The implications of IDFA, with ideas and solutions from the gaming industry

Casey Campbell, Managing Director, North America, at Gameloft, looks at the likely impact of Apple’s decision to make IDFA opt-in, rather than opt-out early next year, and at the alternatives for advertisers looking to target consumers with relevant, personalized advertising.

When it comes to digital marketing, there are plenty of rules, updates, changes, regulations and lawsdesigned to protect consumer privacy. Though these changes impact the online advertising landscape, nothing has quite shaken the industry like the upcoming changes to Apple’s IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) and its implementation for brands and publishers. Nearly 3 in 5 marketers expect to see a negative effect due to this change, according to an AppsFlyer survey. The update will result in serious changes to digital mobile advertising and the effectiveness and ability to analyze and optimize campaigns.

What’s happening with IDFA?
The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is Apple’s technology to assign a unique code to a user’s device, which then allows advertisers to track, evaluate, and measure campaigns. The IDFA itself is not a new tool. In fact, it was previously always on, always available; all users were universally opted-in with the option to opt-out. The pending change with the iOS 14 update is positioned as a strong consumer-privacy-first stance that will affect how brands advertise and the ads consumers receive.

The update will see the opt-out approach change to an opt-in approach. All apps on Apple devices will have to prompt users with a request, asking for explicit permission to track user activity across the app for advertising purposes. The update is expected in early 2021.

Possible marketing implications
The full implications of the update will only be understood once it takes effect. Until then, advertisers believe it will have a broad impact across the digital marketing ecosystem. According to ClearCode, a custom AdTech & MarTech developer, it is estimated that once live, the opt-in rate will be anywhere from 1 per cent to 20 per cent, in other words, advertisers are losing important data on 80 per cent to 99 per cent of Apple device users.

To understand its implications, it helps to know how IDFA is used today. Through its tracking potential, advertisers could:

·         Enforce frequency capping to limit ad fatigue or annoyance.

·         Deliver relevant/personalized ads through behavioral data.

·         Retarget consumers based on past action on other platforms.

·         Attribute app installs to ad platforms to know what was working and where.

·         Measure campaign performance and optimize as needed.

With all those capabilities gone or altered, advertisers are at risk of delivering ads that annoy consumers by either being irrelevant or appearing too often, and most importantly, losing attribution metrics that allowed for optimization on platforms that were delivering. Essentially, we are going from a deterministic path of precise targeting to a probabilistic path, with less chances of reaching the right consumer with the right ad at the right time.

It’s important to keep in mind the scope of impact, since these changes are strictly to Apple device users. Globally, Apple is less dominant, with a worldwide penetration of 24.82 per cent versus Android’s 74.6 per cent. But for marketers targeting American consumers, the impact is much more severe, with Apple device penetration at 58.78 per cent versus Android’s 41.03 per cent.

From the mobile gaming point of view
All apps available on Apple devices will be impacted, and this includes mobile games. Essentially, all apps will have to ask for explicit permission to track users before the user’s IDFA can be accessed and passed to AdTech companies; a popular way to monetize mobile apps.

At Gameloft, our network of mobile games is not dependent on IDFA data. Our games network is its own ecosystem. Once players install the game, we ask for standard demographics like age and gender – 4 in 5 players will volunteer this information. Players can also opt in to sharing their location data for a better gaming experience, such as participating in localized leaderboards and other local in-game features. In addition, we can identify other details such as language settings used in-game, player device, and their operating system; and contextually, we know our audience based on the type of game they’re playing. In general, mobile games publishers have a wealth of data on their players – necessary and valuable information for user acquisition in the highly competitive and growing Free-to-play mobile games market. Increasingly, this data is leveraged to locate and acquire new players, critical to competitive survival. 

This type of first-party data will become increasingly valuable as advertisers lose insight due to the changes to IDFA. Advertisers will benefit from working closely with publishers who have this information to better target their audience and deliver relevant ads.

Ideas and solutions in the gaming space
There are ways advertisers can prepare to better adapt to the upcoming changes: 

Collecting first party data
It’s recommended that advertisers begin collecting their own data and identifiers such as email and/or phone numbers. Many companies already do this in various ways. One effective approach to get consumers to provide this information is gamified surveys or forms. This gamified unit is fun to engage with and drives responses through entertainment and incentives. For example, a Gameloft for brands project for CSA (a French company) saw a 30 per cent response rate, 35 per cent completed engagement over engagement[DM1] , and 13 per cent conversion. This is outstanding, especially when compared to the average response rate of in-app surveys at 13 per cent, according to QuestionPro. Furthermore, mobile surveys (not in-app) see only a 3 – 5 per cent response rate. By gamifying a typically static form, we were able to drive more than twice the response rate, gathering valuable first party data and insights provided by the consumer.

From personalization to gamification
Advertisers can leverage gamification in lieu of personalization to get audiences engaging with their brand. With nearly 1 in 3 people playing video games, having a gaming strategy will be a “game-changer” for brands. Not only does this include in-game advertising, which in itself is a brand-safe, contextually relevant space, but also gamified branded content. Creating an ad that entertains, informs, and rewards behaviors is more effective than delivering a static piece that may or may not be relevant to the user. In fact, a Demand Gen report states that 81 per cent of marketers believe interactive content is more attention grabbing vs its static counterpart and around 70 per cent [DM2] believe interactive content is successful at converting visitors. Gamified ads rely on common, universally-understood touchscreen actions (tilt, swipe, touch, etc.) to drive engagement and deliver fun. This creates memorable brand experiences that do not rely solely on data.

Native advertising in engaging environments
Advertisers will not be able to receive the same data and insights from massive campaigns running in various ad networks due to the attribution challenges that come with the IDFA updates; this is an opportunity to pivot and go “deep instead of broad”. Working directly with publishers, particularly in the gaming space, allows for a more meaningful and custom integration of brand messages within the game ecosystem and gaming experience. This results in a better quality of interaction with audiences, who are in a positive and receptive state-of-mind. Advertisers will also benefit from the publisher’s wealth of data and understanding of their own audience of players, who are highly valuable and often hard-to-reach. 

Closing thoughts
If advertisers want to be where their target consumers are, then it’s on mobile. The mobile advertising landscape is massive, seeing consumers spend 4.3 hours a day on their device – that’s 27 per cent of waking hours, up 20 per cent from 2019 levels, according to an App Annie Report.

We recommend that brands take these changes seriously, as it will impact the advertising landscape in a way we have not seen before. We advise brands, marketers, and advertisers to take action now through education and preparation. Connect with us if you’d like to learn how in-game media and gamified branded content can support your marketing and advertising efforts through these changes.