Button Weighs In: What Apple’s IDFA Opt-In Overhaul Means for Affiliate

Aug 6, 2020
Written by CJ

Apple has been at it again, this time announcing updated tracking prevention and privacy measures that impact mobile ad targeting and in-app attribution.

Editors note: The update to IDFA opt-in functionality went live on April 26, 2021. The info in this article that covers what this update means for CJ and the industry is still relevant.

According to Apple’s announcement, IDFA, or device ID, tracking will be allowed by user opt-in only beginning with the release of iOS 14, in September of this year. Current versions of the operating system allow users to opt-out through manual configurations buried deep within device settings.

The increase in visibility will give users more knowledge and control over data collected through their apps and the ability to easily opt-out of in-app personalized advertising, but the move may also cause headaches for Mobile Measurement Platforms (MMPs) and for brands looking to boost their mobile app marketing focus to build consumer loyalty during COVID.

CJ does not use IDFA to track in-app conversions, however, some of the MMPs our clients work with might. It's important to check with your mobile vendors to understand how they are adapting in light of Apple’s announcement.

To put these changes into perspective for the broader affiliate industry, we tapped the expertise of Chris Maddern, Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer at app-tracking and mobile commerce platform, Button.


CJ: What does Apple’s iOS 14 / IDFA opt-in announcement mean for mobile marketing? What about in-app affiliate marketing in particular?

Chris: The changes Apple has made in iOS 14 will have broadly-felt impacts across many mobile marketing channels. Usage of IDFA—the unique identifier for a device across multiple apps—is being placed behind an opt-in dialog, to which many users will not opt in.

IDFA has a variety of use cases from attribution and measurement to ad targeting—it is particularly important when you are trying to associate data from users across two apps that have no direct relationship and so therefore need to reconstruct the session to understand what happened.

This challenge does not impact true mobile app affiliate as extensively—in an affiliate relationship, attribution is directly passed from publisher to retailer with participation by both parties in a privacy-preserving manner. There will be challenges where affiliate networks are relying on MMP rails which often rely on IDFA to model affiliate-style relationships.

Button’s technology, in particular, is designed for a complete closed-loop app order attribution experience, with no need for IDFA at all.


CJ: What actions should advertisers take to make sure they are set up for continued app-tracking and measurement success once the changes roll out?

Chris: Know the data you collect, know the data your partners collect, and know how the data is used.

Different partners that you work with will have different approaches to informing you of what data they are collecting, and how they’re using it. It’s your responsibility to ask your partners as well as secure the data in your app.

Now’s the time to ask your partners what you need to do to be ready. Your partners are invested in making the transition as easy as possible, but make sure that the solutions offered live up to your commitments in Apple’s agreement. It’s not their app that faces being removed from the App Store.


Anything else you’d like CJ advertisers to know?

Chris: This change won’t be without any pain, change or cost, but it will be for the net good of all parties involved—for user privacy and for the role of the affiliate channel for marketers.

Marketers will be looking for high-performing channels aligned with customer outcomes to replace lost volume (and efficacy) in mobile display advertising—and affiliate marketing is that channel.

Thanks, Chris! 

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