Two of the biggest companies of our lifetime are fighting. The fallout will be the single biggest change in internet advertising history. This is big news. HUGE.  

What’s it all about? 

Apple will no longer allow data to be passed from any IOS device – currently iPhones, iPads, Apple watch and Apple TV – to Facebook, Instagram and its advertisers.  Right now, when you use your phone to access any website that has the Facebook tracking pixel, your preferences, interests and buying behaviours are all monitored and used to serve you adverts on Instagram and Facebook that they think are relevant to you.  Facebook also use your messages on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to extract data to use to sell to advertisers.  

NB the advertisers are never given your identity, only offered access to a group of people who share the same preferences and interests.  


Why are they doing this?  

Apple say they are taking action for privacy reasons. Here’s a direct quote:  

“Privacy is a fundamental human right. At Apple, it’s also one of our core values. Your devices are important to so many parts of your life. What you share from those experiences, and whom you share it with, should be up to you. We design Apple products to protect your privacy and give you control over your information. It’s not always easy. But that’s the kind of innovation we believe in.” 

(Read more about Apple’s privacy policies here )  


When will the changes happen? 

As users update their operating system to iOS 14.4, the changes will take effect The IOS update started rolling mid-January, and everyone should have it (if they accept the update) by mid-2021.   


How will it affect me?  

Whether or not you agree with these new privacy measures, you’re going to be affected, either as a Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp user. You may notice the ads in your newsfeed will become less relevant to you. For example, right now, if you’re browsing the internet then come back to Facebook or Instagram, there’s a high chance that an ad for the product or company you were just looking at will pop up in your newsfeed. This is much less likely to happen as iOS 14.4 takes hold.  

If you’re an advertiser on Facebook or Instagram and you use Custom Audiences (3rd party), you will be affected. Here are the Facebook and Instagram audiences you’ll have to do without or rely on less:

  • Interest targeting audiences – these will become considerably less reliable as currently, Facebook scrapes this information from multiple different avenues, including your website browsing history.   
  • Website pixelled audience – anyone accessing your website via an Apple iOS device will not be tracked unless they opt in when prompted. 
  • Lookalike audiences – these will become less accurate as they will rely on soon-to-be unreliable data regarding interests, preferences and browsing/buying behaviour.  


What do I need to do about it?  

Get better at using Facebook proprietary (1st party) audiences, including: 

  • Engagement Audiences – people who have engaged with your Facebook page or Instagram account, including likes, comments and shares of your posts
  • Page Like Audiences – people who have liked your Facebook page or Instagram account
  • Video View Audiences – people who have viewed your videos on Facebook or Instagram 


Our take on these changes 

Ignoring for a moment the morality of the privacy issues, let’s look at the commercial implications of these changes.  

Anything that makes life harder for your competitors to be successful is a GOOD THING. There are few enough competitive advantages for the small independent agent to seize upon and use to build their agencies. Take this change as a gift.  


A real-life example 

Let’s say you want to use Rightmove as an interest-targeting option in Facebook. This means you want to show your advert to people who are interested in Rightmove, and therefore, you assume, more likely to be interested in buying, selling or moving house.  

You go to the Rightmove page on Facebook and see it has 280,000 page likes. So you could assume that the maximum number of people your advert could reach would be 280,000.  

But when you go to create your advert, you see that the maximum reach is 2.2 million people.  

How can that be? Where are the other 1.9 million people coming from? Here are some of the sources Facebook uses to create their interest-targeting audiences:  

  • Your behaviour on Facebook – eg liking or commenting on a post that mentions Rightmove 
  • Your WhatsApp messages (yep, it’s true) 
  • Your online browsing behaviour 
  • Your Instagram practises 

And probably a ton more places we don’t know about. Scary stuff…..  


Here’s what to do right now:  

  • Start experimenting with Facebook and Instagram ads using 1st party audiences, before these changes take hold.  
  • Join our free Facebook group – where you’ll find ninja tactics and straightforward advice  
  • Register for our next Facebook Ads workshop here LINK so you’ll be first in line for an invite when it is opened. 

One point to remember is that even though Facebook will no longer be able to track your behaviour across iOS devices, Apple can. After all, it is their data….

Sam Ashdown, the independent estate agent

What to read next: My ultimate guide to Facebook advertising for Estate Agents

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