Apples IDFA changes – the alternative solutions

Life is tough for advertisers right now.

Not only is Google deprecating the use of third-party in Chrome by the end of the year, but the introduction of Apples iOS 14.5 together with the app tracking transparency framework, which gives users the option to opt out of being tracked, has caused turmoil in the industry. According to Ad Exchanger, the opt-in rate to allow app tracking has fluctuated between just four per cent to 13 per cent. 

For marketers who rely heavily on IDFA and other tracking sources, the risk appears higher than ever.

However, the ad tech industry is nothing if not inventive. For marketers staying close to first-party data and coming up with creative advertising solutions, a window of opportunity has opened.

“The digital advertising industry is undergoing a process of deep transformation right in front of our eyes,” says President, International of VidMob, Cesar Melo. “The focus is shifting to ad creative itself as the most decisive factor in campaign performance. Intelligent creative – ad creative built by the integration of first-party data into the creative process – is becoming a fundamental tool in this new era of advertising.  The world is just waking up to this phenomenal new opportunity.”

“In an effort to recover advertising efficiency, companies have to pivot aggressively to a creartive first solution. Theres a restructuting that needs to happen on multiple levels. Firstly, they have to bring in probabilistic maching learning teams to understand how to monertize. Secondly, they have to restructure their market and product team in an effort to recover some efficiency with creative” says Brian Bowman, CEO of Consumer Acquisition. “What were seeing is companies pan out across many platforms, for example TikTok, Snapchat, and ad networks such as Unity and Vungle to try and find efficiency. Were also seeing that ad developers are not submitting their apps, theyre taking their time and letting the bugs sit there because they know the moment they submit it they lose all the tracking. It looks like end of June, maybe middle of July where the true impact of IDFA loss will start to be felt.” 

Others remain positive about what lies ahead, both for consumer privacy and the opportunity it gives marketers to reach their consumers who really want to be reached.

“Rather than approach these changes with fear and trepidation, mobile marketers should use this opportunity to radically rethink their approach to customer engagement” says CEO and Founder of the CLV Group, Neil Joyce. “Instead of relying on invasive and ultimately less effective targeting technologies, brands can take back control of their marketing processes and move beyond the “group think” scenario that has fixated on reach and inefficiency, towards looking more closely at the impact of customer conversations and customer experiences on sales conversions.”

So what solutions are forward-thinking marketers coming up with?

Ogury, a global technology leader in mobile brand advertising, has launched Personified Targeting, a technology for targeting audiences on the mobile web, without the use of user data, identifiers, or device graphs.

“It’s very much a new proprietary technology that we’ve developed at Ogury” says SVP of Product at Ogury, Antoine Barber. “The promise is to deliver superior results while 100 per cent respecting user privacy. Personified Targeting is fuelled by a data set which we believe is unique.”

Personified Targeting can be broken down into a few parts. There is contextual and semantic data, which as Barber points out “many people do”.

However, Ogury goes one step further by fuelling this with audience data.

“We’re likely to have been the first ones to have a consent management platform back in the days when there was no GDPR” says Barber. “Fast forward to today and we don’t keep any user data, but we know about these trends in terms of consumption. We call that mobile journey data – that’s feeding our audience data portion.

“The other part is very mature survey data. So again, we anonymously connect, survey, and sell. Anonymously means it’s not tied to a user, it’s tied to asset – so a website or an app. From there we can build attributes for the assets, so sites and websites. The last data piece is self-targeting audience data, which is very much tied to how users are engaging with the ads.

“In fact, we have some ad units which are user choice driven, such as the video chooser, where we can see which ads the users were interested in interacting with. So, in a nutshell, we are trying to use the best of what is out there, whilst leveraging what we’ve done for the past seven years. All we’ve been doing is trying to find the best data set and the best targeting out there and it happens to cookieless and ID-less in mobile application.”

Performance-based marketing tracking company, Swaarm has come up with a different solution to Apple’s IDFA changes. It has launched attribution chain methodology, Privacy Enabled Attribution (PEA Chain) for the mobile advertising industry.

Swaarm’s platform will generate a special token called “PEA Chain” that is passed in the click and can be retrieved in the postback. The token contains all the information needed for the network to determine the campaign and traffic source.

Given that the information was supplied for the impression and click, the token also contains all the data for the rest of the networks in the chain to identify their traffic sources. This allows networks that use Swaarm to work with publishers of varied sizes by giving them access to the attribution data that they need to successfully optimize their traffic.

For advertising partners that have a very strict or rigid model, Swaarm also supports a basic attribution method. 

“We at Swaarm believe that the power and beauty of the internet consists in its distributed and varied nature, where small publishers and large media conglomerates can thrive and provide valuable content to internet users” said CEO of Swaarm, David Frei. “This is why we created the Privacy Enabled Attribution chain method to enable attribution throughout the whole chain without collecting any personal information.”

With the PEA Chain attribution method, Swaarm ensures that correct non-probabilistic attribution can be made throughout the whole network chain. The method successfully protects the user’s privacy and guarantees fairness and exactness in the attribution process.

While the introduction of GDPR shone a light on user privacy and seemingly put the power back into the consumers hands, information on how user data is used, traded, shared, and sold was traditionally buried within EULAs (End User Licence Agreements) and privacy policies that hardly anyone would take the time to read.

Matt Voda, CEO of OptiMine describes Apple’s privacy labels as ‘revolutionary’, saying “The reality is that such personal data exchanges are being made everywhere, and once Apples labels have caught on as a standard way to communicate privacy, we can expect to see other industries, manufacturers and players to publish their own. Google has already pre-announced their own intentions to do something along the same lines.

“The main point here is that if a brand is reliant on tracking data for things such as marketing performance measurement, they need to come up with future-proof alternatives because Apples move in the privacy space is just one step in a much larger consumer data privacy wave that is gaining more traction. There will certainly be other industries and devices that head down this same road and brands can no longer rely on a set of individual consumer tracking data to tell them what their advertising is worth and how effective it is. Those days of tracking-based measurement are numbered.” 

 Another company successfully swerving track-based methods is marketing solutions company, Vericast.

Last month, it officially launched Household Connect, a digital solution that uniquely connects data to a digital household in a manner that respects consumer’s privacy choices.

“The team at Vericast is very smart, particularly the folks who built this” says Chief Product Officer, Digital Marketing & Technology Solutions at Vericast, Michelle Engle. “Theyre using artificial intelligence and some data science to look at the patterns that theyre seeing in various devices. Whether its mobile devices or desktop, they’re using that data and those patterns to create groupings that represent that digital household and then they tie it back to a physical location i.e the households location. We have over 40 years of various data that we can tie to that physical address. So, we can associate that data and the characteristics of the people who live in that household to use that to better market to them.

“We can also use it to find their neighbours who are likely to be interested in the same sorts of products, the same sort of cars etc. It’s essentially a pattern recognition and using all of the different data points we see around the different devices to create that prediction around the household.”

 Having been on both the print side of marketing and the digital side, Vericast is a company well prepared for Apple’s changes.

 “Our core digital technology, which is probably about 12-15 years old, was all built before this reliance on cookies or reliance on mobile device ID’s. So, for our core and our roots we were able to re-use a lot of that technology around understanding the consumer, what the patterns are and using that to create our own way to identify” says Engle.

The use of socio-demographic data is also being employed by Techstars backed tech company, Covatic.

A-Type is the company’s new product, which enables publishers and apps to maintain and grow digital revenues while preserving user privacy and meeting tightening industry data standards. A-Type uses Covatic’s on-device processing to allocate groups of users to relevant third-party socio-demographic data, such as CACI ACORN or Experian MOSAIC segments, without exposing any form of ID.

This not only creates highly relevant and sellable audiences, but is designed to be GDPR, CCPA and ATT safe and doesn’t need users to login, which means clients can make their entire user base addressable.

 “Regulators and key industry players—particularly Apple and Google—are rightly acting to protect user privacy by blocking excessive online data collection practices. This is great for consumers but presents a huge challenge to the digital ad-industry. To date, most responses have focussed on first-party, contextual or cohort-based solutions. Covatic offers a compelling fourth way: insights gained from the ‘real world’ and processed on-device to ensure no personal data is ever shared” said Chief Product Officer at Covatic, Daniel Pike.

Global technology company Criteo has introduced a contextual advertising solution.

“Our Criteo Contextual Targeting solution brings contextual advertising to the next level, by combining real-time contextual signals from publishers with a deep understanding of advertisers’ first-party commerce data” says EMD EMEA of Criteo, Shruthi Chindalur. “This is our big USP. Through this combination, we help marketers uncover the relationship between content and buying behaviours to further drive revenue and accurately measure the impact of their contextual campaigns in cookie-free media.”

Criteo uses first- party commerce data of its advertising partners through intelligent machine learning, powered by Criteo’s Al Engine to uncover the URLs and categories which have the highest affinities with a specific audience.

By classifying every publisher URL across its vast media network, the platform helps advertisers display personalised product recommendations without relying on third-party cookies.

 “Our technology is vital in helping brands and marketers see the bigger picture” continues Chindalur. “$2.5bn (£1.77bn) in commerce transactions happen every day across our client network, a bigger value than what Amazon generates on its own platform. Furthermore, we understand the need for retailers to gain further insight, particularly as neither Facebook nor Instagram is closely integrated with retailers, meaning the insights they can bring back into the buying experience is more challenging.

 “What differentiates us is that we focus on the open internet where the majority of consumer eyeballs are; indeed, over 70 per cent of online shopping happens outside walled gardens. What’s more, our First-Party Media Network accumulates as much identity data as we can outside of our Shopper Graph from our marketers and media owners, meaning we provide a better overall service and can help mitigate the effect of third-party cookie depreciation.”

Apple’s changes have caused some companies to merge and form an expanded identity partnership. This is the case for consumer intelligence platform, Zeotap and PubMatic – a sell-side platform delivering superior outcomes for digital advertising.

Zeotap’s Universal ID solution, ID+ will now be available in Identity Hub, PubMatic’s Prebid-based identity management solution. Zeotap’s taxonomy will also be available within Audience Encore, PubMatic’s audience data platform. 

For publishers facing the prospect of a cookieless future, the expanded partnership opens up vital opportunities to maintain and improve inventory monetisation.

Florian Lichtwald, Managing Director and Chief Business Officer of Zeotap, said: “In the wake of the death of the third-party cookie, the new reality of addressability hinges on interoperability. With PubMatic, we’re proud to bring ID+ to even more publishers and advertisers by working with a partner who prioritises consumer privacy and choice as much as we do.”

Many remain sceptical about the true motive behind Apple’s privacy changes but see clear opportunities ahead for consumers and brands.  

As Bryan Karas, CEO of Playbook Media says “Apple is reserving the right for themselves to understand the identity of their users and their actions but removing it for most advertisers. This gives them a bunch of power to funnel users into their own suite of products, build more advertising “solutions” for developers, and create even greater reliance on the Apple ecosystem. Watch for more mobile app advertising solutions, apple partnerships in ecommerce, and a push for Apple sign in to allow them to get even more data to power future services.”

He advises companies to “Focus on creative. In a world where the systems are not as robust, creative will become all the more important. It is essential for advertisers to invest in diverse, engaging, and product centric creative to stand out from the crowd within a less targeted audience.”