iOS 14 Privacy Features: It’s Time to Rethink Advertising & Marketing Strategies

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@gracelauGrace Lau

Content veteran with a bronze award in Canada’s Cannes Lion competition for print ads.

Two of the world’s most powerful tech titans are on course for a collision. 

At a recent virtual conference, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, delivered a scathing attack on Facebook without ever mentioning the multi-billion-dollar company by name. 

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement.”

Cook’s rebuke comes just days after Mark Zuckerberg dragged the two companies’ long-standing dispute into the public eye. Facebook’s founder and CEO broke protocol during a call with investors to name Apple specifically as the firm’s chief rival.

Facebook has already been embroiled in many controversies, including discussing fair compensation for their moderators and their impact on politics. When it comes to Apple, the source of the two firm’s simmering tension has been largely attributed to opposed approaches to data protection

For years, Apple has positioned itself as the gatekeeper to its users’ data. The company believes that if users are essential to the product, they need to control their data. 

Meanwhile, Facebook argues that it stands for small businesses, empowering firms to better grow their communities through the data they collect. 

Should Apple’s proposed update make it to devices, the ability of app developers (including everything from mobile games to video conferencing software) to retain, businesses and users would be severely curtailed. 

Apple’s proposed Spring update, iOS 14, has been the cause for the recent escalation in hostilities, with one feature, in particular, raising developer’s ire: App Tracking Transparency (ATT)

ATT will require app developers to solicit users’ permission to track their movements across the web. The change could reportedly cost Google and Facebook $25 billion over the next few months. 

As it stands, should users navigate away from any app to search for anything from obscure subjects like top business phone systems or common cloud security mistakes to Reddit, the developer in question can still harvest that data to better target their adverts? 

Facebook specifically is looking to launch an antitrust lawsuit in retaliation. Ironically, Facebook’s most recent volley will be launched just as Apple’s antitrust suit in South Korea ends. 

The company’s head of ads, Dan Levy, portrayed Apple’s latest move as an attempt to create “anti-personalized advertising … trying to take the world back 10 or 20 years.”

Whilst this lawsuit is likely to drag through judicial purgatory, there are immediate questions for the more advertisers who rely on the data provided by app developers. Chiefly: how will my business be impacted? 

Data quality must be reconsidered.

The release of ATT will significantly reduce the number of device-based IDs: unique sets of numbers and letters that are used to identify every device in the world. They are the subject of frequent debate amongst cybersecurity experts. 

It is these identifiers which advertisers use when tracking web usage. Without them, every stage of the advertising cycle can be compromised, as companies could lose 52% of their advertising revenue

Previously, all app developers had access to these identifiers. ATT will change that, requiring app developers to solicit user consent before accessing the information.

Now app and social media giants like Facebook must reconsider how to properly motivate users to give this consent. Should they be unable to do so, the data sets they provide to advertisers and businesses will be severely hampered. 

Smaller businesses must take this decline in quality into account, either by employing data quality software or by solely sourcing their information from established firms with wide data sets that can quickly acclimate to this change, firms like Facebook.

Say goodbye to frequency capping

ATT will make it impossible for advertisers to frequency cap, that is, control the number of times an individual user will see the same advert every day, week, month, or any combination. 

Without a specific device-based ID, campaigns can’t track the number of times an individual has seen a particular advert across a specified period. 

This poses significant problems. Whilst marketing messages and advertisements must be repeated to have any sort of impact, the danger here is that individual users can be inundated with the same or similar ads, causing annoyance and even aversion to the brand in question. 

Worse still, the return on advertising spend for companies everywhere may drastically decline. Whether you’re selling jewelry or cloud storage, you don’t want to spend large portions of budget on repeatedly advertising to the same individuals! 

Companies will now have to spend far more to reach the same number of individuals, raising the overall cost of digital marketing at a time when COVID-19 has removed many other options, like in-person events. 

Geographic audience segmentation will be hamstrung

The implications ATT will have on audience segmentation are already clear: no device-based ID means a limited grouping of users into relevant categories and demographics. 

However, there are more wide-reaching and immediate problems for advertisers, chiefly the resulting lack of geographic location data. 

Currently, Apple enables users to turn on and off which apps have access to their exact location. Most phones, at the very least, allow for the geographic location to be turned on and off entirely. 

Under ATT, users will have the option of deciding whether apps like Facebook can gain access to their exact location. Should the user decline, only approximate geolocation information is distributed to app owners. 

Whilst advertisers can therefore tailor their market to individuals’ rough location. It does rule out a few other modes of advertisement. It may not impact digital retailers like cloud-based workforce management providers. Brick and mortar stores are directly implicated. This can be a detrimental blow for a business’ efforts to reduce customer churn.

Currently, retailers can place beacons across multiple aisles that send offers to consumers as they browse. For a flailing retail sector trying to keep pace with ecommerce, this change removes yet another means of competition. 

Ultimately, the divide between privacy and marketing will continue to be navigated for years to come. However, companies today can and should object to the longevity of their businesses being compromised by two of technologies’ biggest companies.

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