Q&A: iOS 14.5 with Charis Solomon

Q&A: iOS 14.5 with Charis Solomon

iOS 14

Rickhouse:

What exactly did iOS 14.5 change?

Charis Solomon: 

Facebook records mountains of PII -- personal identifiable information -- using their pixel embedded on websites across the internet. It collects data on users’ interactions everywhere online, not just on Facebook. What users like and don’t like, on Facebook and everywhere else. 14.5 made it much harder for Facebook to track people across the internet using that pixel, since all apps were required to ask for permission to follow users across apps & sites owned by other businesses.

One thing to note is that Facebook’s Conversions API is still working. CAPI is an integration that you code into your website that captures information in addition to the pixel. This means that all server-side events also get pushed back to Facebook, validating info the pixel is capturing as well as filling in blind spots the pixel may have. CAPI is an extra way to make sure they’re getting the data from your site. Facebook de-duplicates the data, which can take up to 3 days, , which is one of the reasons Facebook recommends waiting to evaluate actual day-of performance for 72 hours. But CAPI is still working in our post-14.5 world because it uses server-side events. 

When the pixel was no longer allowed to accumulate web-wide behavior on a user across various websites if they’d declined follow permissions, the PII profiles got a lot less robust. Lookalike and interest-based audiences’ performance suffered from the data loss. However, Facebook still had specific information for users based on their Facebook behaviors: the posts they interacted with, the Pages they visited and liked, the people with whom they were connected. This information was still helping power interest targeting. Now Facebook has announced they’ll be removing a lot of interest targeting options.


Rickhouse:

Back us up, where were we a year ago -- before iOS14.5 happened?


Charis Solomon:

Historically, advertisers were willing to pay a premium for those targeted layers, but Facebook's algorithm was getting so strong that some brands began realizing they could get the same performance effect at lower cost by running to broad audiences.

Then iOS 14.5 happened, and the world blew up. All targeting was impacted due to loss of data informing PII, including PII on broad audiences. So, many advertisers who had previously shifted to broad tried interest level again, in desperation. The auction was ridiculous, because everyone was trying anything and everything at the same time. For some advertisers (mostly those with niche products like “sweaters for french bulldogs”), interest targeting still worked due to Facebook’s store of user behavior on-platform (Post engagement, Page likes, Groups) — but most advertisers were left out in the cold.


Rickhouse:

And what changes are coming down the pipeline? 


Charis Solomon:

Soon Facebook will remove even more of the specific interest targeting options. For example, targeting auctions that reference causes? Gone. Causes, organizations, public figures, none of that will work for targeting. This started in 2017/18 when they were getting heat from how they handled the election. So it’s been in the works for a while — they threatened to take away targeting before, instead settling on mandatory ad disclaimers — but now it’s really happening. On January 19th, 2022, they’re gone. Existing ad sets targeting those interests can run until March 17, but no new ad sets can be made. 


Rickhouse:

Who did iOS 14.5 affect the worst?


Charis Solomon:

The little guys. The big players weren’t hit so hard. Let’s say I’m a huge shoe brand , advertising on Facebook. I own the purchase data of all the people who have converted on my site. So I can push it back into Facebook through CAPI. Even if a customer is not being tracked, and the pixel doesn’t recognize them because they arrived at the site via direct search rather than clicking a Facebook ad, we send server-side events and associated customer data back. So then Facebook knows, “Oh yeah, this is Charis — I can say I probably drove her there because I showed her an ad two days ago.”

But smaller companies who don’t have the developer resources to implement CAPI are hit hard. Pixel fires may not be captured if I organically go to a site and convert. 


Rickhouse:

So for advertisers, what’s the way forward?


Charis Solomon:

The future is broad audiences. It can feel scary to trust the algorithm to find your target for you, if you’re an advertiser who hasn’t harnessed broad audiences before. But this is actually great news for Rickhouse because layering the targeting directly into the creative is what we do. It’s what we’ve always done. 

We deep dive into each client’s product, then we go further — we research their audience. Who are they, what appeals to them, what matters to them, what do they want to buy… What are their emotional triggers? Do they respond to joyful vs concerning messaging? We take it all into account and build persona profiles. Then we start building creative specific to each persona.

So losing interest targeting isn’t as huge a hit for our clients, because we’ve hacked it directly into our creative. 


Rickhouse:

What’s the process for launching this creative? 


Charis Solomon:

In the first 3-5 days, the algorithm learns a lot about who responds to our ad: Person A & Person B respond, but Person C doesn’t. It models out who it should serve the ad to going forward, based on the response data it’s accumulating at scale. 

As long as you’re specific in your personas, and design each piece of creative to speak to a specific persona, you’ll be able to reach the right customer - at a lower cost than it would with interest layering.


This interview has been edited and condensed.

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