Here’s How MoPub Is Adapting To Apple’s IDFA Changes – Which Are Less Than A Month Away

David Gregson, a product manager at Twitter’s MoPub

Even as mobile ad platforms get their houses in order as Apple restricts IDFA in iOS 14, there are still a lot of open questions that remain, said David Gregson, a product manager at Twitter’s MoPub who’s directly involved with the mobile exchange’s response plan to Apple’s updates.

“There’s still a lack of clarity about how publishers should be looking to get an opt-in,” Gregson said, and Apple’s guidance is a little ambiguous on the matter.

And there are a lot of choices that app publishers will need to make when asking for permission to track their users, including what language to employ in the consent prompt and exactly when is the optimal time to actually serve it.

“You only have one chance to throw that prompt up, so you have to be really judicious about when that happens,” Gregson said. “If publishers do this in a way that really makes sense in the flow of the app, we’ll see much higher opt-ins but, if not, we’ll either end up with a low opt-in rate or people just zombie clicking rather than making a conscious choice.”

Meanwhile, MoPub is working on a new version of its SDK that supports SKAdNetwork and a proposed technical spec for iOS 14 that would allow advertising partners to send signed clicks to Apple’s SKAdNetwork API.

AdExchanger spoke with Gregson.

AdExchanger: Assuming the opt-out rate is low, what will MoPub no longer be able to do without access to the IDFA?

DAVID GREGSON: There’s nothing that we directly can’t do, but there are elements of our products that we’ll need to work on to make sure they continue to function at as high a level as they do today.

The most basic one is analytics. We use the IDFA to know how many users in aggregate a given publisher of ours has. Going forward, we’ll need to be a lot more aware of other IDs to enable the type of analytics Apple permits without doing anything to identify users across vendors.

And then there’s SKAdNetwork. The good thing about it is that it will allow buyers to still measure user acquisition campaigns – but, then again, it’s a solution for user acquisition only, for attributing clicks that generate installs and, obviously, there is a huge amount of other advertising that happens in apps. We’ll have to try our best to enable them.

What do mobile ad companies need to think about as they get ready for Apple’s IDFA changes?

A big one to consider is whether to support SKAdNetwork. When Apple first made its announcement, ad partners were questioning whether they should do so or not, but now the industry is mostly aligned on the fact that this is simply the way that in-app campaigns will have to be measured now.

What changes is MoPub making in response to iOS 14?

First, we will be supporting SKAdNetwork in our next SDK, but in an interesting way.

Because we’re a programmatic exchange and not an ad network, we don’t have our own campaigns running through. When an advertiser is using an MMP [mobile measurement partner] to do attribution, the creative is usually rendered on screen by the DSP and the domain is able to fire a click to the MMP. The MMP takes care of it from there. But with Apple’s new system, there’s no way for a DSP, and therefore the advertiser, to submit a click to Apple’s API for SKAdNetwork.

So we need to coordinate with DSPs. When an ad is clicked, we as the SDK can talk to Apple’s API and submit the click on the DSP’s behalf so that it can get credit if it’s driven an install.

We have a spec proposal out to the IAB about how SSPs can communicate with DSPs in a way that allows DSPs to be in charge of the signing process that Apple requires when submitting clicks to its attribution system.

Without the IDFA, how will you handle frequency capping, campaign pacing and other user experience-related issues that aren’t related to tracking across apps?

We’re looking at passing either the IDFV [Apple’s identifier for vendors] or a custom proprietary MoPub ID that doesn’t work outside of a given app. You couldn’t use it for cross-app tracking, but it would allow DSPs and ad partners to make sure they’re not serving more than a certain amount of ads to the same person per day.

Does any of this change how MoPub gets paid?

Our exchange is entirely CPM-based, so there will be no difference for us in terms of how we get paid. But some ad networks only charge based on clicks that lead to installs, and that does make the billing piece trickier for them.

When you could tie a given install to a specific click and impression, you could know to who, where and when an impression was served and take care of the billing from there. But now if a user opts out of tracking, the ad network just gets a notification back from Apple to say that an install happened and here are X number of campaign IDs you can use to approximate where the ad came from.

What big questions remain about SKAdNetwork?

Apple is taking a very strict approach at the moment and perhaps doing so out of an abundance of caution. But will Apple relax some restrictions in SKAdNetwork 3.0 around limited IDs and allow partners to do a better job of targeting and tracking while still preserving all of the privacy requirements they care about?

I’d say that is the biggest question in the industry right now.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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