personalization? Click Allow.”

Simple, brief, honest, and gives people a true choice.

6) Be humble
Humility is generally a good thing for both people and brands. Patting yourself on the back is never a good look.

This app reaches around with both hands to congratulate itself on its almost unbelievably awesome amazingness, which its users can enhance EVEN MORE by hitting “Allow.”

“We’ll use your data to give you a more personalized [App Name] experience to make our app even more amazing.”

So tempting to be a part of making some random app I downloaded on a whim even more amazing. Life goals!

7) Understand what people want
People aren’t pining away or composing sonnets for personalized ads. They do however care about free apps. They care about fun. They care about privacy. They care about connecting with friends and family. They care about being able to manage their lives, finances, smart devices, or get access to information they want. They care about their food order arriving on time, and their car service delivering them where they want to go.

Understand what want people are fulfilling with your app.

Use that knowledge in the construction of your App Tracking Transparency prompt.

You can understand all of that and still do a clumsy job, however. Here’s a classic an-attempt-was-made version of using customer knowledge to design your ATT prompt. It’s also in perfect Jerry McGuire style: help me help you …

“This identifier will be used to deliver personalized ads that funds our creation of new content for you to enjoy.”

Keep it simple, Simon. Just say “This helps us fund new content and personalize your experience.” Maybe try a dash of radical honesty, a la the “Ads suck. Allowing this makes them a bit better” route.

Or, for a retail app, if people are using your app to find cool new products, just tell them that:

“This helps us suggest products we think you’ll love.

8) Don’t confuse people
I already shared the ATT prompt above that mentions “attribution.” This is much more likely to confuse people than make them click “Allow.” Another app fell into the same trap:

“We need your permission to use the Advertising Identifiers (IDFA) for promotion targeting and tracking analysis.”

IDFA is a big deal in the small mobile marketing industry. Even within this space, few really understand what it is, how it was intended to be used, how it actually was used historically, and some of the liability reasons around why Apple is making it much, much more scarce. (And yes, there are multiple reasons privacy, security, and legal reasons for that.)

Don’t use it with civilians.

Another app says granting IDFA access via the App Tracking Transparency prompt is all about customer safety:

“This will be used to protect you from inappropriate ads.”

Really? Is this literally the only way? Do you really want customers and app users thinking that your app will contain inappropriate ads, and that they might not want to be using your app if there’s a chance mommy, Math Teacher #5, or a very important Significant Other might happen on by and see something they shouldn’t?

Another says peoples’ data will be used for “analytic purposes.” In the industry, I know and you know that this probably means user analytics, monetization analytics, marketing analytics, and so on … but your average app user probably doesn’t.


Optimizing your ATT

If you’re considering calling a mulligan on your first attempt at the ATT and you want to optimize for “Allow” in your second iteration, spend a bit of time at an App Tracking Transparency gallery. Sort by App Store category. See what competitors are doing.

And build something brief. Honest. Simple. Perhaps with a question, and perhaps using your brand or app name in the message.


iOS 14.5, SKAdNetwork, and marketing optimization

And if you’re looking to optimize your marketing measurement and analytics for growth in the age of privacy, you’ve come to the right place. Singular was the first marketing measurement company to support SKAdNetwork, and Singular has the most robust and complete mobile attribution stack for iOS and Android available.

Book some time for a quick chat to learn more.

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