When Apple introduced the new App Tracking Transparency Framework (ATT) to iOS 14.5 devices on April 26th 2021, it was expected that the policy would disproportionately impact social media apps like those from Meta, that use off-platform data signals to power ad personalisation and measurement. The industry consensus – and warning from Meta – was that advertisers were likely to experience rising costs; in their Q2 2022 earnings call, Meta cited “signal loss from Apple’s iOS changes” as a continued challenge, with CFO David Wehner forecasting earlier in the year that the overall impact of iOS as a headwind on the business in 2022 would be in the order of $10 billion*.

But was the impact felt by agencies and advertisers? Natalie Carder, Head of Paid Social at Zenith, reflects on the global effect of ATT on Meta advertising costs.

  • Year-on-year analysis found that the ATT update had a mixed impact, with differences expected due to a geographically varied mobile operating system market share as well as varying degrees of reliance on off-platform signals for targeting or optimisation, according to advertisers’ marketing goal.
  • In iOS dominant markets like the US and UK, there are signs that website sales-focused investment shifted from iOS towards Android after ATT, suggesting a loss in signals from iOS devices. There was also an upwards trend in traffic costs on iOS devices compared to Android. However, the impact on end ROAS varied with advertiser agility. Advertisers who embraced experimentation overcame the impact of signal loss through strategic optimisation. Black Friday results for one global advertiser show the benefit of a test-and-learn framework, with YoY ROAS in the UK increasing by more than 50%.
  • Cost-impact on brand metrics is harder to unpick, but analysis of some of our largest global advertisers suggests a year-on-year reduction in CPMs in iOS dominant markets, with average CPM falling 10-50%.
  • Similarly, in Android dominant markets, both brand and performance advertisings costs were more likely to trend downwards than upwards.
  • Overall, the average price-per-ad decreased 18% year-over-year according to Meta’s Q3 earnings results.

So, it would seem like the headwinds of ATT were not felt with the severity that Meta and the wider industry predicted. Clearly there were other auction-dynamics at play, or perhaps we have our agency specialists to thank for diligent optimisations.


Analysis based on 2022 YTD average CPM and average CPLC vs 2021, select global clients

Meta (2022). Q2 2022 Earnings Call Transcript, Meta (2022). Third Quarter 2022 Results

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