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Apple’s IOS 14 Privacy Feature Will Have Lasting Implications For SMBs And Ad Agencies


For months now, Apple and Facebook have been very publicly battling over the impending rollout of a data privacy feature in iOS 14. The update will likely be a major blow for the performance marketing industry; from what I’ve seen, Facebook advertisers specifically are preparing for a stark difference in the way they target audiences. 

While Apple has leaned into messaging that it is simply in favor of user privacy, it’s essential to understand that these changes will probably have a significant impact beyond the advertising industry and could negatively affect small and medium-sized businesses.

The news has been unsettling and somewhat confusing. Here are the details and what I think businesses and marketers alike should know about the expected data loss.

Apple hasn’t released all the facts, but advertisers can expect to lose some historically relied-upon signals for personalized ads. 

Based on the information available, it appears that Apple will roll out its AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) sometime in the next few weeks. 

Users who have installed the iOS 14 update will start to receive pop-up notifications asking them to specifically opt in and authorize apps to access their data. While we can’t predict exactly how many users will choose to opt out, we expect the percentage to be high. This could make it extremely difficult for brands to understand who is seeing their ads and take away many reporting capabilities that typically ensure successful campaigns. 

Audience tracking notably helps small and medium-sized businesses raise awareness and ultimately grow and scale their brands. The Ads Manager tools on Facebook and Instagram have traditionally allowed companies to interact with their existing and prospective customers with exceptional accuracy. Those capabilities will likely be significantly scaled back once ATT is rolled out. 

Data privacy may not mean fewer ads for Apple users; it will probably prompt fewer ads from small businesses and more ads from large chains and franchises. 

The advertising industry globally appears to be shifting toward a heavier focus on privacy protections for consumers, and the iOS 14 update happens to be another major step. In my view, it appears that Apple wants the public to feel like they shouldn’t be sharing their data, but in reality, sharing their data benefits consumers and businesses equally. 

Reaching the right people means brands can connect with customers who are genuinely interested in their products and align with their ethos. More data privacy probably won’t equate to fewer ads; instead, users will likely receive the same amount of ads, only they’ll be for brands and products that may not be relevant. 

A strategic, targeted approach to advertising helps people connect with and discover brands they love; it allows entrepreneurs and small business owners to not only exist but also to compete successfully alongside big-box retailers and large corporations. 

Brands can prepare now by implementing a holistic omnichannel performance marketing strategy. 

While we can’t stop Apple from forging ahead with ATT, I encourage brands to explore a diversified performance marketing strategy and consider tapping into channels like text messaging, connected TV, podcasts and influencer marketing. These platforms do not require quick data feedback to be impactful. 

As marketers continue to learn more and understand how Apple’s data changes will affect businesses over the next few months, it’s important for brands and agencies alike to be flexible and ready to pivot.

Special thanks to our friends at MuteSix for their insights on this topic.
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