The IOS.14 Update & Championing User Privacy


Submitted by: Natalie Roth-Charron

On January 28, 2021, Data Privacy Day, Apple announced that they would be implementing App Tracking Transparency (ATT) into their newest update. Up until this point, apps have been able to track users across other apps or websites to understand their behavior and therefore, target them with advertising that is likely to resonate with the user.

Apple’s introduction of ATT has introduced a mandatory “ask” to see if users if want apps to track their behavior, effectively putting users in control of if and how their data can be recorded and used.

In December 2020, Apple began to show consumers that customer privacy was at the forefront of their business model and shared insight on how IOS apps track user-data. They affirmed that their consumer privacy is a “fundamental human right” and were aiming to do more to keep peoples’ data safe and protected.

These changes to data protection have many businesses concerned, most notably Facebook, who’s business framework is essentially dependent on tracking user data and using it to sell digital advertising space to businesses around the world. Unsurprisingly, Facebook condemned this change so openly that they ran a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post as a clapback to the changes. See the ad here:

Facebook ran an ad in popular American newspapers to challenge Apple privacy rules

Facebook released this advertisement within the framework of protecting and standing up for small businesses who use their platforms to advertise. If we try to look at this ad from an unbiased perspective, the pushback really comes from the fear that this could mean a loss of advertising dollars for Facebook (which is how they make money) and a potential loss in trust from their shareholders (could mean even more money lost).

Though protection of data is arguably necessary, we should not be so na├»ve to believe that the introduction of ATT is “just for the people.” Apple has recognized a need that consumers have been calling for and has effectively turned themselves into the good guys, crusading for the people.

This move was a brilliant marketing technique. They made a simple need, truly significant and became the first to introduce data protection into their technology and once again are at the front lines of innovation.

This change in technology and data collection of course affects marketers and advertisers like us and around the globe. It will change the way we optimize, target and report on campaigns. The reality is that we are living in complex times. Traditional market research and advertising as imagined in the 1960/70’s “Golden Age” has completely changed. Consumers are targeted at every turn and research is seemingly taking place at every moment of our waking lives. Less effort is required to understand consumers because data is collected, sorted, and presented to us neatly in all sorts of ways, from many different companies.

So what does this mean for marketers and advertisers alike?

Focus should be put back on account-based marketing first and foremost. Knowing and understanding the target audience and where consumers go to consume on and offline. This may include getting back into the field in traditional ways, such as surveys online or in person. The old saying goes “ask and you shall receive” so build your e-mail lists, go to the places where your target audience shops and ask questions. If marketers and advertisers continue focus on their targets vs. broad market placement, they will continue to be effective.

Though display ads can be an effective trigger to a consumer, it is more important to tell a story with brands, and a more useful way to do this is through social media and influencer media. Influencer media has become increasingly popular for funneling messages to like-minded audiences and with the application of ATT and the phasing out of third-party cookies, engaged target audiences can be pinpointed with popular ambassadors on Instagram and Tik Tok.

Marketers should not forget that 1st party cookies will not be affected in this transition and therefore should focus on behavior that occurs on their client websites. Web development and content should be at the forefront of their minds. Good quality content will always reign supreme and if you can create content that ends with authenticating user identity, then you will have effectively attracted a truly engaged consumer that is more likely to make conversions that are important to you.

Perhaps it is time to “get back in the field,” really understand our target audiences and track conversions and sales in a more traditional sense (with permission and transparency). Perhaps looking to the past can help us adjust and inform the complex future that is at our doorstep. I may be risking being too sentimental in this statement, but advertising was arguably at its most glamorous and creative when humans did not rely on computers, so maybe, just maybe we are staring into a bright renaissance of the industry and should welcome it with open arms.