October 22, 2021

Written by Tim Colucci

Google Firebase: A Workaround for Apple’s Privacy Controls

Apple’s Application Tracking Transparency (ATT) privacy control has caused understandable alarm among businesses that rely on mobile to create personalized advertising. But advertising agencies and their clients are figuring out workarounds. One of them is Firebase. Here’s a quick overview:

The Fallout of Apple ATT

Apple’s ATT is a consumer privacy control that Apple rolled out with an update to Apple’s operating system in 2021. ATT requires apps to get a user’s permission before tracking their data across apps owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Apple 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.

Advertisers have feared that ATT will trigger an uptick in users opting out to having their behavior tracked. Consequently, advertisers will have a harder time serving up targeted ads because they cannot track user behavior. This concern is well founded. As many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked. A number of businesses are shifting their ad budgets to the Google Android operating system and away from Apple’s iOS.

Others are trying to find workarounds. And this is where Firebase comes into play.

How Firebase Works

Firebase is Google’s mobile, cloud-based platform that helps users quickly develop apps. People and businesses can use Firebase to accomplish a variety of tasks, such as accelerating app development and test the performance of apps, including A/B testing. Businesses can integrate Firebase with Google’s Android operating system, iOS, and the web. This Venture Beat article delves into more detail (probably more than an advertiser needs to know), and Google provides context as well.

Firebase becomes really interesting to advertisers for this reason: with Google Analytics for Firebase, a business can export its mobile app data (iOS and Android) to a Google-hosted data warehouse known as BigQuery. From there, a business can match behavior via Google User-ID, a feature that lets a user or business associate a persistent ID for a single user (with that user’s engagement data from one or more sessions initiated from one or more devices).

By contrast, before the era of ATT, an advertisers would have access to mobile device IDs for Android and iOS environments. The advertiser could download device IDs from Apple iOS. Then the advertiser could target different people directly with personalized ads – at scale. That’s because the advertiser would have access to those individual device IDs from app analytics accounts. But you cannot do that with Apple ATT anymore.

Firebase does not track mobile device IDs, per se. Rather, Firebase creates audiences inside Firebase based on user events, such as a person registering to use an app, installing it, or making a purchase on the app. With Firebase, the advertiser downloads that audience transaction data through the dashboard the advertiser uses to create Google ads. (For more detail, check out this article, which delves into the mechanics of managing data on Firebase to understand user behavior across apps.)

We have been using Firebase to support clients’ mobile ad campaigns, and we are seeing results. For one client, we’ve seen an increase in revenue by up to 7 percent over the past six months while cutting ad spend in half.

It’s important for True Interactive to continue delivering excellent results through online advertising. We’re actively monitoring our clients’ advertising performance results as we assess the impact of ATT. Yes, the world is changing. But as you can see from our client experiences with Firebase, an increased privacy control does not mean the end of effective advertising.

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To achieve results with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’ve been helping our clients enjoy measurable results as these case studies show.  We’re happy to collaborate with you.