The Poker Player's Guide to App Tracking Transparency

The Poker Player's Guide to App Tracking Transparency

Jon BrodyJon Brody

July 15, 2021

When it comes to App Tracking Transparency (ATT), you’re going to receive lots of opinions from marketers on what tactics work best to stop your brand’s performance decline. ATT came out with the recent iOS software, and it’s thrown many people into a state of panic. So it makes sense that everyone would want to share what they should or shouldn’t be doing with the impact of ATT.

This is not one of those articles.

As we are (forcibly) moved away from the marketing world of seemingly limitless, abundant data, you have the opportunity to become a stronger organization. It turns out you may not have even needed that data in the first place. We’ve relied on it for this long, but we can move on from it.

Embrace Being Uncomfortable With ATT

In poker, embracing the fact that you are ‘gambling’ is necessary to make the best decisions in an inherently probabilistic game. The underlying truth is that marketing is much closer to a probabilistic game like poker than a game of chess where absolute, complete information exists.

We realize that’s not the most “Client Friendly” language, but now more than ever, it’s the most “Client Useful” thing that I can say. Like successful poker players, successful entrepreneurs (and decision-makers at large) need to embrace uncomfortable truths in order to win.

We recently experienced the disruptive force of COVID on business, witnessing the rapid acceleration of future trends (from remote work to remote education) become our present reality. ATT’s impact on what a modern growth organization should look like to succeed is occurring at a similarly rapid rate.

Having established that mindset, a shift as fundamental as iOS 14.5 requires first order principles to be established before getting buried in tactics. The former is what moves the needle; helps you ‘gamble’ less; and keeps your efforts aimed in a winning direction.

At a more macro level there are a handful of definitive strategies emerging for how growth teams must adapt to survive (and thrive) in an App Tracking Transparency world.

Stop Relying On Platforms For Audience Matching

Platforms are less equipped to algorithmically match an ad’s creative to the best audience segments. This means that very tactical creative that is based on agile feedback loops with platforms is less useful and reliable. Basically, if you relied on a platform, like Facebook, before ATT, you won’t be able to rely on it in the same way now. Instead, you’ll need more qualitative research and high-impact concepting that focuses testing on a lower volume of total assets. This is becoming more useful as the foundation of creative production.

Ultimately, there are fewer ‘campaign IDs’ available for use when targeting desired audiences. This reduces the number of Creative x Audience pairings that can be concurrently tested. A decrease in volume has a positive increase in the strength of the signal. The opportunity is to create more strategic, well-developed concepts that turn into high-impact creative tests.

How To Get Past The Lack Of Data Due To ATT

Ladder has been preparing for this reality by significantly increasing its capabilities not just within creative execution, but also dedicated creative strategy. A deeper understanding of user segments and research-powered insights can power more resonant ad creative that counteracts Facebook not being as effective in audience matching to people based on their recent behavior. 

We see huge opportunities within Q4 for businesses that successfully adapt now, who will be uniquely positioned to have an edge against other brands that evolve at slower rates. The key here is to get ahead of the crowd before everyone else figures it out.

“Lookalikes” And Broad Audiences Are Less Reliable Than Before

Algorithmic audiences are experiencing volatility due to the very datasets that drove their success now experiencing a reset of their own. While we anticipate these audiences will regain their effectiveness as highly incentivized platforms, like Facebook, who execute countermoves against App Tracking, we recommend diversifying your ads. 

How Do You Solve This Problem?

What this means is you’ll need to launch a modernized approach to the old school audience targeting. Instead of indexing heavily on broad audiences, reintroduce granular interest-based audiences, which can be launched alongside aligned creative content.

We anticipate the effectiveness of Lookalike and Broad (ex, Male, Age 18+, United States) to normalize out over Q3, with narrower Interest-Based Targeting to be a short-term measure which may or may not remain a long-term best practice.

This represents a new area that performance marketing teams must allocate resources to. Our ability to be both efficient and effective in this new area of focus is through the collaboration of creative strategists working alongside paid social and paid search experts.

Your Website Visitors Will Be Higher Up On Your Marketing Funnel

When it comes to looking at how ATT affects your website visitors, it’s important to realize that you may see some drops in conversion. It’s harder to maintain your conversion rate benchmarks when Facebook is showing your ad to fewer people who have strong purchase-intent signals based on their recent behavior. This type of tracking used to be a huge benefit, but we no longer have it due to ATT.

How To Deal With This Post-ATT

This reality impacts how your destination landing pages need to be evaluated moving forward. Specifically, we should expect to receive traffic that, on average, has a lower propensity towards immediate conversion. Think of your average visitor being a step or two “higher up” in their buyer journey than before.

Rethinking your approach to full-funnel content strategies and on-site messaging is a growing opportunity to maximize conversion rates.

Short Term Ad Performance Will Be Volatile For A Bit

There is an unavoidable fact: short-term ad performance will be more volatile now than it will be in the future.

Facebook is actively resetting their algorithms and progressing through their own (painful) learning curve with each new wave of iOS update adoption. Just like Facebook worked best by having stable datasets that machine learning algorithms could learn from, the recent waves of iOS update adoption has been anathema for their platform stability.

Fortunately, there are many reasons for Facebook to adapt in their own right - and while the iOS adoption update spikes created chaos, it was an unavoidable process to create a new normal for Facebook’s algorithm to learn from.

Right now, Facebook is seeing the brunt of the ATT update. Other platforms may not be as volatile, and it could be smart to try advertising more on those platforms and less on Facebook until it stabilizes.

How To Help Stabilize Your Ad Performance

In the meantime, we are actively evaluating how resources can be allocated to Top x Mid x Bottom parts of acquisition funnels.

For example: Reducing media spend will cause temporary declines in your volume of acquisition, but it also represents an opportunity to preserve resources that can be “doubled down” in a follow-up phase when unit economics are stronger.

When it comes to balancing the short-term business goals, we recommend looking at exemplary situations like these: 

  • Reduce media spend by X for 60 Days, accepting a new reality of Volume and Efficiency numbers on Acquisition
  • Shift Y team resources to focus on a set of Mid- and Bottom-Funnel initiatives to improve long-term unit economics and support short-term efficiency gains to neutralize negative platform volatility
  • Plan to increase media spend by Y during a medium-term window, that ultimately yields levels of performance (Volume and Efficiency) that best achieve business goals

If you were on the fence of trying to advertise on a new platform, now is the time to try it. While you’ll likely see a decrease in volume originally, you can double down when things get back to their new normal.

Ladder Can Help You Adapt To The World Of ATT

We are surviving a generational disruption within performance marketing. Like all disruptions, there will be exponential opportunities to thrive for those that adapt and survive. But, you don’t have to do it alone. Ladder is ready to be your partner that leads you through those necessary adaptations to end up as one of the winners. Contact us today so we can talk more about beating ATT together.

Ladder powers strategy and performance solutions for fast-growing brands

Talk to a strategist →

Growth is a high velocity game.

Sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with all the latest movements in the field.

More from

796+ open sourced growth tactics used by the best marketers in the world.
Explore our playbooks →