Massive Headwinds Ahead For Digital Marketers – Do You Have A Plan?

Apple’s Checkmate Move Over Digital Advertisers, Silencing IDFA

You’d be forgiven if you missed the headlines in the early days of the pandemic last year when you still were washing the mail and drilling holes in any vacuum-sealed windows. In June 2020, Apple announced that the impending IOS 14 would only activate Identification for Advertisers (IDFA), its ad-tracking feature embedded in iPhones, if the owner opts in. Till now, the limits on ad-tracking were a passive opt-out feature rolled out in IOS 10. This change to opt-in could have as big an effect on digital advertising as NetFlix had on network television and Hollywood film-making.

Before, only about 30% users chose to keep their IDFA being publicly available. Now you’ll have a pop-up asking if you’d like advertisers to follow you across platforms every time you employ an app for the first time. For digital advertisers the IDFA was a useful for everything from hyper-targeting to capping fraud checks to bidding for ad space.

When the announcement came out, Facebook and Google digitally soiled themselves with worry. Facebook conducted an experiment, deactivating the personalization such tracking affords and concluded the coming change would result in at least a 50% drop in FaceBook’s Audience Network publisher network. Translation? Ad revenue was bisected!

You have to admire Apple’s cutthroat business practices, disguised as privacy virtue-signaling.

On the surface, this is great news, right? Your friends here at Brand Grow haven’t done a scientific study but would gamble a handful of bitcoins that even the most ardent digital advertisers would prefer not to be tracked by their own phone behavior, then have the data passed on to anonymous 3rd parties.  Never mind individual consumers.

But remember the popular modern maxim, if you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product. Google and FaceBook are ‘free’ and you are their product. For clarification, read the nearly 4,200 words on Facebook’s Terms of Service page (just one of their many legal virtual doorstops designed to end your worst insomnia). If you limit the data they can collect, you’ve just taken revenue from them.

Apple, meanwhile, doesn’t make any money off your data. They sell hardware and software services populating their devices. What does this one simple move from passive to active terms of agreement cause?

  • Apple is now the champion of Privacy. No one wants Big Data spying on them. That’s why Apple offered the opt-out feature in the first place. Not only is Apple standing up for Johnny Consumer, they’re virtue signaling. Shame on everybody in big tech who would deviously spy on us everywhere we virtually go and sell the amassed data to advertisers. Dare advertisers complain? After all, the more the media and Canadian marketing agency blogs whine about the issue, the more virtuous Apple sounds. After all, your mother-in-law’s Samsung phone with its Android operating system doesn’t enlist you to opt in. They must be on the side of Big Data!
  • More importantly for Apple, they kick competitors in the shins and everywhere else it hurts. First, Facebook and Google lose a decent chunk ad revenue. 50% may be an exaggeration but we’re not so sure. And as we suggested above, your mother-in-law may be more likely to choose an iPhone next time. A win-win for Apple and lose-lose for everyone else

What a graceful move: a perfect PR story that could add more zeroes to their own bottom line!

So, what happened? In case you missed the headlines, we’ll report that PANIC ensued in the worlds of app developers and digital marketers. IDFA, a multibillion-dollar industry, was pretty much set to be destroyed in one quick move. With a pop-up that asks in cold easy-to-understand language whether you want to be tracked by a given app, then have your data sold … well, from a digital advertiser’s perspective that’s a nudge in the wrong direction.

People were terrified, so Apple announced a stay of execution in September, delaying the update to IOS 14 till 2021. That’s now. But make no mistake: even with the extra few weeks to prepare for the move from opting out to in, digital advertisers will be harmed by this change. In Part 2 of this blog entry, we’ll look a bit closer at the ramifications. Watch this space.