Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) | Definition
Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) was first released by Apple in 2012 with iOS 6. The IDFA serves as a globally unique identifier assigned to an iOS device and is used in digital advertising for addressability, ad targeting, and deterministic attribution for campaign conversions.
With the release of iOS 6.1, Apple allowed iOS users to reset their IDFA. Later, with the release of iOS 12, Apple introduced the concept of Limit Ad Tracking, which allowed users to block access to their IDFA for tracking and advertising activities. With the release of iOS 14 in September 2020, IDFA access became subject to user opt-in/consent to ad targeting and tracking through the AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework that Apple announced at WWDC 2020.
This change has made the availability of the IDFA scarcer as users opt-out of tracking, which has far-reaching implications for digital advertising.
Why is IDFA important?
The IDFA is important because it makes it possible to identify the same device and user across different apps with 100% accuracy. This helps advertisers understand their users and target specific audiences with content they find useful, interesting, or beneficial. By gaining a holistic understanding of their users, advertisers can increase their return on ad spend (ROAS) and drive growth more efficiently.
IDFA after iOS 14
With the launch of iOS 14 and the enforcement of the ATT framework, user’s must opt-in to ad tracking. Without the user’s opt-in, an IDFA cannot be gathered and advertisers have to measure, track, and re engage their audience within the limitations defined by Apple’s user privacy and data use policy.
The IDFA will continue to be available in instances where the end user opts in to tracking through the ATT framework in an app. If the user has also opted in to tracking in the app where the ad was served, access to the IDFA is gained on both ends, thus enabling continued real-time, deterministic attribution by linking the two identical IDFA’s across ad and conversion. From there, what attribution method(s) are available or aren’t available varies based on ATT status of the user, paid vs. owned media, and in-app vs. mobile web channels. The pivot table below expresses this concept.
SKAdNetwork and IDFA
SKAdNetwork has played an important role since ATT enforcement. The SKAdNetwork is Apple’s storekit capability that helps advertisers determine the efficacy of their ad campaigns while maximizing the privacy of iOS users. It offers marketers deterministic, yet anonymous, attribution that will give them campaign performance insights in the absence of ATT opt-in.
When a user opts-out of tracking and the advertiser cannot gather an IDFA, other forms of measurement and attribution need to be utilized to gain insights into app users. While the IDFA is not used in SKAdNetwork, the lack of an IDFA pushes advertisers to use SKAdNetwork.
SKAdNetwork is attainable in most scenarios and is particularly important when the user has opted out of tracking in an app or the app where ads are served. SKAdNetwork is highly beneficial when considering attribution post-ATT enforcement. Only with paid and owned mobile web channels is this form of attribution unavailable, since SKAdNetwork is limited to in-app. This will change with SKAdNetwork 4.0, introduced with iOS 16, which will support web ads in Safari.
If you choose to adopt Apple’s SKAdNetwork, working with an MMP (mobile measurement partner), like Kochava, is strongly recommended to collect the most holistic attribution insights all on one dashboard. In addition, gain SKAdNetwork support to assist with the heavy lifting of adoption.
Are there IDFA alternatives?
While there are no true IDFA alternatives, there are different ways to perform attribution and targeting after the enforcement of the ATT framework. In either case, it all comes down to whether the user opts in or opts out of tracking through the ATT framework. However, owned media channels such as personal websites, social platforms, push notifications and email are not impacted to the same degree as campaigns you may run on paid channels with third parties.
As as example, if you have a portfolio of apps within a single publisher account, you can deterministically target and measure cross-promotional acquisition campaigns using the Identifier for Vendors (IDFV). This means that even if a user opts out, you can still gain real-time, row-level Kochava attribution for any cross-promotional efforts.
Effective targeting post IDFA
Without an IDFA, it becomes more difficult to target and engage users, but there are still ways to do so without user opt-in and while still respecting user privacy. While they do not replace the IDFA, they do enable effective targeting for both existing customers and new customers.
- Utilize privacy-first hashed emails against your IDFA footprint that might have been gathered before ATT enforcement. Hashed emails can help you re engage with users across mobile web channels and partners that have a logged in user base.
- Direct deals involve selling publisher ad inventory straight to advertisers at a fixed price. This is beneficial because it allows for direct communication between publishers and advertisers and makes it possible for publishers to gather quality installs. With any information gathered before the IDFA went away, identify highest value users and pursue direct deal opportunities on cost per mille (CPM) models directly with those publishers.
- Contextual targeting has gained popularity, especially when an IDFA cannot be gathered. Contextual targeting allows advertisers to know what type of content users are interacting with without specific details such as the user ID, user location, and other demographics. This allows them to create a user profile based on likes and dislikes and use that information for targeting.
IDFA and Kochava
Kochava performs highly accurate attribution to help advertisers understand the efficacy of their ad spend with full support for SKAdNetwork. When an IDFA cannot be gathered, Kochava offers measurement and attribution options to ensure advertisers gain the most accurate data possible while staying in compliance with Apple’s user privacy and data use policy.
Kochava Privacy Profiles allows marketers to decide what user and device that the Kochava SDK (software development kit) collects and whether it’s used for attribution based on the user’s consent status via the ATT framework. Privacy Profiles gives marketers peace of mind that their attribution is in full compliance with Apple’s policy.
Leverage Kochava SmartLinksTM to add trackable links within the body, banner, or footer of your owned media email campaigns. Or grab the QR code for your SmartLink and place it in the email, enabling your users to scan it with their phone if they’ve opened an email on their laptop or computer.
Use SmartLinks on personal (unsponsored) social posts to gauge what conversions you’re driving. For influencer marketing or content creator campaigns, use one SmartLink to capture the dynamic ID of the content being consumed and direct users to the correct app store to download the app. When users first launch the app, Kochava attributes the install back to the click.
If a user opts out, SKAdNetwork will not provide attribution of mobile conversions to OTT/CTV campaigns. However, Kochava is able to provide cohort-based incremental lift measurement that’s privacy-first and accurate with MediaLift™.