How will iOS6 affect ad revenue – more about the identifierForAdvertising (IFA)

Posted September 13, 2012 by | Filed under: Industry Perspectives, iOS News

We’ve been watching closely the new developments around Apple’s iOS6. We’re excited to hear more from Apple today about the new iPhone features expected to roll out next Wednesday, September 19. Some of the highlights include new screen resolution, flyover maps, and PassBook.

What may be more important to publishers, however, is the impact that the newly introduced identifierForAdvertising, or IFA will have on their revenues. (We’ll follow up with more thoughts on the new screen resolution as well, since this will also be important.) The short answer is that the IFA lays the groundwork for many new possibilities for mobile advertising and will undoubtedly lead to higher advertising revenue for publishers in the future. It does this in three ways: first, decoupling the IFA from the physical hardware; second, providing the user with a way to reset their IFA; and third, a way to opt-out entirely.

For some background, since the beginning of the iOS app ecosystem, ad networks, like our former employer AdMob, have used the Unique Device Identifier (UDID) to perform a critical conversion tracking function for advertisers who wanted to market their applications to potential new users. By allowing for the installation of an app to be attributed back to the original click that generated that install, advertisers and networks could measure effectiveness. For advertisers with a specific performance goal in mind, measuring and optimizing this Cost-Per-Install (CPI) is crucial. We’ve written about the importance of this several times in the past on this blog, but most succinctly here: http://www.mopub.com/2012/03/29/udid/.

However, the UDID came under significant scrutiny after its use became widespread, primarily because the UDID is computed based on the hardware itself (hence the name). Because of this, the UDID cannot be changed or reset by the user and does not provide a mechanism to opt-out. As we’ve seen in recent days, leaks of UDIDs are possible and they can be tied to potentially personally identifiable information. Once tied, a user cannot reset their UDID to solve the problem. It is irreversible.

In iOS6, Apple introduces the new identifierForAdvertising, which is substantially improved from this perspective. The IFA functions similarly to UDID in that it still enables advertisers to access crucial conversion tracking information and close the funnel. However, since the IFA is a randomly generated value and is stored in the user settings rather than tied to the hardware, it is far superior. The IFA is no longer a single value that is forever tied to the user’s phone.

Second, the IFA can be reset automatically when a phone’s settings are cleared. This is important – if there are identifiers that get associated with personal information and leaked, a user can get a new IFA and be safe.

Third, with the GM build of iOS6 released yesterday, our engineers discovered that there is now an opt-out mechanism for the IFA that’s controlled in the user settings. The option is called “Limit Advertising,” and enabling this allows the user to avoid any potential re-targeting or audience-targeted advertising buys. This is a huge step forward for user privacy and we are thrilled that Apple has included it in the platform in this release. Similar to how a browser offers the ability to clear cookies and reject third-party cookies, this makes the IFA a fully privacy compliant mechanism for powering a lot of the sophisticated advertising approaches we see proliferating in desktop.

It’s clear that IFA is a well thought through and elegant solution to advertising on iOS, and MoPub plans to adopt it immediately. To support IFA, we’ve updated our MoPub client library to use the following approach:

  • On iOS6, the MoPub library will send an unhashed identifierForAdvertising with each ad request
  • On iOS5 and below, the MoPub library will continue to send the UDID as before

Of course, apps using the prior versions of the MoPub client library will continue to send UDID and should be updated swiftly, as a result.

The latest MoPub client library is on GitHub at https://github.com/mopub/mopub-client.

Note that we’ve retained the existing behavior on previous versions of iOS. We expect that once the majority of users have upgraded to iOS6, we’ll be able to remove the UDID completely from the code base once and for all. However, if we did this immediately, there’d likely be a significant disruption to a publisher’s advertising revenue, so we are holding off on this until the transition is mostly complete.

If you have questions about the identifierForAdvertising or would like to know more about how this impacts you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us by commenting on this post. Publishers can also email info@mopub.com or contact their Account Managers directly. Advertisers, demand partners and agencies can contact demandpartner@mopub.com.

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