What impact will iOS14 and SKAdnetwork have on your Apple Search Ads (ASA) campaigns?

What impact will iOS14 and SKAdnetwork have on your Apple Search Ads (ASA) campaigns?
October 20, 2020 Simon Whittick

Last updated: 29/01/21

This post is part of a series of posts called “How key mobile media channels are responding to iOS14 and SKAdnetwork: Everything you need to know in one place”. In this post we explore in detail how Apple Search Ads will be impacted by Apple’s own decision to make IDFA access opt-in for users. You can get detail we’ve put together for the other top iOS Self Attributing Networks (SANs) using the links below:

What is Apple Search Ads (ASA) iOS share of wallet?

To start, let’s look at how significant iOS spend is for ASA. We recently looked at ad spend by Operating System (OS) in a benchmark report of our customers. For ASA, it’s a bit simpler than other Self Attributing Networks (SANs) as you can only invest on iOS, so 100% of their spend is on iOS. However, to put that in the context of overall iOS share of wallet, they currently have a 17% share of all iOS spend. This gives them the second largest iOS share of wallet amongst SANs, behind Facebook.

Apple Search Ads (ASA) iOS share of wallet

For more information on iOS share of wallet, download our quarterly benchmark report.

Get the Report

What are Apple Search Ads (ASA) doing about IDFA losses?

Ultimately, it’s a case of “there’s not a lot to see here”. 

As an intent based channel where Apple looks at the context of a search to target your ads to keywords, they don’t rely on ID’s for individual behavioural targeting. What we saw on the web when Apple introduced ITP on Safari (a similar move to iOS14 on the web) is that many channels moved towards more contextual based targeting. We will see a similar move for the mobile app world and Apple Search Ads is in a great position to lead that charge with the intent-based nature of ASA.

As the iOS platform owner ASA are at an advantage. If you were a cynic you might buy into some of the sensationalist headlines (Note: Apple dispute this characterisation) that suggest they may be able to layer over some level of broader behavioural data to boost ASA performance and/or launch a wider ad network of their own. Largely, this is all speculation, and user privacy will be at the heart of any solutions they do release, so don’t expect deeply granular levels of targeting. For now, there’s no new shiny toys to see here.

Key reading:

Forbes’ suggestions of how iOS14 could be advantageous to ASA

What does it mean for your Apple Search Ads (ASA) campaigns?

Ultimately, not a lot initially. However, there are a couple of things to think about:

  • Optimisation: Unlike other Self Attributing Networks (SANs), which use behavioural targeting, ASA performance is unlikely to be as negatively impacted by iOS14. However, if you haven’t given campaigns much love in recent times it might be time to dust them off. It’s important to now position yourself on top keywords, even the competitive ones. They may be expensive now, but they might get more competitive as advertisers try to get more out of ASA. The more history you have will serve you well and experimenting now will likely pay back when the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework and SKAdnetwork (SKAN) become normal. However, as an intent-based search channel if campaigns are maxed out there’s not much you can do without an increase in search volumes for your brand or category. 
  • Attribution: When comparing reported data on the ASA interface with that in your MMP (e.g. Adjust, Appsflyer), what we see is that ASA can over report numbers by upto 30% compared to an MMP. This is because the ASA interface doesn’t deduplicate numbers and MMPs are fulfilling that attribution function today. However, MMPs need IDFAs to do that attribution, so we aren’t sure how that will work in this new world. You could be left relying on ASA reported numbers and have to use media mix modelling to account for over estimations. We’ll update as any new solutions are released to overcome this.

Concluding thoughts

Apple Search Ads are likely to become a more important channel for you in the wake of the iOS14 changes. It’s definitely a good time to sharpen your skills, revisit campaigns and ultimately look for opportunities to grow campaigns if possible.

However, these changes also present challenges with making sure reports are comparing apples-to-apples (excuse the pun), and not favouring ASA. Here at Appsumer this kind of data complexity is what we thrive on. We’re building the most complete SKAdNetwork Reporting & Modelling solution to deliver you transparency on different metrics and a full performance view despite SKAdNetwork’s limitations. You can read more on that here or get in touch to discuss specific solutions for your challenges.

For now, give us a shout if you have any questions and check back here as we update this resource when more announcements are made in the coming month.

P.S. Don’t forget you can get more detail that we’ve put together by media channel using these links: