The difficult truth of iOS 14.5: pixels vanish, platforms fade, but brands endure

For the last 14 years, SMEs and corporates alike have enjoyed the profitable rewards of Facebook Advertising and the Facebook Pixel. Track your customers’ every move. Build an empire of lifetime value audiences. Press a few buttons, and you can even find new customers that are lookalikes of your existing customers. Scale, spend and saturate your market. Haunt your customers’ every waking moments chasing that purchase. Relish in success that is attributed over a monstrous window of 1-day view, or 28-days click.

This month, all is set to change with the global rollout of iOS 14.5 for iPhone users, which includes a mandate from Apple that all app developers must ask their users if they are comfortable with their behaviour being tracked for advertising purposes. Facebook have contested this, with full page ads, a noisy PR campaign and even the unceremonious removal of the Apple pages’ ‘blue tick’.

This outcry was ignored, and Apple have pressed ahead.

Some marketers estimate that around 70% of the UK Facebook population users, given the option, intend to opt out of Facebook’s pixel tracking. This means the empires of custom audiences built over years of eCRM data will crumble overnight as users choose to effectively muzzle Facebook’s proverbial sniffer dogs, removing themselves from audiences and data sets, and throwing Facebook off their scent from their platforms to external websites. Lookalike audiences will match less accurately. Reach will go down. Frequency may increase. Spend and efficiencies will ultimately suffer as targeting, Facebook’s long-standing USP, becomes less of a silver bullet and more of a machine gun.

What advertisers are left with is Aggregated Event Measurement, Facebook’s new tool to effectively guess at user behaviour, based on its own AI. It’s a poor substitute to the reams of data that the Facebook pixel would return, but it’s all we have left. Advertisers now have two choices: accept the status quo with a declining funnel of customer data, or change and fill the funnel yourself.

In this new world, the shift moves away from the bottom of the funnel, and targeting the same type of customer over and over. Instead, advertisers should look to new sources of audience, focussing further up the funnel, above the line, using organic social to fuel their ads. Custom data audiences may be out, but tactics that require engagement and conversation are still very much in.

For example, until now, the targeting of Facebook engagers or people who have saved an Instagram post may have been less favoured due to a preference for higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) from website behaviour retargeting. However, in this new playing field, they immediately become bigger opportunities. But, in order to benefit from these audiences, they must be populated, and that brings us to what so many brands struggle with – organic content that engages.

And strong engagement starts with a strong brand. Brand message, brand USP and brand tone. Writing a compelling story that will engage users, no matter the medium. In today’s world, much of this is about having a purpose and an emotional connection to your audience. The brands that do this well will last a lifetime. Those that don’t will slip into irrelevance. Platform changes and technology may come and go, but brand marketing will never go out of style.

So, what does engaging brand marketing look like for your business? That’s where our new service comes in, launching soon. To be the first to hear about it, drop us an email at