Why Facebook’s Ad Business Will Take a Hit — and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Facebook’s Ad Business Will Take a Hit — and What Advertisers Should Do

Apple Facebook Uncategorized

On September 22, Facebook made an unusual announcement well ahead of its third-quarter earnings, which won’t be shared until late October. In a blog post, Facebook indicated that its third-quarter results will take a hit because of the impact of Apple’s increased privacy controls. Let’s take a look at the news and what it means.

What Facebook Announced

  • Facebook confirmed that for the third quarter, the company’s advertising business will take a financial hit because of the impact of Apple’s Application Tracking Transparency (ATT), which went into effect in 2021 with a recent iOS update on users’ personal devices.
  • Under ATT, users are asked to give apps permission to track their behavior on their Apple devices. Facebook needs Apple users to give apps permission to track their behavior; Facebook has built a thriving advertising business based on its ability serve up targeted ads to iOS users based on their behavior off Facebook. But as many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked.
  • In a blog post, Graham Mudd, vice president of Product Marketing, Facebook, wrote, “As we noted during our earnings call in July, we expected increased headwinds from platform changes, notably the recent iOS updates, to have a greater impact in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. We know many of you are experiencing this greater impact as we are.”
  • Mudd also said that Facebook underreported iOS web conversions by approximately 15 percent. “We believe that real world conversions, like sales and app installs, are higher than what is being reported for many advertisers,” he wrote.

What Facebook’s Announcement Means

  • Facebook’s war with Apple will intensify. Apple could find ways to impose even more privacy controls.
  • More advertisers will bolt to the Android operating system and take their ad business to Google.
  • Facebook will be forced to become more transparent to ad partners about its ad performance, especially after admitting that the company underreported iOS web conversions.
  • Facebook will probably devise more ways to mine first-party data from its own platform and Instagram to sell ad space.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site.
  • Consider relying on advertising platforms such as Amazon and apps such as Snapchat and TikTok that have strengthened their own ad products through their own proprietary first-party data.
  • Watch for the emergence of new tools and approaches. Apple’s ATT will inspire the emergence of workaround tools as well as approaches for developing personalized content. This is happening already as Google adopts privacy controls.
  • Review Facebook’s advice for how to analyze your performance and adapt your ad strategies on Facebook (or ask your agency partner to do so for you). Mudd provided some detailed steps to take in his post.
  • Consider negotiating more favorable rates for your ad account with Facebook if your performance is dropping but you still want to work with Facebook.
  • Don’t panic and change your ad strategy completely. This situation is still evolving.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes. Bottom line: be ready to adapt.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

The Impact of Apple’s New iOS Privacy Controls

The Impact of Apple’s New iOS Privacy Controls

Apple

Earlier in 2021, Apple tightened privacy controls through an update to its iOS operating system. The news created alarm among advertisers and ad platforms (notably, Facebook) who said they believe Apple is hurting their ability to serve up effective and relevant advertising. So, what’s happened since then? Let’s take a closer look at the aftermath of Apple’s controversial decision.

Apple Announces Application Tracking Transparency

The privacy control that Apple launched is known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT). ATT requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes to their choice at any time.

When Apple previewed ATT in 2020, Facebook led an angry protest from advertisers who were upset that the new opt-in program would result in plunging ad revenues and less relevant advertising resulting from a loss of personalization. Facebook argued that ATT would be unfair to the many small businesses that rely on Facebook.

The Impact of Application Tracking Transparency

So, what has happened since ATT went live? So far, here are the major developments:

  • Users reject tracking. As many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked. Those high opt-out rates out do not kill advertising at all. In fact, businesses that have amassed proprietary first-party user data should continue to provide relevant ads. But businesses that rely on tracking behavior across the web will need to accept the reality that their ads are less targeted.
  • Advertisers flee Apple. Many advertisers are not waiting to discern the potential impact of ATT. According to The Wall Street Journal, prices for mobile ads directed at iOS users have fallen, while ad prices have risen for advertisers seeking to target Android users. That’s because a number of businesses are shifting their ad budgets to the Google Android operating system and away from Apple’s iOS. This shift does not affect Apple because Apple collects no ad revenue from third-party iOS apps. We do not yet know how Google may benefit from the shift (and Google does rely on ad revenue heavily).
  • No impact on Facebook – so far. Facebook announced its second-quarter 2021 earnings on July 28. The company’s ad revenues showed no sign of slowing down and beat Wall Street expectations: $29.08 billion, vs. $27.89 billion as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv. Facebook said advertising revenue growth in the second quarter of 2021 was driven by a 47 percent year-over-year increase in the average price per ad and a 6 percent increase in the number of ads delivered. But Facebook has not backed off from its position that ATT is going to hurt the company and advertisers. The company lowered is earnings outlook for the third quarter partly because the company believes ATT’s impact has yet to be felt. In its earnings announcement, Facebook said, “We continue to expect increased ad targeting headwinds in 2021 from regulatory and platform changes, notably the recent iOS updates, which we expect to have a greater impact in the third quarter compared to the second quarter.”
  • Twitter shrugs off ATT. Twitter, like Facebook, says it has not been affected by ATT (so far). In its latest quarterly earnings, Twitter showed robust revenue growth. Twitter also said that the impact of ATT was lower than expected. And Twitter is more optimistic about the potential impact of ATT going forward. In its earnings announcement, Twitter said, “We continue to expect total revenue to grow faster than expenses in 2021 — assuming the global pandemic continues to improve and that we continue to see modest impact from the rollout of changes associated with iOS 14.5.”

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Examine your ad performance. Examine the effectiveness of your advertising on iOS. Have you lost your ability to bid on ads because of users opting out of being tracked? Is your ad performance actually slipping? If you work with an agency to manage your ads, ask them for a complete report. And then examine your performance throughout 2021. If you see a noticeable slide, then adapting your spend to Android may make sense, but if your performance is only marginally affected, remember that your competitors are probably experiencing the same outcome.
  • Consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site.
  • Consider relying on advertising platforms such as Amazon and apps such as Snapchat that have strengthened their own ad products through their own proprietary first-party data.
  • If you rely heavily on Facebook as an ad partner, heed Facebook’s detailed advice for adapting to ATT (or ask your agency partner to do so).

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes. Bottom line: be ready to adapt. But don’t panic.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Zhiyue Xu on Unsplash

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Apple Announces New Privacy Features,” Mark Smith.

The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A,” Taylor Hart.

Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency,” Taylor Hart.

 

Apple Announces New Privacy Features

Apple Announces New Privacy Features

Apple

Apple has once again made some moves to make the internet more private. At its 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced new features intended to give consumers more control over how businesses interact with them. Let’s take a closer look.

What Privacy Controls Did Apple Announce at WWDC?

Apple announced that later in 2021, the company will roll out new features to help people control how their online data is used by third parties. They include:

  • Allowing people to disable the ability of marketers to see if and when an email is opened via Apple’s Mail app.
  • Making it possible for people to hide their internet protocol (IP) address information in order to prevent businesses from tracking web usage on the Safari browser.

In addition, Apple indicted that premium iCloud users will be able to access the internet with a feature called Private Relay. This feature will  block network providers from using IP addresses and web usage to create a user profile for tracking.

Why Does Apple’s WWDC Announcement Matter?

The news from WWDC is the latest in a series of actions from technology giants Apple and Google to make it more difficult for businesses to track users in order to deliver personalized advertising. For instance:

  • In 2020, Google announced it would stop supporting third-party cookies on the Chrome browser. In 2021, Google toughened its stance by saying it would not support workarounds for third-party cookie tracking.
  • Apple recently launched a privacy control known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT), which requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers.

The advertising world has reacted with a mixture of concern and resignation as businesses adapt to a reality in which third-party cookies will be less useful for creating targeted advertising. In addition, Facebook has argued that Apple’s ATT will hurt small businesses that rely on Facebook’s advertising tools to create personalized content.

How Will the WWDC Announcement Affect Advertisers?

It’s really too early to say yet how advertisers will be affected by Apple’s latest announcements. For one thing, they have not been launched yet. In addition, although Safari is the second-most popular browser in the world, it lags far behind Chrome in terms of usage. On the other hand, Chrome and Safari together constitute 83 percent of the global market share for browsers. The real impact will be seen when both Google’s and Apple’s tighter restrictions take hold together. It will be interesting to see the impact of the restrictions in Apple Mail, which has the largest market share among email apps.

What Should Advertisers Do?

As I noted in a recent blog post,

  • Don’t assume targeting and personalization are dead because of the way Apple and Google are focusing on privacy. You can still use your own data to buy targeted ads on Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search – so long as you bring their first-party data into Google through the company’s existing Customer Match product. Moreover, as we noted in a recent blog post, if you want to use your own data to serve up targeted ads outside Google’s walls, Google is developing its own cohort-based alternative to third-party cookies to help you do that. Stay tuned for more product developments.
  • Do consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site.

My blog post “Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers” contains more tips.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes. Bottom line: be ready to adapt. But don’t panic.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Laurenz Heymann on Unsplash

For Further Insight