David Randolph

July 15, 2020

Marketers will soon feel the impact of Apple’s commitment to user privacy.

If your business relies on highly targeted digital marketing to drive sales or leads, Apple’s recent announcement is big news.  Apple commands a 45% share of the smartphone market (not including iPads), and an outsized portion of affluent consumers compared to Google’s Android.

Starting in September, 100 million American iPhone users will begin upgrading to iOS 14.  And in iOS 14, Apple is taking a stand for consumer privacy. This move benefits the sales of high margin Apple devices, while hurting their rivals, Facebook and Google.  Google, and especially Facebook, gross nearly all their revenue through selling ads on their many branded platforms.

What might be less obvious is that iOS 14 will also impact the marketing efforts of small, mid-market and even enterprise businesses.  If consumers actively take control of their privacy, it will diminish the rich data sets that Facebook and Google use for microtargeting ads.  It has often been said that Facebook knows who you are, and Google knows what you’re looking for.


The Challenge

The crux of the matter is that consumers will soon receive notifications on their iPhones and iPads that apps like Google Maps or Instagram are collecting specific kinds of data.  But even more important than the notification will be the ability to disallow tracking and data sharing.

If consumers opt out in droves, Google and Facebook will lose a major aspect of their value proposition to marketers – individual-level micro targeting.  That targeting, while decried by consumer privacy advocates, makes ads more effective.  For example, if you own a Ford dealership, you currently could target a user in Facebook who has recently visited Ford.com and Ford vehicle review websites.  Lacking that kind of insight forces your Ford dealership back into untargeted mass advertising options, which, with the decline of print, terrestrial radio, and cable TV audiences, is a vastly inferior choice.

In addition to these new user-level controls in iOS 14, Apple will all but deactivate IDFA.  IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) helps mobile marketers measure which app advertising is driving the best quality, and quantity of leads.  Ad-supported “free” apps will trigger the following fearsome privacy warning in iOS 14.  It’s hard to believe Apple users will willingly choose to be tracked.

Facebook, FB Messenger, and Instagram could certainly fight back against these intimidating warning alerts.  As could the Google portfolio of products, including Google Search, Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps.  Opting out of data tracking might cause an app to “break” or remove features that consumers have come to expect.  And that would force a consumer to choose between her favorite apps and her favorite smartphone

 

Implications and Recommendations

Consumers have already tipped their hands by installing adblockers on desktop Chrome or Firefox, only to find cherished websites do not work properly.   Some portion of consumers grudgingly deactivate the adblocker to regain free news and content, allowing the ads to flow freely once more.  But when the ad blocking tech is embedded directly into the operating system of an iPhone, the choice becomes less clear for a consumer.

What is really at risk is the availability of user level data profiles for nearly every American citizen (including children) that Facebook and Google track. Both tech giants endlessly enrich these data profiles, making them the most sophisticated prediction engines the advertising world has ever seen.  Both rely on location information, browsing behavior and shopping from first- and third-party data collection to form rich data profiles that make ads more effective.  When several lanes are cut off from that data superhighway, both Google and Facebook will naturally have lesser confidence in the efficacy of any particular ad impression when served to Consumer X.

So, what is a marketer to do when faced with potentially diminished digital targeting?  We recommend that you strategize and plan according to the following as we creep closer to September…

 

Assess Your Campaign Dependence on Data

  1. How much do you rely on Facebook, and especially its automated audience targeting?
  2. Beyond paid search, how extensively do you rely on Google display network?
  3. Do you rely on targeting across multiple platforms, devices and sessions?
  4. Do you rely on multitouch attribution to manage your overall budget or intra-channel allocations?
  5. What percentage of your revenue is at risk if you lose some (or all) of that multi-session, cross-device data in your campaigns?
  6. How will your ROI potentially decrease if you lose confidence in ad targeting?

Contingency Planning

  1. Can you rely on alternative targeting approaches like contextual?
  2. Consider which parts of data might be harder to come by (“in-market” data predictions will be impacted, but geo/location will be far less impacted)
  3. Google and Facebook can still capture first party data on their owned platforms. And so, for campaigns reliant on search behavior or declared interests, targeting will still be available.  The loss of predicted or inferred propensity is what will be most impacted in Facebook advertising.
  4. If ROIs decrease in Q4, be ready to pull back budget from the “black boxes” of Facebook and Google ad targeting and take the reins yourself.

 


Not sure how these changes will affect your media buys?  Our expert media team is here to help you navigate these changes so that you still achieve your objectives.

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