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In the barrage of crazy news we’ve been getting lately from all sides, it was easy to overlook the one that might significantly affect the life of many marketers. As SEJ reports, in a letter sent to advertisers in the last week of September, Facebook has rather silently announced that they are reducing the default attribution window for conversion on ads on this platform from 28 days to just 7, starting from October 12th. With other changes made or announced recently by Apple and other web browser manufacturers, this seems like another spanner in the works of many marketers around the world.
In a multi-channel marketing world, tracking conversion and attribution was difficult enough as it is. We at Adverity know this well, as our platform was designed with the idea to help marketers in this battle. But recently all of us are facing a strong decline in available tools and techniques. The latest changes in the digital privacy area have launched a chain of events, of which this change made by Facebook is only a single piece.
Of course, for those heavily involved in advertising on Facebook or Instagram (read: practically all of us), and especially the ones with longer sales cycles or agencies being paid based on performance, this is nothing short of a disaster. But let’s look at how Facebook’s attribution model works in the first place. If you have set the conversion event in your Facebook Ad Manager, and it gets triggered in a certain period of time after the user who clicked on your ad actually purchased goods or services, this is counted as a conversion attributed to Facebook ads.
In the current default setting, based on the last touch model, this window of time is 28 days after the ad click and visit, or the last ad impression within 1 day of purchase. It is important to remember that Facebook treats all actions as clicks, so if somebody only liked your ad or commented on it, it will also count.
Although this looks like Facebook is diminishing the effectiveness of its ad platform, with the reduction of the attribution window to only 7 days as default they are actually acknowledging the current state of affairs. The recent (and upcoming) changes in popular browsers affecting tracking, such as Apple’s ITP in Safari and changes that came with iOS14 which effectively remove 1st party cookies after 7 days, are effectively obstructing Facebook’s ability to maintain a reliable attribution model on a longer period. So they are reverting to the ‘safe harbor’ and guaranteeing only a 7-day window for successful attribution.
So, if you need to cross-track conversion across devices or simply understand the effects of your Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns, the option still remains, but if your customers are not so agile and often convert in more than a week, you might have a tough time in explaining to the executives why Facebook has suddenly become a “weak conversion channel”. Our recommendation is that you take the existing attribution data from Facebook and export it for safekeeping, and as a historical reference on its performance. Of course, if you are using Adverity it’s already all there.
If you have been using the 28-day attribution model, you have the next couple of weeks to update it in your reporting and analytics tools. And if your budget spend monitoring is on a monthly level, now is the nick of time to readjust and prepare for this change, otherwise the results for October will be skewed and there will be headaches. The good news for Adverity users is that you won’t need to adjust anything if you are using the “Use Account Attribution” option, as it will dynamically adjust. Also, this change won’t kick in on October 12th, as it will not be reflected in the Facebook Ads API we are using to get the attribution data.
But don’t get your hopes up – this beneficial situation will remain only until the announced changes in how browsers track customer actions are deployed (for iOS14 and Safari 14 it’s already there). Of course, if you have been using only the 1-day and 7-day attribution windows so far, then you simply don’t understand what the fuss is about. Until the first next semi-announced major change by a major advertising platform.