iOS 17: What does it mean for advertisers?

By: Davis Tarvans, Paid Social Director, CvE

Brands will need to adapt their strategies and advertising methods if they wish to continue effective advertising on Apple devices.

Apple’s ongoing commitment to user privacy means the upcoming iOS 17 updates, which debuted at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), will introduce new privacy features and regulations that will significantly impact advertisers. Brands will need to adapt their strategies and advertising methods if they wish to continue effective advertising on Apple devices, or risk inefficient campaign management and fall behind their competition. Although the specifics on what is likely to happen have not been entirely shared yet, we have explored the key implications of the iOS 17 updates and here are some of the key takeaways on what advertisers should expect and how they can prepare for these changes before its official launch in September.

1. Link Tracking Protection

In iOS 17, Apple plans to automatically remove link trackers in URLs sent via Message, Mail, and within Safari Private Browsing. The update will also include blocking trackers that send data to third parties and fingerprinting protection for users, thereby safeguarding user privacy during when browsing privately or using Apple-own apps.

Apple introduced their Private Click Measurement, which uses a new in-browser Safari API, to help resolve conversion measurement. This feature will only apply to ads with a direct user journey from click to web, allowing advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns while respecting user privacy.

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What does this mean for advertisers:

This update could consequence across a range of tracking issues, including attribution, measurement, social widgets, fraud prevention, bot detection, and even post-click tracking. Activities that advertisers rely on to track the quality of where their ads are today may not be possible from September onwards. Private Click Measurement may help resolve direct post-click conversion measurement, although it’s been considered by many as a poor trade-off and complicated to use.

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2. SDK Privacy Manifests

The release of SKAdNetwork 5.0 will bring new functionality to how apps declare data use. SDKs will be required to include a Privacy Manifest, disclosing extensive details on what data is collected through the SDK and how it will be used. Further, SDKs may have to include a signature to validate that this version of the SDK came from the original SDK developer. The purpose of the Privacy Manifest is to allow App Developers to understand and verify the data practices of any SDK(s) incorporated into their apps. These Privacy Manifests will generate Privacy Nutrition Labels and AppStore Privacy Reports that are designed to help users understand how apps handle their data.

Apple is also introducing a new toolkit to help App Developers detect any unexpected Tracking Domains from the SDKs, enabling the blocking of all third-party tracking until users provide explicit consent for tracking. This change aims to eliminate unconsented tracking, giving users more control over their data and online privacy.

What does this mean for advertisers:

This change may force the App Developer (or Owner) to be held accountable for the data practices of the SDK within their App(s), although it’s unclear at this stage what controls are available within the new SKAdNetwork 5.0 toolkit. We’re expecting further information to be released prior to its launch later this year.

3. Implications for Ad Attribution and Optimisation

The iOS 17 updates will have significant implications for ad attribution and analytics, particularly for web advertisers. Apple has not specified which parameters will be affected, but this will pose challenges for ad platforms reliant on individual user tracking. For example, sending hashed customer email addresses to ad platforms will continue working, however, App Developers will most likely be the responsible party to ensure they are compliant with privacy laws, like GDPR and CCPA. There is also a risk that, even by complying with localised privacy laws, App Developers may still violate Apple’s own Terms of Service, which could lead to being banned from the AppStore. This change may affect reporting conversions, bidding, and optimizing conversion-based campaigns.

What does this mean for advertisers:

This is the perfect time to invest in privacy-centric marketing measurement. Ensure you’ve set up SKAdNetwork appropriately and explore alternative attribution models like Multi-touch Attribution, Media Mix Modelling (MMM), econometrics, and geo-based incrementality testing to gain valuable insights in a privacy-centric environment. Rely less on in-platform reporting for cross-channel comparisons and instead focus on comprehensive data analysis across platforms to understand discrepancies and optimise campaigns based on broader insights. Advertisers will need to closely monitor these changes and adjust their analytics frameworks accordingly to ensure data accuracy.

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Navigating the Changes

The impending iOS 17 updates are poised to have a substantial impact on brands, particularly concerning privacy regulations, app and SDK development, ad attribution, and analytics. Advertisers can navigate these changes by proactively engaging in collaboration with App Developers, rethinking their strategies and diversifying tracking methods, and embracing privacy-centric AdTech solutions. By responding early to these updates and prioritising user privacy, advertisers who are effective in adapting will build a sustainable advertising practice for years to come.

For assistance in staying ahead of these changes, feel free to reach out to me at I am here to support you through a seamless transition.

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