Over the years, Apple has been relatively ad-tech friendly and has played nicely with ad networks and other key marketing players across the mobile ecosystem. That’s about to change. Even if you’re not advertising directly on mobile, these changes are poised to alter the way marketers measure digital campaign success, not just audience targeting.
Beacons and Wi-Fi location targeting have allowed brands to quantify foot traffic and visitation, while linking emails to user purchases has given marketers analytics and insights into campaign performance over the years.
But with the announcements the company made at WWDC, due to take effect with the public release of iOS 13 in September, there will be a seismic paradigm shift waiting just around the corner. Much of the consumer buzz this fall will be centered upon new devices, but changes to the operating system for the billions of devices in consumers hands today is the real story. Updates that come with this new OS version may impact the targeting and measurement world faster than marketers were expecting.
We’re seeing Apple leveraging its might to make data privacy and security top of mind for both consumers and ad-tech companies.
So, what’s changing?
In this fall’s release of iOS 13, there are two major changes that will impact data sources that advertisers have historically used as primary identifiers in a mobile environment. With “Sign in with Apple,” Apple will create encrypted emails for accounts using that sign-in on a per-app or website basis so consumers won’t get email spam from services they sign up for. Does this benefit Apple? Not really. Is it a blow to Facebook and Google? Very much so. For marketers, it means losing a key universal identifier and completely obfuscating the user, so they cannot be targeted.
The other major change is to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth location settings, reinforcing user privacy by creating an “Allow just once” location setting, alerts for background app location tracking and protection against user tracking (e.g., beacons). This will impact passive tracking partners and will deeply influence the location-based ad economy. Advertisers that rely on location data for targeting are going to see their precision greatly reduced, perhaps to the point of rendering it useless.
Furthermore, beacons and Wi-Fi location data have long been used to measure footfall traffic. Digital marketers who run branding campaigns need to know if their efforts are leading to real-world visits across a swath of verticals, not just industries.
This may sound like an added layer to an already complex channel, but there are some simple steps that marketers can—and should—take now in order to get in front of these important changes to our industry.
Diversify your data signal sources
Google and Facebook aren’t the only shops to place your bet when it comes to data anymore. (And location data providers are clearly not the answer.) Make moves to open up new data sources for targeting and invest in technology that understands where your users are using multiple data signals so you can make important distinctions about your audience.
Focus on first-party data
There’s a reason why we’ve seen agencies already shifting to become data-first businesses. When it comes to gathering and managing first-party data, agencies need to be at the forefront, taking back responsibility of data and the insights and targeting capabilities it creates. This is what will put them back in control, and in some cases, fully in the driver’s seat (via acquisition). This time last year, IPG snapped up Acxiom for $2.3 billion, and Publicis acquired data intelligence company Epsilon for nearly double that amount ($4.4 billion). That’s a fast way to “own” data. Data you can act on.
Look to Google/Android
Up until this moment, the two dominant mobile operating systems (iOS and Android) have maintained a relatively level playing field when it came to marketing tactics. Sure, they’ve both had the same rules of engagement, targeting, etc., but while Google has made changes to its privacy rules, too, they’ve been specific to Chrome and browser-based environments, driving more dollars to mobile ads than ever before. The Android app ecosystem remains intact in the wake of all the recent privacy updates.
My advice to marketers is to reconsider their legacy position when evaluating the difference between the value of iOS and Android audiences. Take a serious look at the opportunity Android users represent as an environment to continue to leverage existing identity and location-based data signals. Like Apple’s changes, this advice extends beyond targeting to measurement as well. Google isn’t turning off data signals it finds valuable any time soon, after all.
For marketers who shivered with the winds of change at the recent WWDC announcement, now you know: You do have levers to pull. You could stick with what you know and risk being buried due to forthcoming privacy regulations, or you can rethink your strategy and change how you understand user identity and location, take back ownership of first-party data and look to Android as the place where you can target your audience with greater flexibility.