SKAdNetwork Adoption Rises, But Still Too Low For Devs To Avoid Disruption

Most advertisers and ad networks aren’t ready to support Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework or SKAdNetwork despite an impending “early spring” deadline.

Most advertisers and ad networks aren’t ready to support Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework or SKAdNetwork despite an impending “early spring” deadline.

[If Apple is a stickler, the first day of spring is March 20.]

Based on an internal audit of its clients and partners, mobile measurement provider Branch found that just 1.05% of advertisers are totally ready for SKAdNetwork to roll out, while 5.76% are currently testing it. The vast majority are either still evaluating SKAdNetwork (84.55%) or don’t intend to adopt it at all (8.64%).

SKAdNetwork is Apple’s privacy-safe attribution solution for iOS, and it’s about to be the only show in town for attribution on iOS 14 devices.

According to Branch, to date only 14 ad networks are fully tested and ready for SKAdNetwork, 20 are either in the planning phase or in the midst of testing – and more than 1,500 ad networks aren’t sure what to do and/or haven’t done any SKAdNetwork prep work.

Why so behind?

Apple’s less-than-clear guidance on SKAdNetwork and its reprieve in September to give developers and ad networks more time to adjust caused a lot of complacency. And now the deadline is bearing down, said Alex Bauer, market strategy director at Branch.

“The industry is used to change – usually changes for the better – and they know that when change happens they’ll have time to make an update at some point,” Bauer said. “What they’re not used to is preparing for changes that will totally explode the entire ecosystem if you don’t take action – which is what we’re dealing with here.”

Good news … and not-so-good news

It’s not all bad news, though.

According to mobile ad platform Moloco, the percentage of global programmatic bid requests that are compatible with SKAdNetwork is trending up, from just over 14.5% in mid-February to just under 20% by the end of the month.

The uptick is encouraging, said Anurag Agrawal, Moloco’s VP of product, who noted that the numbers suggest adoption will continue to increase as the iOS 14.5 launch date draws near, and will likely grow exponentially in the days immediately surrounding the release.

In some countries, Moloco has seen bid requests triple in a matter of days, he said, and the hope is that adoption will continue to rise over the next few weeks.

Not seeing the chart? Click here.

Even so, “given current trends, we will likely not have 100% adoption until some weeks, or even months,” after iOS 14.5 becomes generally available, Agrawal said.

Not so fast

But SKAdNetwork still has its own problems. Until recently, postbacks were almost universally missing crucial information, including conversion value and source app ID, Bauer said.

Apple fixed that bug, but a lot of what doesn’t work about SKAdNetwork are actually features.

When conversion value and source app ID are absent from posbacks, it’s because a developer isn’t meeting Apple’s privacy threshold – but Apple hasn’t shared any information about what the threshold is or how to meet it.

“That’s part of what makes SKAdNetwork so frustrating, that it’s incredibly difficult to test,” Bauer said. “If you don’t have a valid test case, you don’t know what a ‘good’ scenario is, so you have to poke around until you get it.”

So, what’s a developer to do?

Unfortunately, not enough publishers and advertisers have been poking, and zero hour is nigh.

“The last lifeboat is leaving right now,” Bauer said. “So you can rush and try to make it, but it’s likely that if you haven’t already started testing, you’re going to have an unpleasant month or two as you figure this all out.”

Some developers will probably pause their iOS campaigns until the dust settles and maybe spend more on Apple Search Ads, Android, Facebook and Google.

Others might temporarily revert to CPM-based billing or insertion orders when cost-per-install billing doesn’t work anymore. Still others will probably keep paying for the same pre-ATT performance, hoping that their ad network can continue to deliver in the short term even without measurement. Or they might simply stop running campaigns with ad networks that haven’t adopted SKAdNetwork.

In other words, it’s going to be a rough ride once ATT is enabled and SKAdNetwork is live. But the industry isn’t screwed, Bauer said.

“I’d say the industry is being … disrupted,” he said. “It’s a process. We’ll find a way to get through it, but it’s going to be uncomfortable.”

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