Mobile App Marketing: iOS 14.5 Apple’s App Tracking Transparency

May 1, 2021 | TIPS & TOOLS

Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency

Wow! Apple has rolled out its new privacy/consent updates with iOS 14.5 giving consumers more control over what data they share with mobile apps.

What does this mean for mobile app marketing? The death of the IDFA! The IDFA has historically enabled mobile app marketers to measure return on ad spend, control audience targeting, and understand the behavior of their users. What can you do to prepare for the new ATT App Tracking Transparency updates?

Watch our full video here which breaks out all the details for what iOS 14.5 means for mobile app marketing including:


  • The basics of mobile app attribution and the IDFA
  • The new requirements for mobile app marketing in terms of user data-sharing consent
  • Best practices and tips for a pre-message strategy to improve opt-ins

Background about iOS 14.5

  • Apple announced a major update to its tracking policy in the name of protecting consumers
  • One of the new requirements known as AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) which has a major impact on app marketers
  • ATT requires all apps to notify to request permission to track track them across apps and websites owned by other companies (including ad ID identifiers).
  • Apple’s new user privacy regulations for iOS 14 will significantly impact how advertisers target users on iOS, specifically requiring consent from iOS users to access the IDFA. The potential loss of the IDFA makes accurate mobile measurement on iOS more challenging than ever before.
Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency

What is the IDFA?

In order to understand these updates, you need some background on the IDFA

  • The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device.
  • Advertisers historically have uses this to track data so they can understand which ad networks are providing ROAs and to deliver personalized retargeted advertising.
  • The IDFA is used for tracking and identifying a user (without revealing personal information).
  • The data can then be used to discover information such as which in-app events a user triggers.
  • The IDFA can also identify when users interact with a mobile advertising campaign and later go onto complete a specific in-app event thus used attribution purposes to help understand which campaigns are performing best

Understanding ATT vs. Limited Ad Tracking (LAT)

Apple introduced a way for users to indicate that they didn’t want to be tracked back in in 2011 with the introduction of LAT or Limited Ad Tracking. By activating an option called ‘limit ad tracking’ (or LAT) in the Settings of one’s iPhone, user information would be shown as blank, and as such those users can’t be shown targeted ads.

How does the new ATT App Tracking transparency requirement differ from the LAT? As it stands, roughly 20% of iOS users cannot be tracked using the IDFA because they have enabled LAT. The key difference between LAT and ATT is that users are now required to more proactively opt-in rather than opt-out of data tracking. Human behavior dictates that the percent of people who decide to opt-in to having their data shared will be much higher than before, because, hello– privacy!


Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency
The biggest change is that apps will need to request user consent to track their users’ data via a pop-up message within the app – as part of what is known as Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework.
Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency

What identifiers or data are governed by the “tracking” policy?

So what criteria determines whether or not you as a mobile app need to ask for consent to share user data? Here are a few details:

  • Any user or device level identifier that is used to join data from your app with data from third parties (including SDKs used in your app) for purposes of advertising or ad measurement or sharing with a data broker.
  • This includes, but is not limited to, the device’s advertising identifier, session ID, fingerprint IDs, and device graph identifiers. If your app receives or shares any of these identifiers for the above listed purposes, you must use the AppTrackingTransparency framework to obtain user consent.
  • Deep linking tools that pass unique identifiers or create a shared identity of the user between applications from different companies for the purpose of ad measurement

This ad measurement component is inherent to most mobile app marketers in order to see the conversion data of their advertising networks. Without user consent, it may be impossible to see install events or purchase events in your Google Ads or Facebook Ads dashboard if users have not opted in to ATT Tracking.

Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency

SKAdNetwork Attribution Framework

So you may be wondering, “there has to be another way to track conversion events! How can Apple do this to me?”

As an answer to the challenges posed by ad conversion data, during this same period of time, Apple has introduced their own attribution framework called the SKAdnetwork.

Let’s take a look at that!

  • SKAdNetwork is another way to receive the attribution of advertising campaigns on iOS.
  • Advertising networks must register with Apple, and developers must work to ensure that their apps are compatible with the registered networks and the new framework.
  • However, SKAdNetwork poses some challenges for the methods mobile marketers currently use.


Digital Dames Apple iOS14 Privacy and ATT App Tracking Transparency 6

What are the measurement challenges of SKAdNetwork?

Mobile app marketers are concerned with a couple of core limitations of the SKAdNetwork.

6-bits of downstream metrics with a first 24 hour timer

As currently proposed, the SKAdNetwork provides 6-bits of downstream metrics with a first 24 hour timer. These six bits can change every time an event is triggered in-app, to a fresh six-bit event code defined within the app, extending the window by a further 24 hours. Once this event-window expires, a second 24 hour timer for attribution starts counting down. Within this 24 hour window, randomly, the SKAdNetwork returns the attribution data. The SKAdNetwork system shares this data in the aggregate, with no granular data accessible at the user level. (Source: Adjust)

This poses a challenge to get consumers to take action within a 24-hour window of seeing your ad, which is highly limiting given that the attribution window can vary up to 90 days for most ad networks, allowing more time for consumers to purchase.

Limited ability to measure upgrades and downgrades because Event codes can only progress upward

The event codes in the SKAdNetwork can only progress upward. For example, if an app creates an event code for ‘Level One’ that reads 000001, then the user buys in-game currency, which is assigned a different value of 000011, and if this user later completes ‘Level Two’, the bits cannot be changed to 000010, since changes in only one direction are allowed. To avoid this, developers need to assign a bit value to each path or combination of possibilities, rather than to any individual event. The data tracked with SKAdNetwork and the granular, in-app events tracked by MMP-SDKs cannot be linked.

Limited to 100 campaigns per network

SKAdNetwork is limited to 100 different campaigns per network. On the surface this might sound sufficient but any experienced mobile app marketer knows how quickly you can runs through 15 campaigns per network with countless sub-campaigns for different geographies, device types or creatives. With SKAdNetwork, for example, the use of ten creatives in five countries would only allow two different campaigns per network. 

Despite its flaw, SKAdNetwork it should be very accurate in last-click attribution of aggregated installs.

Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency

Best Practices for Encouraging ATT Optin/Consent

In order to continue managing mobile app marketing as we’ve done previously, ATT is the more ideal attribution framwork to use. It’s up to marketers to inform customers of how and why their data is being collected.

A few ways to encourage consent:

Best Practices for Opt-In Messaging

  • Introduce a pre-permission prompt. 
  • Emphasis messaging around personalized, transparency, privacy
  • Cue the action
  • Remove distractions
  • Use positive language 
  • Incorporate social proof
  • Use clear, concise language

Here’s an example of the pre-permission prompt using a few best practice tips:

1. Messaging is introduced during the onboarding sequence

2. Positive messaging flow. In this case when the user selects “Ask App Not To Track” you would close out the prompt completely without advancing the the third screen

3. The third screen is required language as outlined by Apple with little room for edits 

Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency

Additional examples of optin messaging ideas:


Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency
Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency

What Isn’t Allowed

It’s important to be responsible with your ATT user consent opt-in appraoch to ensure you are not violating any of Apple’s guidelines.

A few examples of what isn’t allowed:

  • Gating functionality on agreeing to allow tracking, or incentivize users to agree to allow tracking in the app tracking transparency prompt
  • Fingerprint or use signals from the device to try to identify the device or a user
  • Lumping consent in with Privacy Policy prompts

They Key to Success is Testing

As always, it’s our recommendation to test, test, test in order to discover what performs best. ATT opt-in is no exception. There is no perfect strategy during this time when the entire mobile app marketing industry is facing the same set of challenges. In order to learn, consider an a/b testing strategy to test different design elements, copywriting, placement, timing and more to see what performs best. 

If you are looking for support in mobile app marketing, iOS 14.5 compliance or attribution strategy, reach out to Digital Dames for a free consultation.

Mobile App Marketing: The Impact of iOS 14.5 Apple App Tracking Transparency


We hope you enjoyed reading this blog post

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Post Contributors

Jaclyn Hawtin

Jaclyn Hawtin

Director of Technology

Over a decade of experience in product management, devops, startups, and agile methodologies. Track record of simplifying complex technical processes for cross-functional teams. Proficient in user centered design, UX, IX, UI, IA, user research and data analytics for responsive web, mobile and tablet applications. Incredibly adaptable, fluent with both people and machines.

Mani O'Brien

Mani O'Brien

Director of Marketing

Mani is a senior marketing manager with roots in storytelling. She nerds out on everything data, technology, human behavior and design. Chat with her about UX/UI, marketing funnels, conversion and goal tracking, marketing experimentation and astrology (she’s a Virgo Sun, Aries Rising).

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