IDFA changes will demand sharper focus from mobile advertisers – and that’s a good thing

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Danny Haynes, Commercial & Operations Director at Audience Store, says marketers need to rise to the challenge set by Apple’s opt-in decision on IDFA.

When Apple announced it was moving to an opt-in strategy for its IDFA (identifier for advertising) data collection, it sparked a wave of panic across the mobile marketing industry.  

Suddenly, a whole bank of individual user information was being taken away from marketers who were hoping to take advantage of it to target consumers, track their interactions, build journeys, and model them for data analysis purposes, across the ultimate one-to-one channel. 

This reaction and sense of loss shows just how reliant our industry is on individual users' data: many appear to believe the decision signals the end of mobile marketing as we know it. 

First-party data is at a premium 
The consensus is that few people will opt in. The language used in Apple’s pop-up consent box is certainly strongly worded; a claim that apps want “permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies”.  

That said, we were having the same conversations around the cookie consent policy post-GDPR. Fear on this occasion proved largely unfounded, with opt-out rates circa 5 per cent across Europe, according to a study by Teads. 

Moreover, with further Chrome cookie restrictions upcoming by 2022, this won’t be the last hurdle. 

With a respectable opt-in rate, it’s possible to track a percentage of users and to use that information to model targeting and measurement efforts. Whilst it’s necessary to maximise the data, or limit the variables, in order to get statistical significance on a reduced data set, TV and print have always been bought this way. 

So there is still value in understanding only a proportion of the user base, and in many ways it is a good approach to the measurement of advertising having a slight sense of unknown. It makes us question and explore the truth of numbers; something that is needed for effective attribution. 

In fact, the current situation presents a valuable opportunity for marketers and their agencies to re-evaluate the way they use data to speak to prospective customers within digital channels. This is an opportunity to make more use of the data that is available, with great creative, sampling, and data-led planning. 

The power lies in the content
The key to success, with any marketing platform, lies in using first-party data to power media, whilst never forgetting the importance of the message or content – the true soul of advertising – to do the hard work and drive the required outcome.  

By removing sight of a large chunk of available data, the situation requires us to be more resourceful with the information we do have; to be more creative. We must look to data-led planning, and reconsider the importance of content. To do anything else, or to blame the tools at our disposal, is lazy practice.  

So let’s drop the panic or outrage. Rather, our response should be to devise a considered data strategy and set of expertise that pushes marketers to sign off on cross-channel and content-powered strategies which focus, first and foremost, on effective messaging.  

If we do this, accepting that we will lose some data, and that mobile, like more traditional media such as OOH, print, and television, is going to have to be more than a one-to-one data-based platform, what do we have left to work with? 

Firstly, mobile is still our most data-rich channel. Our challenge is to use the remaining available data more effectively. 

Geographical data is most unique to the channel. So, by using our opted-in user pool, we can understand some of the travel habits of our audiences. These insights can then influence our use of other channels. It’s important, in this way, to look for matching data points. This layering of data can create a multi-touchpoint user experience that is both scalable and personalised. Matching data with content, across channels, also results in better user experience. 

Ultimately, Apple’s recent privacy-focused decision is not just about a loss of data, but about users’ choice and control – something which should be at the heart of our use of the mobile channel as marketers. This change may represent a huge shake-up but is it a bad thing?  

Tightening restrictions calls for greater creativity
Unless we are currently making the most of all the data that is available, using modelling to maximise cross-channel value and activating through iterative content learnings, then we still have work to do.  

Measurement can be solved through modelling, as always, while attribution has never been a perfect science. This is a call to action, then, to maximise the data we do have, at a time when we have lost sight of the true potential of digital, thanks to an obsessive focus on one-to-one tracking over that perfect balance of content, channel and format.  

The situation requires a balance of data science, creativity and use of technology, along with an understanding of a more traditional data world, less reliant on tracking. Answers now may be less obvious, but a true understanding of the question, and a focus on business objectives, will be all the more important. If necessity is the mother of invention, then scarcity is the mother of innovation.