SKAdNetwork iOS 15: Validate and reveal install sources

iOS 15 has unlocked a variety of new use cases that make SKAdNetwork much more appealing for advertisers. Despite this, not many advertisers are taking advantage of it - yet.

Here are three simple but often overlooked things that advertisers of all sizes can start doing right now:

- Get granular data from SANs (Self Attributing Networks) e.g. Facebook, Google

- Validate installs that you are paying for

- Reveal app source of acquired users

To make the most of this blog post, please also use our SKAdNetwork guide alongside it.

SKAdNetwork might not be a perfect measurement solution for advertisers, but it’s the only one that can cover all potential users and is not at risk of being blocked.  It’s essential that all advertisers familiarize themselves with SKAdNetwork now - even if it currently receives only a fraction of their budgets. These are the first building blocks for the future success of SKAdNetwork campaigns.

But first, a short disclaimer: each of the use cases is empowered by Apple sending copies of postbacks (with SKAdNetwork data) directly to advertisers. It’s important to note that this is enabled only for iOS 15 users. In other words, if an acquired user is using an earlier iOS version, advertisers will not get the data for this user from Apple.

As of the start of 2022, across Tenjin datasets, we see that only 55% of users are using the latest versions of iOS (15 or newer). Therefore, some discrepancies are expected when ad network data is compared with the data that Apple is sending directly.

The full list of available data in SKAdNetwork postbacks is available in official documentation from Apple.

In order to start sending the SKAdNetwork postbacks to your side, you will need to talk with your engineering team to work some magic both in your app and your backend.  If you are a Tenjin customer, you just need to follow these steps.

Assuming that you have all the setup ready by now. Let’s jump into the use cases.

Get access to raw data from Google and Facebook

When SKAdNetwork was rolled out, SANs like Facebook and Google were not passing raw SKAdNetwork data to advertisers regardless of whether they were using MMPs or not. The data were available only via aggregated and limited reports. Very likely, this is something that SANs will not change.

Before iOS 15


After iOS 15

However, Apple has changed the rules of the game with iOS 15. Advertisers can get raw SKAdNetwork data for SANs like Google and Facebook directly from Apple.

Here is a short example that shows why this is important:  Back in August 2021, Facebook reported a bug that undercounted SKAdNetwork ConversionValues for nearly seven months. If advertisers had the tools to compare Facebook data with Apple data back then, it would have taken them much less time to identify that something was off with the data. Luckily, these tools exist now.

Validate installs that you are paying for

Even though non-SANs like Applovin, Ironsource, Unity pass SKAdNetwork postbacks to MMPs, advertisers rarely go beyond comparing the reported installs. However, install validation has never been as important as it is today. Without it, advertisers simply don’t know what they’re paying for.

Some of the ad networks are charging advertisers for SKAdNetwork installs, but they do not describe the logic that they use when attributing installs. For example, ad networks can report view-through installs or installs that were not generated by the last click. If you want to understand what you are being billed for, you need to understand how the ad network interprets SKAdNetwork data. There is no way to know that without diving into the Apple data directly.

Moreover, ad networks process received data on their side, before sending it to MMPs. Therefore, they potentially can redact some of the data from the postbacks.

Reveal app source of acquired users

This is a rare use case that has not been available before the introduction of SKAdNetwork.

Traditionally, ad networks hide their sources of traffic from advertisers, but Apple has made it no longer possible to do that. One of the SKAdNetwork fields that are sent in the postback transfers so-called ‘source-app-id’ which corresponds with the app id in the app store.

Once the advertiser knows the source of their traffic they can assess the quality of it and see the patterns that work for them - e.g. high Ad LTV users are coming from hyper-casual games.

Moreover, bigger advertisers can use this information to strike direct deals (without a middle man) with app publishers. With the current limitations in user acquisition and ad monetization, it’s very likely that the number of direct deals will increase drastically in 2022.

Access raw SKAdNetwork data with Tenjin

Tenjin customers with DataVault access can already run these reports on their own.

DataVault opens up direct access to SKAdNetwork data for advertisers that don’t have resources to store it internally. That includes both data reported by ad networks and Apple directly.

If you are interested in getting a trial of DataVault, send us a message at info@tejin.com

Also, if you would like to explore more exclusive SKAdNetwork use cases, make sure to schedule a call with our Growth FullStack team.

In the video above we give a sneak peek of the kinds of SKAdNetwork dashboards, publishers can build for free with Google Spreadsheets and Google Data Studio.

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