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Post-IDFA user acquisition: EA’s Jayne Peressini on iOS 14 and the future of mobile marketing

By John Koetsier July 17, 2020

Is iOS 14 the mobile marketing apocalypse? Can user acquisition still exist? Or will the ecosystem survive the loss of the IDFA?

We’ve got some ideas about that, announcing support for Apple’s attribution framework SKAdNetwork almost a month ago now, releasing open-source code for ad networks, publishers, and advertisers, and offering SKAN as an open standard for implementing SKAdNetwork without destroying the marketing ecosystem.

But it doesn’t really matter what we say.

It mostly matters what mobile marketers say.

For some it will feel like the zombie apocalypse, but you can’t change it, so grab a weapon and jump in the Winnebego.

– Jayne Peressini, Electronic Arts

If you know mobile marketing, you probably know Jayne Peressini. She’s been a key member of teams at Glu Mobile, Razorfish, Reddit, Machine Zone, and DraftKings, and she’s now the Senior Director for Mobile Marketing and Growth at Electronic Arts. If that’s not insanely badass enough, she also has a master’s of science degree, focused on digital marketing, from the London School of Business and Finance. (Plus, she’s guested on a very, very prestigious mobile marketing podcast.)

Long story short, she knows what she’s talking about.

Like everyone else, Electronic Arts has been furiously preparing for life after the IDFA. But unlike most, Peressini’s had the chance to chat with insiders about iOS 14 and SKAdNetwork. And we had the opportunity to catch up with her afterwards.

Jayne Peressini
Jayne Peressini, Senior Director of Mobile Marketing and Growth at Electronic Arts

Big picture: iOS 14 and user acquisition

John Koetsier: On a scale of walk in the park to zombie apocalypse, how big of a change is this?

Jayne Peressini: It depends on who you are and what side of the business you’re on. For us as advertisers, we can leverage old school and new school. Old school as in media mix modeling and the “hi, how’d you hear about us?” surveys upon app open or landing page. And new school as in incremental revenue measurement.

For some, it will feel like the zombie apocalypse, but you can’t change it, so grab a weapon and jump in the Winnebego.

John Koetsier: Big picture: what do you see as the biggest challenges for mobile marketers with iOS 14?

Jayne Peressini: There are a few things I’d mention here:

  1. Moving away from granular user-level last-click attribution
  2. Adapting to new ways to manage fraud
  3. Adapting to less signal coming in, but still needing to optimize media
  4. Taking inventory of all the tooling you’ve built that uses IDFA and figuring out how to adapt tooling to the new granularity and postbacks
  5. The relationship between me and my team changes. I manage from a top-down media and title management perspective, and my team used to manage from a bottoms-up, and now we’ll all be looking at a more similar altitude
  6. Focus on contextual targeting
  7. Deferred deep linking is dead

User acquisition in iOS 14

John Koetsier: By all accounts, mobile user acquisition on iOS is going to be very different with iOS 14. What’s going to change most for you?

Jayne Peressini:  I’m not one to avoid change constantly so I’m treating this as any other adversity and business problem to solve for. I won’t get it right the first time, or probably even the second time, but I have the grit to get it right eventually. I think we have to create a new standard and work with other developers as well as supply side and MMPs.

I think we will have to stretch ourselves to look at performance in a less myopic way. It won’t be ”am I hitting my ROAS based on last click attribution.” It will be ”is my investment right for this channel? Is revenue increasing? How’s my paid monthly actives? Are my retention programs decreasing churn and stabilizing paid monthly actives?”

Strategically, nothing changes. Tactically, we will adapt.

John Koetsier: Your thoughts on SKAdNetwork? How do you plan to measure marketing efforts post iOS 14?

Jayne Peressini: Well, fingerprinting is out of the picture. It’s confirmed to be a trigger for consent required. If you’re using the user agent and IP address and you can derive a stable ID (even briefly!) it is considered a trigger for needing consent from the user prior to collecting the data.

So we are going to abide by that for the long term, and we aren’t going to try to find and use loopholes. For measurement we’re looking at: incrementality, media mix modeling, and multipliers from responses to “how’d you get here” surveys.

As far as SKAdNetwork goes, we will use it. We’re getting things in order right now but will be ready and using it before the September deadline.

John Koetsier: Any opportunity to do suppression lists or frequency capping in iOS 14?

Jayne Peressini: Only if you get consent, but universal and holistic suppression lists as we have today are going to die. You’ll need consent for suppression lists since, depending on opt-out rates, it will be all over the place on coverage. You’re more likely to be able to do frequency capping at the partner/IDFV level.

John Koetsier: Is creative optimization toast, or does it just change and get less granular?

Jayne Peressini: I’ll probably focus my creative testing on Android and roll out learnings to iOS. We will see how this changes creative. We can still see aggregated performance on creatives (how many users clicked), just not who.

I won’t be getting creative ID or the internal campaign IDs that a lot of UA teams use for additional metadata, campaigns strategy, or product. Also, at a tactical level this messes up a lot of programmatic setups where advertisers track creatives as their own individual campaigns.

John Koetsier: Are you worried about new sources of fraud on iOS now?

Jayne Peressini: I’m not necessarily worried, but it operationally changes how we handle fraud as advertisers. The industry was moving towards advertisers taking more ownership and responsibility in the process by cross-referencing and using click/impression IDs + IDFA to go back to ad networks with as evidence of fraud instances.

Now we don’t have that. We can check Apple’s attribution signature and transaction ID and not much else.

One risk is that the post-install conversion data is not signed by Apple. That makes it even more important to select your ad partners carefully. You’ll need deeper relationships with trusted partners like your MMP and supply channels to find a new standard.

John Koetsier: What tests or experiments are you performing now to get ready for iOS 14? Checking consent acceptance rates? Sign-in or sign-up rates? Testing different attribution windows?

Jayne Peressini: We’re working closely with our product management team on testing. Just like we would with anything: ensuring we’re compliant, transparent, and putting the user first.

Now I’ve heard some in the industry wanting to test incentive language and some that want to block content unless they consent — the old carrot and stick approach.

User lifecycle management in iOS 14

John Koetsier: Does this new model of user acquisition impact your onboarding? Do you know less about new users than previously?

Jayne Peressini: I was really looking forward to one day being able to tailor our owned communications based on user acquisition creative.

For example, if a user engaged with a particular character or sports player/team… being able to tailor their next experience for their preferences. Now we just have to create better mechanisms and give opportunities in more proactive ways for the user to tell us. We can’t passively infer any of that in iOS 14.

John Koetsier: Will you ask users to sign up or register with an email address or phone number?

Jayne Peressini: EA already has an ecosystem where you can sign in to our games.

John Koetsier: You’ve got a lot of experience across the industry … do you think casual games can do that?

Jayne Peressini: I think casual games get the leg up by getting users to come back and play more frequently to reset the clock/conversion value. And, I think apps and games that have a sign-up wall (that makes sense!) have a leg up with acquiring a persistent identifier without an all-or-nothing from either getting the IDFA or not.

But, it doesn’t mean much if the supply side can’t get an IDFA.

And I think casual games monetized through ads will have a tough time sending a bunch of requests for bids with null IDFA values. CPMs will go down.

John Koetsier: How will existing user info impact future user acquisition? E.g., lookalike audiences, etc.?

Jayne Peressini: Advertisers will be more inclined to do this in-house. And even potentially bringing API buying hooks in-house. That includes building or buying ad bidders.

John Koetsier: How does this impact retargeting? What will change? And, how will you measure your retargeting efforts… deep links?

Jayne Peressini: The deep link mechanics and signals we receive will change. I still haven’t tested this yet and don’t want to speculate. It will be an area we test and observe the pre- and post-OS update changes.

Our first port of call is understanding what the new postback looks like from Apple with SKAdNetwork. Then we have to modify our campaign naming conventions, keys we join data with, etc. Deeplink testing will be next.

Optimization in iOS 14

John Koetsier: What changes in how you assess the value of a user? Do you need to make that determination earlier? And, are you planning to connect predictive user value with SKAdNetwork conversion values?

Jayne Peressini: I can’t speak publicly about our monetization strategies right now.

John Koetsier: For single-sign-on (SSO) solutions, do you see challenges with tracking and measuring ad performance?

Jayne Peressini: Well, if you have Facebook SSO for your game – you’ll need a consent banner. That’s a big one.

What we’re hearing from the guidance we’re getting and the documentation we’re reviewing indicates that any SSO provider that isn’t for pure security purposes (security providers such as DUO or Okta) will be considered third party providers that you need consent from your users for.

John Koetsier: Any new strategies you’re thinking about with the IDFV? More cross-promotion? Acquisition of more titles?

Jayne Peressini: It’s great that EA has a network of apps that we can look more seriously at how IDFV can help us. We still need to do our due diligence on assessing all strategies.

Partners and technology in iOS 14

John Koetsier: Any changes you’re considering in your tech stack internally or externally due to iOS 14? Adding any internal or external resources?

Jayne Peressini: I can’t speak to this just yet. We are assessing what may need to be changed. Anecdotally, I know some developers that built some very sophisticated tech on IDFA that essentially have now over-developed their tooling overnight, come September.

John Koetsier: How is the role of an MMP changing? What do mobile marketers need from their MMPs in terms of support through this transition?

Jayne Peressini: MMPs have been dynamic in nature for years, trying to adapt to our changing industry. Whether they’re partners in fraud detection, cohort/segmentation strategies, investment management… MMPs are a bit of a pinch hitter to in-house teams.

John Koetsier: What do you need from your MMP in iOS 14 that you didn’t before?

Jayne Peressini: Collaboration across the industry. And testing, failing, iterating to get to a standard.

We have to have all three (supply side, MMP, and advertiser) in the room to set new industry standards for how we want this all to work.

Conclusion: the battle continues

My biggest take-away from Jayne’s answers: the apocalypse may have come, but the battle continues. Life continues, and mobile marketing continues.

There’s going to be a lot of work to prepare.

You probably won’t get it right the first time.

But if you’re a mobile marketer running user acquisition, you will have data, and you will have signals, and you will be able to continue doing your job. That might be taking insights from Android and applying them to iOS, as Jayne mentioned. It probably also includes a slightly messier, more probabilistic framework for decision-making.

But it’s not exactly the end of the world.

Here’s what we know now and how we’re preparing. But we’re getting more information by the day, so keep your eyes peeled. Better yet, join the Mobile Attribution Privacy Slack channel, where hundreds of marketers, adtech vendors, and MMP leaders are answering the hundreds of questions around SKAdNetwork and iOS 14 together.

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