This past year was challenging on so many levels and filled with constant doubt that each of us felt at both a personal and professional level. Apple certainly didn’t make things easy on us. Indeed, this was the year that Apple decided to challenge all of us in the mobile advertising space and by leading a significant change in the attribution landscape with the release of SKAdNetwork attribution.
Still today, I do not have all the answers on how this change is going to be standardized in the future and the true impact it will have on developers from the smallest to the largest. However, to me it really is an eye opener and appears as a unique opportunity to track and attribute advertising data via incrementality to arrive at a holistic view. In this article, I share my own experience with iOS14 and how excited I am to shift from last touch to incrementality.
SKAN’s challenges including dealing with only 100 campaign IDs
When Apple announced the 100 campaign limitation, it made me anxious. It meant a limitation in deterministic data but also in the number of campaigns a marketer is able to run. So what was I going to do? No more experimentation? My first thought was “what is my job going to look like and how will I still enjoy doing user acquisition?
To me, the restriction in the number of campaigns was really perceived long term as a threat to my UA manager position. Indeed, fewer campaigns meant less fun. It also meant fewer ways to experiment and challenge my thinking, fewer ways to find new pockets of growth, fewer ways to extend my media mix, fewer ways to easily optimise on the next crazy event designed by data science, and fewer ways to get direct feedback from the market without a timer.
This left me with the strange and disconcerting feeling that the advertising platform did not need UA managers anymore in order to set up a AAA campaign without targeting or anything similar as everything was now heavily simplified and restricted.
SKAN does NOT offer a way to cohort KPIs by install date
However, what I got from this situation was that SKAN attribution was the new rule and I was interested in the new areas that Apple wanted to innovate in. I was really keen to have that information, but for a year, it was really difficult to get a clear and comprehensive explanation from Apple. Apple made several announcements during the WWDC and each time I remember that my UA manager friends and I were really nervous about these because we did not know how things would pan out. After a year, we finally saw the first shape of SKAN and ran the first test on it.
For now, the SKAN solution has not met all of my expectations. Apple did a lot of back and forth that led in a year to the delivery of a disappointing SKAN attribution model, not at the level of the privacy promised but also disappointing from a market overview. A lot of simple things like offering daily KPIS by install date is currently really complicated with SKAN. All data is aggregated, the timer is super long and the sample size in order to receive installs postback data is still unclear to me.
Funny enough, it made me happy that it was not perfect because it created opportunities for other smart companies to fill these gaps and they certainly did! I was happy that this complicated attribution was the real opportunity I was waiting for to push mobile companies to consider holistic marketing via incrementality and finally empower creativity in advertising!
Critical KPIs have been replaced by a single conversion value with its own significant limitation
Because advertisers were unhappy about the iOS14 change and all the limitations that it imposed by following only a single conversion value, I saw advertisers start to be resilient, to evolve and to innovate. People finally stepped outside of their comfort zones and challenged the status quo. The forgotten topics of creative and incrementality became the new topics everyone is now excited about to refashion their growth!
I saw incredible growth masterminds and leaders that I deeply respect lead conferences about this topic, share resources to the entire market and open the doors to understanding incrementality. All of these people truly inspired me as a young UA manager. I could only imagine the struggle they endured everyday to explain to their high level management the change that they were implementing. At the same time, they also inspired other companies to help lead the change.
SKAN implications for budgeting, forecasting and strategy
SKAN budgeting is complicated at the company level and I think all leaders struggled and are maybe still struggling on how to figure it out. Investors are still unsure about the negative or positive externalities of spending heavily on iOS right now. Does it send a good signal to investors to spend heavily on iOS right now when we belong to SKAN? Or is it better to spend on Android?
At the company level, Apple was NOT very vocal about the changes they were making and this created a lot of uncertainty. Almost every week, Apple was updating yet another release note with new information. This made budgeting highly complicated for marketers as the day to day approach was to wait for an update prior to doing any forecast. Growth is not just a matter of days and months, it is a matter of years that involves you working with many people to be successful. Each decision can have a wide-ranging impact.
Last touch is the source of the above challenges
Last touch attribution on Apple was not an option anymore unless you had an ATT prompt where the user clicked YES. Since I worked in CRM before, I knew the optin rate would differ from one app to another and the deterministic data we get would certainly not represent 100% of the cohort. However, I was happy about it because last touch attribution has always been something I was really a fan of.
Indeed, to me it was always a way to favor the SANs, a way to say brandformance does not exist as it did when I worked in the past with an offline user acquisition channel. I also knew the last view or click was imperfect or non-ideal data as it also attributed to paid traffic what might have been organic, and was sometimes even fraudulent. So overall, I was really happy and excited about all the sparks that came out about this topic and the innovation in incrementality and holistic marketing views in organizations.
No need to lose hope as incrementality is real, usable and effective in overcoming the limitations of last touch
Don’t lose faith and adopt change! That’s really what all the leaders I watched on all the webinars made me think. They really made me happy to be part of this industry! As challenging as it was in the past to pitch for incrementality ; iOS14 was now an eye opener for many to lead efforts on sustainable growth and promote incrementality! iOS14 has shown us how painful it can be to get data and that deterministic numbers are the best answer to lead investment.
Many companies now finally consider getting better and better knowledge about holistic views and are pursuing incrementality as a new way to increase and maximize their real profitability. I think this change was also driven by the fact that mobile generated more revenue during the pandemic. Advertisers discovered new channels already heavily used on the web (TV, influencer etc.) and expanded their media mix. Those channels also needed to be assessed in performance and iOS14 was only another reason to go deeper into measuring those incrementalities with a proper measurement approach.
Benefits of incrementality
For a long time, we called user acquisition growth hacking with the famous white and black hats. In the past, we had no rules as everything was new and the legal landscape did not exist. Now it does, and I am really happy about it. I am happy that it is not legal to send IDFA by CSV file anymore. I am also happy that companies have to ask me for my consent.
As both a user and an advertiser, incrementality is the best solution to respect my privacy and also provide the necessary and accurate information that advertisers need to ensure sustainable growth. Privacy-compliance is at the heart of incrementality as it requires no device IDs. It is simply a clean scientific means of measurement.
Incrementality does not have artificially created attribution windows and prevents the over-attribution of SANs like Facebook and Google. This makes me really proud of our industry – we now can provide all channels the same chance of success. Once again, this is going to challenge how we think and what we think we know. Incrementality measurement is the only approach that now is able to show you the real impact of each channel based on fair and accurate data. I really hope this will reshape our industry and challenge the famous duopoly.
The other thing that I’m really excited about is that cannibalization will now be taken into consideration. For a long time, marketers ignored cannibalization in order not to suffer a decreasing budget. I hope that cannibalization of paid and organic is going to be reduced and that incrementality’s holistic view will provide a better understanding of the true paid impact on organic. Indeed, it can sometimes have a negative impact but there can also be a positive impact on organic uplift for instance, provided by an app burst that increases your ranking. What about your TV campaigns? Now everything will finally be measurable to understand the true effectiveness of all of your marketing efforts.
Working in mobile means that learning is a day to day activity. As challenging as that is, everyday is about making our space a more advanced space. I am really proud to be part of the mobile space. Incrementality is one of the best results of iOS 14 and without it we would perhaps never have this opportunity to make measurement better for the advertiser and more importantly for the user. We can finally heave a sigh of relief because we survived!
I look forward to your questions. Thanks.
Claire Rozain is passionate about growth strategy. She is currently a Senior UA Manager in casual games for Gameloft. Prior to that, she was in social casino for Product Madness, in dating for Match EMEA, and in mobility for Mappy. She had opportunities to explore different verticals in the UA and CRM world and is passionate about top of the funnel paid and organic strategies to get the right users. You can follow her YouTube channel here.