Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency

Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency

Google

We recently blogged about a consumer privacy feature being built into iOS14.3, Apple’s latest operating system. As widely reported, under iOS14.3, users of iPhones will now need to agree to allow a business to collect information about them – known as an opt-in policy (in Apple’s words, app tracking transparency, or ATT). This imminent change has triggered a spat with Facebook. The world’s largest social network is upset because its advertisers will have a harder time tracking its users off Facebook and serve up personalized ads to them. And now Google has weighed in on iOS14.3.

Google’s Reaction

In a January 27 blog post, Christophe Combette, Google Group Product Manager, Google Ads, wrote:

Apple’s ATT changes will reduce visibility into key metrics that show how ads drive conversions (like app installs and sales) and will affect how advertisers value and bid on ad impressions. As such, app publishers may see a significant impact to their Google ad revenue on iOS after Apple’s ATT policies take effect.

He recommends that developers to upgrade to version 7.64 of the Google Mobile Ads SDK for new features like SKAdNetwork support.

He also encourages advertisers to monitor the performance and delivery of all iOS App campaigns — and, if necessary, make adjustments to budgets and bids to achieve their goals.

How Will Google Advertisers Be Affected?

Now, it’s helpful to consider his post in context of how Google makes ad revenue. Google makes most of its ad revenue from people searching on Google and being served up ads alongside search results. It is unlikely that advertisers will see a performance drop from search ads on Google.

But advertisers using the Google Display Network may see an impact on their ad performance. That’s because the Google Display Network encompasses a vast collection of  websites, including specific Google websites like Gmail, and YouTube,  that show ads. This network also includes mobile sites and apps. If iPhone users decide they don’t want apps on the Google Display Network tracking them, then advertisers using those networks may see declines in performance because they won’t be able to track user behavior and serve up more personalized ads.

What Advertisers Should Do

No one knows for sure when ATT takes effect – there’s a lot of speculation that it will happen in March 2021. In the meantime, we suggest that advertisers:

  • Prepare your app for iOS14.3. Google has published detailed steps here.
  • If you use Google Analytics, be aware that Google recommends advertisers upgrade to the latest version of Google Analytics for Firebase for new features like SKAdNetwork support.

If you work with an agency to manage your advertising on Google, ask them how they are preparing.

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The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A

The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A

Facebook

If you operate a business on Facebook, you’ve probably received pop-up notices from Facebook warning you about ominous changes coming because of Apple’s latest operating system update. What’s exactly happening, and why? Our new advertiser Q&A takes a closer look.

Why Is Facebook Upset with Apple?

The conflict comes down to access to customer data.

Apple’s new operating system update, iOS14.3, contains new privacy tools that prevent apps from being able to track user activity across the internet. All applications need to ask iPhone users for permission to track their activity for the purposes of advertising. There an estimated one billion people around the world who own an iPhone.

Put another way: under iOS14.3, if a person has a business’s app on their iPhone, that person needs to agree to allow the business to collect information about them. iPhone users now have more control whether they actually want personalized ads generated as the result of an app following them around the internet.

Facebook believes that this opt-in approach could create a major problem for Facebook’s app. Most Americans have expressed discomfort with the way Facebook tracks their personal data. Since almost all of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, Facebook sees the new opt-in policy as a threat.

How Has Facebook Responded to iOS14.3?

Facebook has attacked the update publicly. For example, in December, Facebook argued on its own site that tougher privacy controls will hurt small businesses that rely on Facebook advertising to reach people. Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of Ads and Business Products, wrote that Apple is “hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic.” He elaborated:

These changes will directly affect [small businesses’] ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively. Our studies show, without personalized ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads. We don’t anticipate the proposed iOS 14 changes to cause a full loss of personalization but rather a move in that direction over the longer term.

Facebook has also reached out to businesses, news media, and agencies (including us) to voice its position through content such as webinars.

What Is Apple’s Response to Facebook?

Apple continues to go about its business without a corporate response with one exception: the following tweet from CEO Tim Cook, which speaks for itself:

Tim Cook tweet

Otherwise, Apple has spoken with its actions by going forward with the iOS 14.3 update.

When Does the iOS14.3 Update Happen?

Although Apple made iOS 14.3 effective in December 2020, the company has not yet enforced the opt-in prompt. None of the changes discussed here is happening as of this writing. Apple has not announced when it will make these changes and enforce the prompt.

What Should Advertisers Do?

First off, we recommend monitoring the development closely. But don’t panic. No one knows how many iOS 14.3 users will opt out with their apps – Facebook or otherwise. To be sure, people opting out will compromise everything from conversion data to attribution to custom audience sizes. Facebook says it plans to roll out new features in events manager to help mitigate the impact of those changes. We are monitoring this situation for our clients. Stay tuned.

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2021 Advertising and Marketing Predictions from True Interactive

2021 Advertising and Marketing Predictions from True Interactive

Advertising

If 2020 had a few surprises up its sleeve, the year certainly set the stage for 2021. In the months ahead, businesses are poised to transition more boldly to a digital-first economy, which includes a more seamless approach to e-commerce and increased opportunities for engaging with people through immersive experiences such as e-sports. At the same time, businesses will continue to navigate an increasingly complicated consumer privacy landscape. All those trends, and others, will influence the uptake of digital advertising and marketing in 2021. Read on for our fearless predictions for the year:

E-commerce Grows Up

We’ve all heard the same statistic bandied about: in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years, according to IBM. But that doesn’t mean the acceleration went smoothly. As we saw during the holiday season, the surge in online commerce has exposed cracks in the seams for many retailers. Sellers struggled with a variety of issues ranging from stocking items properly to following through with orders. Going into 2021, these challenges are forcing companies to integrate all their processes (online, in store, shipping logistics, etc.) more seamlessly. Larger retailers such as Target and Walmart have already successfully expanded services such as curbside pick-up, which make it possible for shoppers to buy online and pick up merchandise at the store without needing to go inside. Going forward, they’ll follow Amazon’s lead and invest more in their own shipping and delivery services to own the order fulfillment process (Target and Walmart already have them – they’re still refining them, though). As we have seen during the holidays, the strain on shipping services such as FedEx and UPS is becoming unacceptable to retailers, and if they lack the resources to build out their own delivery services, they will partner with businesses such as InstaCart.

In addition, learning from the events of 2020, retailers will likely become more nimble in their approach to advertising and supply chain management in order to adapt to quickly changing shifts in consumer demand. They’re going to do a better job using tools such as Google Insights to adapt their campaigns to consumer behavior. The key will be to ensure their supply chain processes are as nimble.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

Rough Sledding for Facebook

It may be rough sledding ahead for Facebook in 2021. Do a quick Google News search for Facebook and you will see a slew of articles depicting the challenges the social media giant currently faces. At the top of the list? News that more than 40 attorneys general and the U.S. government are expected to sue Facebook for alleged antitrust violations. And while Mark Zuckerberg has routinely appeared at congressional hearings addressing concerns of privacy, misinformation, and censorship, this latest lawsuit might be a final awakening for businesses who use Facebook as an ad platform.

Adding to Facebook’s already uphill battle is the release of the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, which explores the dangerous human impact of social network platforms as told by tech experts who expose secrets behind their own creations. Many media outlets reported a wave of people canceling their social media accounts after viewing the documentary. Of course, Facebook has slammed the documentary, claiming it’s full of misinformation, but is the damage already done? Even if the documentary did not get all the details right, it has undeniably affected public perception of social media platforms. And if even a fraction of current users de-activate their accounts, this will absolutely have a negative impact on audience size available to advertisers. More importantly, with the continued negative publicity surrounding the biggest social media platforms, are businesses really going to want to ramp spend on Facebook and Instagram? My prediction is no. After a crazy year filled with pandemic fears and general social unrest, I do not believe businesses are looking to invest in platforms embroiled in controversy. And if media spend is pulled from some of the social media giants, it may leave the door open for other search engines or community-based ad platforms to emerge. Stay tuned!

— Beth Bauch, director, digital marketing

Walmart Gains Ground as an Ad Platform

The Walmart marketplace is still very much in its infancy. I believe that 2021 will lead to exponential growth of Walmart’s advertising services, and the company will become more competitive with Amazon in this regard. The current platform is still very small scale and, technically, still in beta or just out of it. Many larger advertisers have not been invited to join the Walmart marketplace because it is still so brand new. I believe that Walmart will enjoy a large jump in advertising on their app and site Q1-Q2 2021.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

Augmented Reality Takes Hold

I think in 2021 we will see more brands invest money into creating virtual experiences for their customers. Augmented reality (AR) was already becoming popular before the onset of COVID-19, but now, given the urgency to shop online during the pandemic, consumers are missing the in-store experience of physically trying on items. And retailers are responding with AR: Warby Parker, for example, has created a virtual try-on for their glasses via their app. My glasses broke this weekend, and instead of going to a Warby Parker store to try on different frames, I could use their app to see what the glasses would look like on me, and felt more confident ordering online. Another brand capitalizing on the opportunities inherent in AR? A make-up line called NARS. They allow you to experiment with their products, such as blush and eye shadow, through a virtual try-on feature. Overall, I think more retail brands will create virtual shopping experiences for their customers in 2021.

— Taylor Hart, senior digital marketing manager

E-sports Dominates

The world of e-sports is never one to stop changing. With e-sports accumulating a total revenue that reached more than $1 billion in 2020 (a $150 million increase from 2019), we can only expect that to continue to rise in 2021. Given the ongoing global pandemic and application of stricter stay-at-home rules, more and more people will turn to e-sports as another form of entertainment. It all starts with streaming services that allow e-sports players to become household names in the gaming industry. Giving these players an opportunity to reach tens, potentially hundreds of thousands of viewers without leaving their home is something advertisers can only dream of. Players will do sponsored streams, with designated ad reads to be presented at certain points during the broadcast. The NFL is also getting involved with Twitch (the biggest live streaming platform), getting some of the big name streamers (e.g., NICKMERCS and TimTheTatman) to watch Thursday Night Football on stream with various advertisers as sponsors. Watch for more professional sports and entertainment services to follow in the footsteps of the NFL and try to reach this large, somewhat untapped market.

— Max Petrungaro, digital marketing associate

Privacy Dominates the Executive Agenda

For years, CEOs and CMOs have treated consumer privacy as a problem for their information technology teams to worry about. No longer. Privacy is rapidly becoming a C-level problem that can damage a company’s reputation if managed poorly. A variety of forces have elevated the importance of privacy in the United States. First off, the state of California rolled out a tough privacy act, the California Consumer Privacy Act, in January 2020, and then made the law more strict in November. Because California is one of the world’s largest economies and is a bellwether state, what happens there will influence how other states treat consumer privacy. In addition, the big technology firms are already under close scrutiny, and the new presidential administration is likely to take an even closer look at their privacy practices.

Speaking of the tech giants – their actions are casting a spotlight on privacy. As widely reported, Facebook has launched a public campaign attacking Apple’s privacy iOS 14 updates, which are going to make it harder for Facebook and other platforms to target users with ads. Meanwhile, Google continues to move forward with its plans to stop supporting third-party cookies on the Chrome browser by 2022 – an action that continues to reverberate across the ad industry. In 2021, businesses will face a year of transition as they navigate an increasingly complicated consumer privacy landscape. The challenge involves more than reacting to changes in legislation and cookie tracking technology; advertisers also need to stay on top of emerging tools such as Verizon Media’s ConnectID, designed to manage ads without the use of third-party cookies. School will be in session constantly.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

More Social Shopping

With the world of online shopping expanding in 2020 due to the pandemic, I predict that 2021 will bring new ways to shop across social. Instagram has already released its e-commerce store to elevate shopping online. I predict that the platform will continue to refine its online shopping tools, even as more social networks follow Instagram’s lead and create additional opportunities for shopping right from consumer smart devices.

— Bella Schneider, digital marketing manager

Online Video Explodes

Online video is going to explode as the number of streaming services expands. I believe we are also going to see a cheaper, monthly subscription option (akin to the base Hulu subscription) that includes video ads as a way to subsidize lower-cost services. It is rumored that HBO Max will offer this option, but I believe we will see similar offerings from Peacock, Disney+/Hulu (which I believe will be combined at some point . . . in 2021?), and Amazon Prime. I think the opportunity for more ad space is going to be too good to pass up as more and more consumers cut the cord OR sign up for multiple streaming services. In addition, I believe we will see other live TV options becoming available from streaming services: cord cutters will still have the opportunity for live TV . . .  plus the ad space that goes along with it.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

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Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Recently Google announced that over the next few years, it will stop supporting third-party cookies on Chrome. With Chrome currently accounting for more than half of all installed web browsers, this is big news. It follows actions by Apple and Mozilla to block tracking cookies in Safari and Firefox respectively, too. In light of this news, we’ve answered some questions you may have. A big caveat: this is an evolving story, and one being played out over the next two years. A lot can happen yet. That said, here’s what we know:

What Exactly Is Google Doing to Third-Party Cookies?

Google announced that over the next two years, it will not support third-party cookies on its Chrome browser. Let’s break down what this means:

  • A third-party cookie consists of text stored in a person’s computer that is created by a website with a domain name other than the site a visitor is visiting.
  • Third-party cookies make it possible for an advertiser to track a person’s browsing history and, in theory, serve up more personalized ads that follow a person around the web.
  • Typically web browsers allow third-party cookies.

But over the next few years, Chrome will replace third-party cookies with browser-based tools and techniques aimed at balancing personalization and privacy. So, third-party cookies are going away from Chrome – but that doesn’t mean advertising is. Far from it.

Google said it will replace third-party cookies with a (vaguely defined) browser-based mechanism as part of a new “Privacy Sandbox.”  The Privacy Sandbox is an evolving and (equally vague sounding) “secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.” Google describes the Privacy Sandbox an “open source initiative is to make the web more private and secure for users, while also supporting publishers.” In an August 2019 blog post, Google said the Privacy Sandbox would be a place to collaborate on better ways to provide relevant ads while protecting personal privacy:

Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users, but user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information, and keeping much more user information on-device only. Our goal is to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users’ expectations of privacy.

The unplugging of support for third-party cookies looks like a way for Google to get the industry to start playing in its Privacy Sandbox, resulting in a mechanism that will replace the cookie, protecting user privacy while also supporting advertisers. No one knows what that mechanism is going to look like yet.

Why Is Google Going to Stop Supporting Third-Party cookies in Chrome?

Google says it’s trying to balance personalization and privacy. Google’s stated objective is to create “a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.” In announcing the change, Google said, “Users are demanding greater privacy–including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used — and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.” At the same time, Google wants to make it possible for businesses to continue to offer personalized content. Google intends for the still-evolving browser-based mechanism envisioned by Google to do that.

How Will Ads Be Affected?

If you use a Google ad products, you will not be affected. Google will still be able to use data from its own search and other properties to target ads to people. But once Google phases out third-party support, you won’t be able to use third-party cookies to follow users around on Chrome and retarget with an ad them after they’ve visited your website.

How Has the Industry Reacted?

The move has received a mixed response.

Some critics point out that phasing out third-party cookies on Chrome is a cynical play to strengthen Google’s ad business because Google’s ability to use data from its own search and other properties to target ads to people remains unaffected.

Others have speculated that the change will make obsolete many tools that advertiser have been relying on. As Adweek noted,

Marketers wary of the industry’s reliance on Google will have to figure out how they can adapt their first-party data strategy as some of the de rigueur marketing tools of recent years are rendered redundant in most internet browsers. These include third-party data and data management platforms, and multitouch attribution providers, all of whose days would appear to be numbered (at least in their current guise), as third-party data has been a critically important part of how marketers shape their communications strategies with consumers for close to 25 years. For instance, Procter & Gamble, one of the industry’s largest-spending advertisers, this week effused over its frequency capping efforts at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference.

The Association of National Advertisers and American Association of Advertising Agencies issued a joint statement that said, “We are deeply disappointed that Google would unilaterally declare such a major change without prior careful consultation across the digital and advertising industries. In the interim, we strongly urge Google to publicly and quickly commit to not imposing this moratorium on third-party cookies until effective and meaningful alternatives are available.”

In fact, it’s possible that backlash will cause Google to reverse its course. A lot can happen in two years.

What Should Advertisers Do?

We reached out to Google to find out what near-term steps businesses need to take. Here’s what Google says:

First, you don’t need to do anything with your Google ad products. Google will be updating the cookies that Google sets and accesses for our advertising products prior to the deadline

Google recommends that you:

  • Confirm with your own engineers that they have conducted testing on your sites to assess impact and are updating any third-party cookies they control. It is important to also check non-ads use cases (e.g., logins, shopping cards).
  • Confirm with your vendors (ads and non-ads) that any cookies they set and access on your sites will be updated.

This is an evolving situation. We recommend keeping a close watch. At True Interactive, we’re following the situation closely and will be ready to help our clients sense and respond.

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To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

 

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

Advertising Marketing

Part of the price of being popular is being a target. And as we enter 2020, Google is certainly a big target for privacy advocates, who are uncomfortable with the amount of personal data that the master of the search world collects. And when privacy advocates talk about Google, they mean more than Google.com – there’s also Google Maps, YouTube, and a host of other Google-owned properties to consider. Amid the ongoing discussion about Google’s size and reach, search engine DuckDuckGo has emerged as an alternative for privacy advocates. DuckDuckGo is cast as an underdog and defender of personal privacy, partly because of how the company positions itself (“privacy, simplified”) and partly because of DuckDuckGo’s operating model (DuckDuckGo does not store personal information, follow users around with ads, or track users).

What, exactly, is DuckDuckGo, and how big is it? Let’s tackle these and other questions we’ve been getting from clients.

What Is DuckDuckGo?

Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo is a search engine whose claim to fame is protecting user privacy. DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or log user information; and DuckDuckGo uses cookies only when required. The search engine also markets itself with a bit of cheek (according to its website, “At DuckDuckGo, we don’t think the Internet should feel so creepy and getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds”) and defiance (“Too many people believe that you simply can’t expect privacy on the Internet. We disagree and have made it our mission to set a new standard of trust online”).

Think of DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine for those who want to maintain a brick wall of privacy between themselves and the digital world when they search.

How Big Is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo accommodates 1.5 billion searches a month with nearly 15 billion searches conducted in 2019. By contrast, in 2019, Google accommodated 2 trillion searches a day. Although DuckDuckGo is tiny by comparison, the search engine is growing. Those 15 billion searches represent a 60 percent increase over 2018 (9.2 billion) and nearly a tripling of 2017 searches (5.9 billion). Clearly, DuckDuckGo is catching on – with a small segment of the population, yes, but a growing on.

How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money?

DuckDuckGo makes money through advertising and affiliate marketing. Just because DuckDuckGo protects your privacy, it doesn’t mean DuckDuckGo offers ad-free search results. If a user searches for, say, “vinyl records near me,” DuckDuckGo returns advertisements based on the keyword search. But DuckDuckGo does not track or use a person’s data after the search is completed. In addition, DuckDuckGo earns affiliate marketing revenue from sites such as from Amazon and eBay. When users buy something on those sites after reaching them through DuckDuckGo, DuckDuckGo collects a commission. For more insight about advertising on DuckDuckGo, check out this link from the company.

Is DuckDuckGo Reliable?

Your mileage may vary. The search engine has been called out for lacking certain functionality available on Google and Bing, such as custom date ranges. And to be sure, Google provides an interconnected universe of properties (Google.com and Google Maps being a good example). But DuckDuckGo is building out its functionality. For instance, you can do location-based searches through an integration between DuckDuckGo and Apple Maps. The best way to test it is to try it.

Should I Advertise on DuckDuckGo?

Businesses with a limited budget should focus on the properties where they’ll get the most bang for the buck, and without question there are bigger alternative such as Google and Bing that provide much more ad visibility. One of DuckDuckGo’s challenges is that the site itself requires a bit of word of mouth for people to find. But that said, businesses might want to consider DuckDuckGo for discretionary ad spend targeting a smaller privacy-conscious segment of the population.  According to research from SimilarWeb, loyal users of DuckDuckGo love tech, and they use DuckDuckGo as an alternative because they’re concerned about having their privacy protected while they search online. If that’s the type of audience for you, consider DuckDuckGo.

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