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Tenjin: 39% of mobile devs have lost money due to IDFA changes

Tenjin's Roman Garbar speaks to on how 55% of respondents are finding mobile marketing harder in 2021 than 2020
Tenjin: 39% of mobile devs have lost money due to IDFA changes
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Apple’s 2021 privacy changes led to reduced revenues for two in five mobile advertisers, according to a new report from mobile measurement platform Tenjin.

Tenjin surveyed 302 mobile firms that have "responsibility for advertising budgets at mobile game and app developers" in the UK and the US and found that 39 per cent believe that they have lost revenue due to Apple’s IDFA changes.

Of these respondents, 75 per cent believe that these changes will put the future of their business at risk. As a result, 59 per cent of respondents claimed to have increased their spend on Android and decreased their spend on iOS, with only 27 per cent doing the opposite.

At 55 per cent, over half of respondents stated that they believe mobile marketing is more difficult in 2021 than in 2020, and voiced a bleak outlook on the future of mobile marketing.

The parADigm shift

A majority of respondents, 84 per cent, expressed further concern that Android would follow suit and implement similar changes to Apple in 2022.

However, Tenjin predicts although Google’s Privacy Sandbox has expanded to mobile, the firm will take a more gradual approach than Apple, thus allowing marketers to ease into the changes.

Tenjin co-founder and CEO Christopher Farm described 2021 as a "difficult" year for mobile marketers. "The introduction of app tracking transparency on iOS accelerated the trend of budgetary shift from iOS to Android and, while the launch of iOS15 in September 2021 was better news for advertisers as it gave them direct access to all SKAdNetwork data, it’s clear that they are still getting to grips with how to use it effectively," said Farm.

We spoke with Tenjin marketing director Roman Garbar about the survey results. The results of the polling are somewhat varied: only 55 per cent of respondents felt mobile marketing was harder, with a similar response rate involved in shifting iOS budgets to Android. I'll be honest; I had expected both figures to be higher. Do these figures align with your own pre-survey expectations/projections, and what changes can we expect in the years to come?

Garbar: I was surprised that only a little over half of respondents thought that mobile marketing became more difficult in 2021. Most of Tenjin’s customers are small and medium sized games studios and based on conversations with them, I would have expected this stat to be higher.

However, this question refers to mobile marketing as a whole: Android and iOS. Yes, iOS got noticeably tougher, but Android has been largely unchanged. It’s also important to note that on iOS developers are still able to combine deterministic attribution of opted-in players with methods such as fingerprinting/probabilistic attribution (although frowned upon by Apple) to ensure they can largely continue with familiar ways of working.

In terms of budgetary shift, this seems pretty natural to me. Developers can’t just leave iOS, because this is where traditionally they make the most money. Bear in mind that, according to Tenjin’s dataset, hypercasual ad spend on Android surpassed spend on iOS for the first time ever in Q3 2021 (55 per cent versus 45 per cent). Previously, iOS held a consistent lead, so even this relatively slim margin is a big deal. As recently as 2019, almost two-thirds of hypercasual spend was going to iOS.

I think it’s clear that mobile games marketing on both iOS and Android will be more difficult in years to come when compared to the years before the introduction of ATT. Predicting the distribution of ad spend between the two ecosystems is more difficult. However, if I had to bet, I would say that the trend of Android budget shift is going to continue in the next two years (see my answer to the next question).

On a similar note, 84 per cent of respondents were concerned of similar ATT changes in Android. How do you see the mobile marketing landscape changing in the future?

Google has recently provided some more clarity on its privacy plans for Android which are largely reassuring for game developers. While the company expanded its Privacy Sandbox initiative to mobile, the Google Advertising ID will exist for at least another two years. And Google seems willing to iterate on its plans using developer feedback, which contrasts with the sharper and more unilateral approach taken by Apple.

However, a potentially wide-reaching change is actually kicking in at the end of this week (April 1) when the current policy on Android 12 will be extended to cover all Android operating systems. From Friday, Google will return zeroes in place of advertising IDs for all Android users who opt out of ad tracking. This won’t have the same impact as Apple’s ATT as Android privacy consent is given in the device settings rather than popups on an app-by-app basis. A change has also been announced that will affect Android 13 tracking if developers haven’t made relevant SDK changes.