Apple’s ATT appears to be working because marketers are upset

When iOS 14.5 rolled onto iPhones earlier this year, it put the power to choose whether users want to be tracked, in the hands of the user.

While this was good news for folks who have grown weary of every facet of their digital lives being leveraged by advertisers, it appears as if it wasn’t good news for those advertisers.

The feature Apple introduced with iOS 14.5 is App Tracking Transparency (ATT) and the folks at marketing firm Consumer Acquisition are none to pleased with how users are embracing the ability to opt out of tracking.

“Only 20% of users are allowing apps to personalize their ads by allowing the app to track them when presented with the ATT prompt. For the traffic we evaluated, as personalization and tracking drop, paid social value bidding performance has faded. Across paid social platforms, down-stream event optimization and lookalike audience performance are also eroding. As a result, iOS advertisers are experiencing a revenue drop of 15-20% with inflation in unattributed organic traffic, but not enough to cover the financial loss,” Consumer Acquisition’s Brian Bowman writes in a blog.

The marketing firm goes to great lengths to try to explain why this will hurt consumers without identifying that perhaps consumers wanted this.

For example, within the lengthy blog populated with graphs and data there is this gem from the author.

“When Apple realizes they lack ‘Steve Jobs’ innovation’ and that consumers prefer to be delighted by personalized ads and want to maintain ‘free apps’, Apple will re-enable a version of IDFA to allow reputable companies like Facebook, Google, TikTok, Amazon, Snap, and others to do what they do best and merchandise apps that delight consumers,” writes Bowman.

Has anybody ever been delighted at the site of a targeted advert? Consumer Acquisition appears to think so.

Aside from Apple maybe possibly culling ATT – which is unlikely to happen no matter how much Bowman suspects it will – advertisers need to get more creative about how they target advertising.

This means creating adverts that actually attract a particular sort of customer rather than simply using a wealth of data siphoned off of a device to identify that perhaps Jimmy wants to buy some new soccer boots.

We are not blind to the fact that free apps may be harder to come by as developers can no longer flog user data to offset the cost of the app. While this is bad news for smaller developers that have used this model, we’d argue that if your app’s monetisation depends on hoovering up user data, you need to reconsider your business model.

What marketers have to now is work a harder to make advertising that is relevant.

But there is something worth pointing out in this mess. During an interview with VentureBeat, Bowman said the following in response to a question about privacy should Apple cull ATT.

“Apple has done a phenomenal job of PR. They don’t offer privacy. What they’re doing is centralizing and curating data. You have to use their app store. You have to use their payment gateway. They understand your voice, your fingerprint, and your health data. They understand the way you purchase. That’s not privacy. Apple is defining privacy by saying they get all the data and therefore it’s private. It’s absurd,” says Bowman.

The full interview is very good and we recommend giving it a read here.

Now, what Bowman says is true, Apple has a wealth of data about its users and it can share that data with partners – if you agree to its terms of service of course. However, Bowman’s argument lacks a bit of nuance we feel is important to highlight.

As the custodian of its users’ data, Apple has to abide by its own terms of service and if it doesn’t there could be massive legal and – more importantly for Apple – reputational ramifications. Could we say the same for a fly-by-night developer that created an application for the sole purpose of hoovering up user data and selling it on to the highest bidder? We don’t think we could.

There’s also the fact that Apple’s ATT has be lauded as a game changer by many in the tech space, ourselves included.

What Consumer Acquisition doesn’t seem to understand is that it isn’t Apple disabling tracking, but consumers. Consumers have the option to enable tracking but they don’t. With only 20 percent of users opting in to tracking this should tell the firm that folks aren’t “delighted” by targeted advertising, they don’t want it.

While Consumer Acquisition points to services like Netflix and Amazon as examples of people thirsting for personalised recommendations, we’d argue folks want that on those websites and not everywhere they go online.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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