iOS 14: is the ad ecosystem ready? (plus SKAdNetwork and MMPs, mobile web and deep links, and VTA)

By John Koetsier March 2, 2021
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We are down to the short strokes now: Apple’s iOS 14.5 will roar in next week or soon after, changing mobile marketing on iPhone and iPad forever. But is the mobile advertising ecosystem ready? Is there SKAdNetwork-ready ad supply from mobile publishers? And how will MMPs, mobile web customer journeys, and deep links work?

In short: there are still a lot of questions.

I spent some time with Jonathan Chen, who leads Singular’s attribution product and manages integration with top partners, to answer these questions on the Growth Masterminds podcast.

Most advertisers understand that SKAdNetwork is the way to go, Chen says. And the super publishers — the Facebooks and Googles and Twitters and Snaps of the world — are ready or almost there. But we’re not there yet for 100% of marketers.

“Marketers are still trying to understand what is going on,” Chen says.

And the supply side has some definite challenges.

“When we start looking at the ad networks, we do see that there’s a lot of great adoption there,” he adds. “We do see some partners lagging behind in terms of just making sure all their solutions are in place with all the iterations.”

We are seeing faster adoption now, but Jonathan is also being kind to the industry at large. As we know from the No IDFA, No Problem alliance, which Singular is a part of, less than 20% of mobile ad inventory is currently SKAdNetwork-compatible. Which means that if nothing changes before Apple releases iOS 14.5 out of beta, SKAdNetwork-compatible ad inventor will be in short supply.

And, presumably like any other scarce commodity chased by too many dollars, expensive. (Plan accordingly!)

SKAdNetwork and MMPs

I also asked Chen how MMPs like Singular will be ingesting and displaying SKAdNetwork data.

Ingestion is either via automatic 307 redirects that essentially mirror the SKAdNetwork postbacks that Apple sends to ad networks right to Singular servers, or postback forwarding, or API. Singular has built all the pipes, Chen says, to ingest SKAdNetwork data in any shape or form that partners might want to deliver it in.

The 307 redirect does, however, have advantages.

“Redirect essentially means that the partner receiving the original postback is redirecting the exact same postback to the MMP,” Chen says. “There is no real opportunity for the partner to manipulate the SKAdNetwork postback.”

In other words, potentially shady partners who might want to manipulate some of the parameters of the postback — especially post-install conversion data — can’t actually do so.

In addition, it’s instant.

Of course, timing will be dependent on the conversion models that marketers implement: short 24-hour conversion time frames versus longer four, five, or even seven day delays to get additional post-install conversion data.

Once the data is at the MMP, Singular supports both aggregate and “user-level” data views. “User-level,” in SKADNetwork, of course, doesn’t actually mean user level; it means raw postback data, row by row. And once at Singular, the data goes wherever clients want it, as set up in Singular’s ETL and data destination product.

The SKAdNetwork data, however, is enriched with campaign, creative, and spend data pulled from ad partners via their aggregate APIs. At the moment, Chen says, SKAdNetwork data is not combined with standard IDFA-based data, but it’s something that Singular is planning for the future.

iOS 14 and deep links, deferred deep links

Deep linking will still work in iOS 14. But it’s possible that not everything you want to get from that deep link will be available.

“There’s two parts to deep linking,” says Chen. “There’s the functionality and the user experience the end user sees, and there’s the measurement and insights part of it. Deep links, redirects, and user experience will continue to work … because it is an on-device technology. Where the question gets interesting is on the measurement side of things.”

Interesting, because at the point when someone clicks on a deep link, you don’t necessarily know their ATT status: whether they’ve agreed to tracking in the app transparency tracking prompt. Deferred deep links are even worse, because the deferred deep link functionality depends on the attribution decision before the user experience element is served.

In short: deep links work, though the measurement part doesn’t. But deferred deep links just won’t work the way that they were designed. There’s been some industry feedback to Apple about ways to make them work in SKAdNetwork, but it remains to be seen where that might go.

iOS 14, view-through attribution, and fraud

As we heard a month ago, the SKAdNetwork framework now includes a specification for view-through attribution. But it’s not quite here yet.

“It’s definitely not live yet,” Chen says, adding that “Apple’s interpretation and handling of click versus view through aligns with the classic last touch methodology.”

One problem with view-through attribution: a much larger opportunity for fraud.

“So for click-through generally you know a click is user intent and generally … if there is a signal and Apple knows that a click has happened, it’s pretty fair to say that there is no fraud there,” Chen says. “With view-through, there’s all sorts of things that complicate whether or not there was actually intent. Also because there is no measurable action, like a click, there could be scenarios where, you know maybe it wasn’t actually shown to the user.”

Apple has built in some technology to catch fraud — and Singular has as well — but view-through is typically where we’ve seen significant fraud in the past.

“It’s definitely something we’re keeping an eye on,” Chen says.

Need any help with SKAdNetwork implementation?

Singular has been on the forefront of building solutions for mobile marketers with SKAdNetwork, starting literally in 2019.

If we can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Book a slot and we’ll walk you through what SKAdnetwork means for your app and your mobile marketing campaigns.

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