What is SKAdNetwork (SKAN)?

Glossary SKAdNetwork (SKAN)

The definition of SKAdNetwork

Starting with iOS 14, Apple has introduced two new frameworks for attribution and ad measurement.

First, Apple introduced the ATT (AppTrackingTransparency) framework, which manages access to the IDFA by requiring user consent.

Apple introduced the SKAdNetwork in 2018, a different approach to campaign measurement where data at the user level is not available. With iOS 14 the SKAdNetwork framework will be updated to version two — as Apple attempts to ameliorate some of the impact of reducing developers’ access to the IDFA.

Why is SKAdNetwork important?

SKAdNetwork is another way to receive the attribution of advertising campaigns on iOS. Advertising networks must register with Apple, and developers must work to ensure that their apps are compatible with the registered networks and the new framework. However, SKAdNetwork poses some challenges for the methods mobile marketers currently use.

What are the measurement challenges of SKAdNetwork?

  • As currently proposed, the SKAdNetwork provides 6-bits of downstream metrics with a first 24 hour timer. These six bits can change every time an event is triggered in-app, to a fresh six-bit event code defined within the app, extending the window by a further 24 hours. Once this event-window expires, a second 24 hour timer for attribution starts counting down. Within this 24 hour window, randomly, the SKAdNetwork returns the attribution data. The SKAdNetwork system shares this data in the aggregate, with no granular data accessible at the user level.
  • The event codes can only progress upward. For example, if an app creates an event code for ‘Level One’ that reads 000001, then the user buys in-game currency, which is assigned a different value of 000011, and if this user later completes ‘Level Two’, the bits cannot be changed to 000010, since changes in only one direction are allowed. To avoid this, developers need to assign a bit value to each path or combination of possibilities, rather than to any individual event. The data tracked with SKAdNetwork and the granular, in-app events tracked by MMP-SDKs cannot be linked.
  • SKAdNetwork is limited to 100 different campaigns per network. This may appear to be sufficient at first glance, as the average Adjust client runs 15 campaigns per network. However, there are often countless sub-campaigns for different geographies, device types or creatives. With SKAdNetwork, for example, the use of ten creatives in five countries would only allow two different campaigns per network.

SKAdNetwork will require other changes for developers and marketers, since data delay of 24-48 hours (minimum) can hinder real-time optimization. Another shift will be in the area of ad fraud. The event conversion values mentioned earlier are unsigned, meaning that app developers will not be able to verify whether the event took place in the way that they are used to, opening the door for fraud.

SKAdNetwork does not currently support deep linking (deferred or conditional), view-through attribution and does not consider anything but the act of downloading as attributable.

While SKAdNetwork’s current capabilities will need to evolve if it’s to suit the needs of today’s marketers, we will of course fully support its implementation for clients looking to use it.

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