Apple Crumbles the Mobile Cookie

Everyone in digital advertising seems to be talking about iOS14, but no one seems to be getting to the main issue. That is, most digital advertisers are in trouble if they can’t use a personal identifier to track individuals.  

Just like with Safari blocking third party cookies, Apple is first off the blocks again. Google and Android will inevitably fall in line, probably next year if not before. The irreversible truth is that digital advertising is changing. And it’s changing fast. This scares a lot of people in the industry. 

The thought process is no tracking equals no measurement, which equals no results, which equals no budget. The nightmare! But, and it’s a big BUT. If you believe giving individuals more control and transparency over their personal data is the right thing to do then it’s the only route forward. Probably not what the industry wants to hear, but what many of us are thinking. 

At Regital, we’ve been planning for the demise of the cookie for a long time.Our product suite and tech stack is now privacy-by-design without using cookies or identifiers. We’re helping our clients prepare by integrating mobile telco-data in to everything we do.

What happened with the Apple update?

In June 2020 Apple announced in a blog post that it was making changes to its ID for advertisers (IDFA) solution. The changes meant that developers had to now opt in to Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework if they wanted to use any user data for advertising purposes. Essentially this will involve a pop-up page detailing what data an app will collect, and how it will use it, to appear before a user can proceed to download the app.

Why are Facebook so upset?

Facebook are livid over this, initially lashing out with full page ads in the New York Times. I’m not sure if using print media was ironic, but either way it made people notice. 

The pitch from Facebook is that they’re standing up for the small businesses who rely on personalised ads. I get where they’re coming from, but…really? Facebook makes most of their ad revenue from micro-businesses who don’t know a great deal when it comes to advertising. That’s the reality of the situation. Of the 9 million advertisers on Facebook, I wonder how many are using sophisticated personalised campaigns? There aren’t many self-employed plumbers using personalised Facebook ads on my feed that’s for sure.

Does this just impact Facebook?

No. Every app on iOS will be affected. As one of the biggest apps in the world, and with mobile advertising revenue being increasingly important, this update is a HUGE deal for Facebook.

Apple’s change will essentially take a privacy option that was previously buried deep in iPhone users’ settings and put it front and center when they open an app. Previously users could provide consent through the operating system rather than each individual app. Now users will have to accept permission for each individual app once the update has been completed.

This sounds like Cookie Consent

It’s really similar. IDentifiers For Advertisers (IDFA) are Apple’s in-app version of the cookie. They are anonymised identifiers that remain consistent for a single consumer across the different apps installed on their phone. They facilitate the mobile advertising industry as it currently is to attribute and measure campaign performance. 

With the new iOS 14 update, apps will only have permission to access the IDFA when the app has advertising embedded into its content. Apps that use IDFAs to collect data in the background will no longer be permitted access to the data.

The death of the Cookie has been coming, why are people surprised?

While the demise of the cookie was announced a while ago, lots of advertisers seem to be taking the Ostrich approach. They simply don’t have a strategy for it and are hoping the big players sort it out for them. 

What does it mean for advertisers?

In the first instance, advertisers need a post-cookie strategy. Almost all digital campaigns reply on identifiers, and that needs to change. The imminent question surrounds mobile ads, but it’s coming across every campaign.

The real challenge for digital marketers is that accurate data is key to ensuring effective advertising campaigns. The power of data is now very much with the users, and it will be interesting to see how many consumers will opt in across all of their apps.

It’s not all bad news for advertisers and app developers. Apple have given developers and brands the opportunity to introduce their own pop ups before the official iOS pop up appears. This gives brands and app owners a chance to engage their users on the benefits of giving them access. 

I don’t have a post-cookie strategy. What should I do?

Get one quickly! Certainly before the end of 2021 and sooner if you can.

In the first instance, speak to your advertising and data providers along with your ad-tech partners. They should be able to help you. At Regital, we’ve been planning for the demise of the cookie for a long time. Our product suite and tech stack is now privacy-by-design without using cookies or identifiers. We’re helping our clients prepare by integrating mobile telco-data in to everything we do. 

Our proprietary technology identifies the optimal times and places to reach an audience based on aggregated, statistical pattern analysis. The data and insight is activation ready and can be deployed across any digital marketing platform, including social channels.  

Giving people more transparency and control over their data and privacy is the right thing for advertising. We just need more advertisers to realise that now.

Paul Barnard is a Board Director of Regital

Our proprietary technology identifies the optimal times and places to reach an audience based on aggregated, statistical pattern analysis. The data and insight is activation ready and can be deployed across any digital marketing platform, including social channels.