Adtech Execs React to Apple’s WWDC Tracking Announcements

Apple announced at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference that it would add some features to SKAdNetwork, its privacy-adjusted marketing measurement framework, to provide more marketing insights.

Apple said it would add “hierarchical source IDs” to “increase a developer’s ability to optimize their campaigns without increasing the risk of cross-app tracking of individuals.” The company added: “SKAdNetwork also features hierarchical conversion values to allow developers to receive more information about conversions for smaller campaigns, and developers can better calculate return on ad spend by offering multiple conversions at defined time windows.”

Why are Apple’s privacy changes such a big deal?

When Apple released iOS 14 last year, its policy App Tracking Transparency forced mobile apps to ask users whether they consented to be tracked across apps. Of course, many users said no (why would they want to be tracked?). Advertisers and mobile developers who depend on ad revenue to survive widely complained that Apple had dealt a huge blow to their businesses without explaining the consequences to consumers.

Without mobile marketing metrics, it is much harder for advertisers to drive mobile installs, acquire users, and optimize campaigns to reach relevant audiences on mobile. To fill the void, mobile measurement providers are depending on probabilistic attribution for the time being and figuring out SKAdNetwork to help advertisers and publishers figure out advertising in this new world.

But make no mistake — mobile marketing data is unlikely to return to its previous levels of granularity, and adtech execs are not convinced Apple’s latest adjustments to SKAdNetwork will be enough to help struggling advertisers and publishers, which could lead to more user expenses, whether consumers realize that or not.

Adtech execs respond to Apple’s latest announcements

Mike Woosley, COO, Lotame

Apple is impeccably consistent for developers: The company can be relied upon to let them eat cake. Those developers — under constant market pressure to deliver those apps for free or for pennies — need marketers for monetization. 

Today from Apple they got delivered a diet of deep fake: “hierarchical source IDs” and “hierarchical conversion values” but always with the admonition that Apple’s paternalistic oversight will eliminate cross-app tracking. 

In other words Apple is going to give developers more information, but unfortunately, no tools to do anything about it. Those are reserved for Apple. 

Jake Moskowitz, VP of Data Strategy and Head of Emodo Institute, Emodo

When Apple launched ATT, it put in place a massive limitation on the ability to target and measure mobile ad campaigns the way the industry has for a decade or longer. SK Ad Network was its way of trying to recreate some of those capabilities for performance marketers specifically. But the initial version was very high level and limited, and it substantially impacted results for mobile performance marketers.

On its surface, Apple’s announcements at WWDC appear to be an effort to try to enable another level of detail to performance marketers and make up for some of the limitations of the initial version of SKAd Network. Of course it’s important to see how it actually works after launch. 

That said, it’s very important for marketers not to make more out of this than it is. SKAd Network is only relevant to mobile in-app performance marketing campaigns such as app downloads, such as for mobile gaming. It does not help brand marketers to measure traditional metrics such as brand lift, offline sales lift, and in-store traffic. 

This change by Apple does nothing to make up for the significant loss of measurement capabilities for marketers that don’t fit this narrow segment.

Matthew Sotebeer Chief Strategy Officer, Digital Remedy

Apple’s release of a Hierarchical Source ID is a step in the right direction to enable greater insight and measurement that can lead to more effective campaign optimizations. As of now, many marketers are only utilizing authenticated 1st-party data sets to access Apple inventory. I’m optimistic that Apple will continue to improve their data availability in a privacy-compliant way.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015 and regularly consults with companies in the space on content and communications. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.