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iOS 14 and SKAdNetwork: 2 major ecosystem challenges right now

By John Koetsier February 5, 2021
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If you look around the mobile marketing ecosystem, everyone is suddenly in hurry-up offense mode getting ready for SKAdNetwork. Apple gave us all an eight-month grace period, but unfortunately … that may have given some industry players a lack of urgency.

But now that the next update of iOS is going to implement App Tracking Transparency, it’s suddenly a big deal. Most likely, the plane is landing in the next couple of weeks.

And, adding to the rush, there are now new capabilities from Apple’s SKAdNetwork framework: view-through attribution, fingerprinting, and web-to-app measurement. Which, of course, means new SDKs, new integrations, new development in some cases, and a lot of extra work.

There are two major ecosystem challenges right now, and I spent some time with Singular CTO Eran Friedman on them.

Supply side challenges: SKAdNetwork readiness

The reality is that the supply side isn’t quite there yet.

“It takes time until each one of the publishers, one by one implement it in the best way,” Friedman says. “And that basically means that there’s less inventory to work with, than customers or advertisers are used to. So there’s a lot of work and trying to increase the coverage and the supply side to make sure that you have enough data.”

Pretty clearly, it doesn’t matter how much work advertisers do on implementing SKAdNetwork if the platforms and networks providing ad inventory aren’t ready to return SKAdNetwork postbacks. This is getting sorted out, of course, with the major platforms releasing updates almost daily now, but it remains an issue.

The doomsday scenario for mobile advertisers is being ready to purchase post ATT implementation but being unable to get IDFA — because ATT is implemented — and also being unable to get SKAdNetwork attribution insights because the supply side is not yet ready.

That would really be shooting in the dark. Or, more accurately, returning advertising to the dark ages.

Conflicting privacy thresholds: SKAdNetwork data availability

A second major challenge is conflicting privacy thresholds in data availability from SKAdNetwork postbacks.

As most mobile marketers know, Apple will not release SKAdNetwork attribution data at low levels of traffic and conversion, because below a certain threshold, privacy is destroyed. You can talk about privacy all you want, but if you get one “anonymous” install along with one new user in your app during a certain timespan, advertisers know with pretty good accuracy what happened.

Apple doesn’t disclose those privacy thresholds, but it has mentioned using cohorts of 5,000 for differential privacy in the past. For SKAdNetwork, Singular data suggests they’re much smaller.

One challenge, however, is that the privacy threshold isn’t just on the number of conversions or installs. It’s also on different data types.

“There are different privacy thresholds to the different parameters,” Friedman says. “Basically you can see that conversion values have a different threshold and sometimes it can show up separately from source app ID. Some postbacks can have source app ID, but no conversion value, and vice versa. Some postbacks can have conversion value, but no source app. So definitely we can see multiple mechanisms going on.”

In other words, you might drive 10,000 app installs in a day, but if only 10 of them came from one particular source app, you might not get source app data on those postbacks because that number doesn’t hit privacy thresholds. Or if you only drive five conversions of a particular type, that may not hit a privacy threshold either, meaning you won’t get complete postbacks with all data.

(I’ve been following and writing on SKAdNetwork since literally summer 2019, by the way, and that was a new one to me. But … it makes sense.)

So what can marketers do for iOS 14 readiness?

Marketers can’t solve everything, especially in the wider ecosystem or in Apple policies. But there are a few things they can do, Friedman says.

  1. Get your infrastructure in order and start testing
  2. Work with your key partners and get raw postbacks from them
  3. Make sure that everything that you do get is available for analysis
  4. Start with a very simple conversion model and a short window to maximize data you get bck and minimize the time it takes to get it

And, of course, if you need help … Singular is always here.

Hit that Request Demo link on the Singular home page, and we’ll walk you through all the steps, pieces, components, and complexities of life after IDFA.

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