So which of the Seven Stages of Grief is this?
This week, Facebook has shared an update in its approach to Apple's coming IDFA changes, which are expected to have a significant impact on its data-tracking capability, and reduce the performance of its ad products.
Apple is expected to release its IDFA update very soon, which will add new, in-app prompts that alert users to the data being tracked by each app they use. Users will then have the option to switch off data tracking, if they choose.
Facebook, which analysts predict will be among the most heavily impacted by users switching off such tracking, has strongly opposed the update, launching a public campaign, including full-page newspaper ads, to criticize Apple's decision.
But with Apple moving forward with its IDFA plans anyway, Facebook is now resigned to the fact that the prompts will be shown in its apps. And as it looks to lessen the impacts, it's now adding its own, supplementary prompt within its apps to better explain why it tracks user data, and how it's used to improve each person's experience.
As explained by Facebook:
"To help people make a more informed decision, we’re also showing a screen of our own, along with Apple’s. It will provide more information about how we use personalized ads, which support small businesses and keep apps free. If you accept the prompts for Facebook and Instagram, the ads you see on those apps won’t change. If you decline, you will still see ads, but they will be less relevant to you. Agreeing to these prompts doesn’t result in Facebook collecting new types of data. It just means that we can continue to give people better experiences. We feel that people deserve the additional context, and Apple has said that providing education is allowed."
Axios has shared this screenshot of Facebook's current prompt in testing:
Given Apple's refusal to consider changes to its IDFA update, the approach makes sense - and really, it seems like Facebook should have maybe taken this tack all along, rather than trying to fight against the change, which, in some ways, has only solidified people's view that Facebook is looking to track more of people's personal data for its own business gain.
Indeed, while Facebook's initial strategy to combat the IDFA update was to project itself as the champion of small business (with the update set to reduce the effectiveness of ads, driving up costs for SMBs in particular), that framing doesn't seem to have held with the greater public, with Apple's counter-arguments around improved data transparency, and choice in how people's information is used, seemingly more in-line with the broader shifts around data use.
Definitely, Facebook's public criticism of Apple doesn't appear to have helped its cause.
Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg once again attacked Apple's IDFA approach on the company's latest earnings call, accusing Apple of interfering with how apps work in order to benefit its own competitive interests.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, while not specifically naming Facebook, responded to Zuckerberg's statements by explaining that data tracking at the level Facebook conducts is, in Apple's view, not necessary, and really, not beneficial to society overall.
"If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform. We should not look away from the bigger picture. In a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement, the longer the better, and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible."
Given the recent Capitol Riots, such impacts are clearly front of mind, which, if anything, strengthen Apple's argument that it should be looking to improve transparency around data tracking, with a view to ensuring users are more informed about such processes, and their capacity to control such.
But, for Facebook, and its advertisers, the changes will have significant impacts.
Bank of America analysts have predicted that Facebook could potentially see a 3%-5% 'revenue headwind' as a result of the IDFA update, while advertisers will have less capacity to track specific user behaviors, hampering processes like retargeting and attribution of response to Facebook ad campaigns.
On this front, Facebook has already flagged the removal of its 28-day attribution data, which will result in fewer reported conversions for your campaigns. That will have impacts across the board, which could see more advertisers shifting ad spend in response to seemingly poorer performance metrics.
Essentially, the IDFA update will have an impact on your Facebook ads performance, and will change the way you can target and optimize your ads. How much of an impact will come down to various, specific factors that won't be known till the update is launched.
But it's coming soon, and Facebook is now working hard to negate losses wherever it can.