What this change by Apple does reinforce is the need to remain flexible and adaptable in the area of digital marketing.

The Impact of Apple’s Recent Update on Digital Ads

On 26 April, Apple introduced its new privacy settings in the iOS 14 update.  A feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT). [1]  According to Forbes it is a stunning new privacy move that will be a game changer for all iPhone users. [2]


When people use apps on their phone, it can be tracked across other apps and websites in order to target the individual with advertising. This is currently done through the identifier for advertisers (IDFA), which tracks without revealing the personal information of the individual. [3]


The aim of Apple’s ATT is to add transparency to this process so individuals know what is happening and can choose what apps can track them [4].  This means people will have to opt in to allow information to be collected by third party apps. 


While the move by Apple to increase transparency and improve privacy is to be commended, there are concerns about the impact of this change for advertisers and app developers. [5] With people having to make a conscious decision whether to allow tracking or not, it is likely more people opt out. [6]  The ad industry has long relied on gathering data about people’s web browsing behaviour in order to serve up ads, that users might be interested in.  A shrinking pool of user data could lead to lower sales for brands and lower ad revenue for mobile apps and publishers.[7]  Concerns that have been expressed by Facebook.[8]


There are doomsayers who claim it will shut off the stream of data app developers, measurement companies, and advertisers have used to link users’ behaviour across apps and mobile websites and will reshape the digital advertising industry.  However, data collection will still be allowed if it is spelled out in an app’s privacy policy. The changes only affect whether app developers share data they collect with third parties or mix their data with outside data from third parties, to help target ads.[9]


What this change by Apple does reinforce is the need to remain flexible and adaptable in the area of digital marketing.  In considering our adaptability, it is useful to consider some issues.


Given the move by Apple to increase customer’s privacy in the data that is collected about them, a move which will be followed by other large companies, are we keeping pace with new privacy protections for customers and clients?[10]. New restraints on the data that can be used for measurement and analysis can create competitive advantage in moments of dramatic change for organisations that are prepared to invest or adapt [11]. 


Perhaps, we need to transition away from total reliance on deterministic, user-centric models of advertising and use more holistic, macro-level models that look at variations in ad spend and revenue over time to attribute efficiency to channel-specific ad campaigns[12].  It may be that models such as Media Mix Modelling (MMM) which uses aggregate data may become as important as data driven marketing in this new era [13].


What is clear with the changes that will occur is the on-going importance of deepening our understanding of our clients [14].  The products that suffer most in the loss of the identifier-based advertising targeting are those that target niche audiences and depend on high rates of monetization participation, or very extreme levels of monetization from a small segment of the customer base[15].  The need to understand our clients so they are receptive to the products or services we provide remains paramount.


Linked with a greater understanding of our clients is the need to be more creative and use creativity as a point of differentiation.  While novel, creative, and attractive ads cannot fully replace the efficiency lost in digital advertising from the deprecation of advertising identifiers, it can help to reach the most relevant segment of an audience by penetrating through generic, nondescript advertising from competitors[16].


The changes being brought in by Apple will have an impact on the data collected, however it does provide us with an opportunity to reflect on our current practices and develop new ideas and practices that can enhance our digital advertising.