I’m not sure that Facebook’s plan of attack to combat Apple’s coming IDFA changes is going to work out the way it might hope.
Facebook launched a major new campaign in which it presented itself as the champion of SMBs, whom it says will be severely impacted by Apple’s coming changes. The IDFA update will essentially make all data tracking within apps opt-in, with explicit prompts displayed when users open an app, outlining all the info that app tracks, and giving users to option to either allow such or not.
Facebook’s campaign, which included full-page ads in several major newspapers, proclaims that it’s ‘standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere’, and calls on Apple to stop the change, which is scheduled to go into effect early in the new year.
And today, Facebook has re-upped its push, with a second set of full-page newspaper ads which once again frame Facebook as the champion of business.
As you can see, these new ads go a step further, noting that:
“Apple plans to roll out a forced software update that will change the internet as we know it – for the worse.”
The ad says that many businesses will need to switch to alternate promotional models as a result of the change – “to make ends meet” – while also noting that:
“Beyond hurting apps and websites, many in the small business community say this change will be devastating for them too, at a time when they face enormous challenges. They need to be able to effectively reach the people most interested in their products and services to grow.”
Reach, you say? What an angle for Facebook, specifically, to take.
Facebook, of course, has been heavily criticized in the past for encouraging businesses, big and small, to build a presence on its platform in order to better connect with their audiences, before tightening its algorithm screws again and again, to the point where most Facebook businesses Pages are now lucky to reach just a tiny fraction of the users that have chosen to Like their page.
On this front, rather than just criticize, Facebook could take tangible action – if Facebook truly believes that the IDFA changes will significantly impact SMBs in their hour of need, it could announce that it will increase organic reach for business Pages within its app, in order to help them “effectively reach” more of the people that have registered interest in their products and services by Liking their Facebook presence.
This is just one of the reasons why Facebook’s pushback doesn’t feel genuine. Definitely, the changes to IDFA will have impacts on digital ad targeting, and subsequent effectiveness. But it’s Facebook, and bigger corporations, that stand to lose the most, not smaller operators who are less reliant on intricate ad targeting.
And again, Facebook’s the one that’s forced many businesses into ads anyway, by killing organic reach. So while there should be a level of concern with the IDFA update, Facebook isn’t exactly the beacon of light that it’s looking to portray within this new campaign.
In response to Facebook’s initial ads, Apple provided this statement:
“We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites – and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.”
Of course, Apple has its own business reasons for implementing the change, outside of its stated concerns for data privacy, so it’s no more righteous than Facebook, necessarily. But amid the broader shift towards increased data protection, and transparency in such processes, Apple’s changes do make sense.
No one knows, for sure, what the full impacts of the IDFA update will be, as it’s all relative to how many people choose to opt-out once shown the new prompts. The general consensus is that many people, when made aware of such tracking, will choose not to allow it – and Facebook, in particular, could be increasingly worried due to the amount of data it collects.
As you can see in this example, posted by Adam Smith, a reporter for The Independent, Facebook Messenger takes in way more user data than another messaging app, Signal.
Facebook has built an empire on the back of its data-gathering processes, which it then uses to fuel its all-powerful ad targeting machine. If the above example is indicative, then Facebook should definitely be worried, as once people see these listings, and compare the data collected by each app, Facebook’s tools could look very bad, and could be among the most cut off from data-tracking.
That, of course, would impact more than Facebook alone. But again, it is interesting to note the nuances of the pushback, and Facebook’s positioning as a leader standing up for the common man.
If Facebook truly believed in such, it has other options it could use to help. Which is why this new push seems more likely to backfire, regardless of the potential impacts.
Maybe then, as Apple notes, Facebook would be better off explaining to users why it collects so much data, and why they should allow it to continue, in order to provide them with a better experience. That’s a harder sell, but it could be more effective than this current framing.