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How Google and Apple are charting the course towards a more privacy-first future

Developing strong relationships with customers has always been critical for brands to build successful businesses, and this becomes even more vital in a privacy-first world.

For two decades, the cookie has been an emblem of the online advertising model that powers much of the open web. Now, the cookie as we know it, is dying.

According to Google’s David Temkin, that means “An end to not only third-party cookies, but also any technology used for tracking individual people as they browse the web.”.

So, as Google plans to phase out third-party cookies, ad targeting and behavioural analysis are set to become more difficult. This means the value and importance of first-party data has never been greater.

The path towards a privacy-first web does, however, point to a future where there is no need to sacrifice all relevant advertising. There are alternative tracking frameworks that Google is currently developing (you didn’t really think they would let go of their cash-cow - consumer data -, did you?). These alternatives revolve around the idea of putting users into groups (known as cohorts), based on their browsing, rather than tying their individual website histories to their identities. In terms of advertising, this means that ads can be aimed at a group that shares the same or at least similar interests, instead of individuals that fit the bill. 

It is worth pointing out that this could potentially have implications for ‘Retargeting’. Only time will tell…

Why the change?

Well, rather than die on cookie hill, Google is anticipating (and, in part, responding to) pressure from several sides: regulators, privacy advocates, consumers, and especially rivals. Apple and Mozilla already block third-party cookies by default in their respective browsers, Safari and Firefox.

While Google Chrome remains the world’s most popular browser by a wide margin, the iPhone’s popularity has helped to make Safari an influential competitor, forcing the entire mobile ad industry to either adapt to or work around Apple’s increasingly strict privacy protocols. The latest of which is Apple’s move to require opt-ins for any app that wants to track users; which has already sparked a fight with Facebook (who’s warning that brands might see decreases in performance and size for some campaigns and audiences).

What is Apple’s recent iOS 14 update about?

Apple announced that, as part of the iOS 14 update, it is giving users the choice to block the IDFA identifier at app level. Among other changes, it means apps will be required to ask users for permission to collect and share their data.

What is IDFA?

IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) is a unique identifier for mobile devices and is used to target and measure the effectiveness of advertising.

Prior to the update, about 70% of iOS users shared their IDFA with app publishers. It’s estimated that this number will drop to 10% to 15% now that the update has been rolled out.

How will the Apple iOS 14 update impact Advertisers?

The impact will be felt in two major ways, although this really depends on your campaign setup. 

Say, for example, you only go for users in the UK who are interested in politics, with either ‘Reach’ or ‘Link-click’ selected as objective for your ads (as is the case with most of our clients’ campaigns), you will be absolutely fine.

Geographic and Interest-based targeting, as well as Reach and Link-click objectives are some of the advertising opportunities that are not expected to be impacted. However, here are a few that will be: 

Ad Targeting - Many targeting types (including retargeting to users based on device-level targeting) will no longer work for users that have opted out of sharing their IDFA. The likes of Google and Facebook have other variables they can use to identify devices (email and phone number), but other platforms that don’t have such information are likely to see a reduction in targetable audiences.

Ad Objectives - Some types of ads that use pixel tracking will be impacted: traffic ads optimised for landing page views; conversion ads optimised for standard events or custom conversions; and app installs targeting iOS platforms.

Ad Measurement - The measurement of mobile campaign data was built around the IDFA identifier. So, while Apple has announced a replacement that will allow for conversion data to be passed back at the campaign level, we’re still going to see an overall reduction in data.


And there you have it. Apple, Google, and many others are now moving toward models that are ultimately better for consumer privacy, which ought to be a good thing, but fewer targeting options can only mean one thing: Companies can no longer afford to be lazy with their advertising, but instead need to create compelling campaigns that favour community, relevance, and value over random and/or targeted click bait.

The not-so-good thing is that a handful of giants are powerful enough to essentially dictate the terms of the modern internet to everyone else, most likely in their own bets interests.

We will need to coexist with the giants in the marketing game unless we make our own rules at some point. For now, we’ll focus on remaining adaptable and responsive to changes, maintaining our focus of providing our clients the most rewarding campaigns, within this ever-changing terrain.


Get in touch to find out how we can help you stay ahead of the game and ensure your Digital Marketing is as effective as it can be.