AppsFlyer preload referrer attribution

At a glance: AppsFlyer uses preload referrer to attribute installs to preload campaigns, where marketers contract with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), mobile carriers, and app discovery partners to preload their app at the factory or at the time the device is first turned on by the user.

AppsFlyer preload referrer attribution

In preload campaigns, Original Device Manufacturers (OEMs), mobile carriers, and app discovery partners preload apps on devices before they reach the user. This can be done by the OEM at the factory or by providers upon first device activation.

Preload campaigns allow advertisers to reach a potentially large audience without running online campaigns.

Preload referrer attribution (1 of 3 preload attribution methods) gives marketers an accurate and privacy-preserving mechanism to measure the performance of preload campaigns. This method provides marketers with deterministic attribution results and simultaneously ensures that user privacy is preserved since attribution is performed via referrer matching with a referrer generated independently of the device and user identifiers. 

The solution provides:

  • Transparent support for app updates and app redownloads.
  • Visibility and measurement capabilities between the first device activation and the first app launch. This lets you see how many devices were activated with the app preloaded on the devices by a specific partner, and then see when the app is launched for the first time.

Preload referrer options

Referrers can be used to attribute installs by preload or by click-to-download. See the table that follows for more details.

AppsFlyer gives the highest priority to preload attribution. This means that if a user engages with other campaigns before opening the app for the first time, the preload campaign is still awarded the attribution. Other engagements are regarded as assisted installs. Note: You can enable equal priority for preload engagements. This gives deterministic clicks the same attribution priority as preload engagements for the entire preload lookback window, so attribution to the preload campaign can be superseded by another ad engagement.

Referrer option Description UA installs raw data match type
  • The app is preloaded at the factory or is preloaded the first time the device is activated. Alternatively, a wizard prompts users to download the app when the device is first activated.
  • A preload event, equivalent to a click, is reported to AppsFlyer when the device is turned on for the first time.
  • Attribution occurs when the user opens the app for the first time.
  • The preload event has the highest attribution priority (unless equal attribution priority is turned on).


Click to download
  • App installation takes place later in the device lifecycle, via push notifications, partner alternative stores, etc.
  • When the user engages with an ad or with a push message, the app is automatically downloaded and installed on the device without redirecting to an app store.
  • Attribution is awarded using the AppsFlyer last-click win rules.

Data availability

Preload/click to download engagement campaign performance data is available as follows:

  • Overview dashboard: Engagements count as clicks in aggregate reports and dashboards. They are aggregated at the preload partner (media source) and campaign levels. 
  • Raw data: Engagements are available in the clicks reports available only via Data Locker. They're found in the original URL field and can be identified in the af_engagement_type parameter as either preload or click_to_download. For installs, see the table in the previous section to see how the match type displays in raw data.

Set up preload referrer attribution


To set up preload referrer attribution:

  1. In AppsFlyer, from the side menu, select Collaborate > Active Integrations.
  2. Select the preload partner.
  3. In the Integration tab, turn on Preload attribution.

  4. Set the Preload lookback window duration. Range: 1-180 days.
  5. [Optional] Turn on Preload equal attribution priority.
    This gives deterministic clicks the same attribution priority as preload attribution, meaning that if a deterministic click is registered between the preload referrer engagement and install, the click gets the attribution under the standard last-touch attribution logic, instead of being superseded by the preload referrer.
  6. Click Save Integration
  7. Let the preload partner know that you are ready to attribute their campaigns. 

Partners supporting preload referrer campaigns

Partner PID Preload referrer campaign options Learn more
Preload Click to download
Digital Turbine On Device digitalturbine_int

Coming soon

Aura from Unity aura_int

Coming soon

Appnext appnext_int

Coming soon