The Age of Privacy

It’s no surprise we’ve entered an age where privacy has become one of the top priorities for users across the globe, due to issues like the Cambridge Analytica scandal where third parties exploited Facebook user data. Apple and other major tech companies have led recent shifts in the marketing industry to tackle consumer privacy, creating new policies for user activity tracking and usage in advertising. Thus, creating new challenges for brands, digital marketers, and the agencies that support them.

At face value, this may sound scary. But is it? In this blog, we’ll examine Apple’s latest iOS14 update, how it impacts Google advertisers, and we’ll provide you with the tools and insights to lessen the impacts of Apple’s ATT (Apple Tracking Transparency).

What is Apple’s ATT?

When Apple rolled out its iOS14 update in April 2021, the big tech company also released its Tracking Transparency, forcing apps to ask users whether they want companies to access their device’s Identifier for Advertising (IDFA) to deliver more personalized ads. If a user enables it, what kind of information is trackable? Here are a few:

  • Device location data
  • User data collected from apps and websites
  • Sharing lists of emails, advertising IDs, or IDs from third-party advertising networks

Facebook was the first to be affected by this and has since developed its Conversion API, AEM (Aggregated Event Measurement), and required domain verifications to comply with Apple’s new tracking policy. To learn more about this, read our Facebook iOS14 two-part series, where we dive into the update further for Facebook marketers. How to Survive the Facebook Ads & Apple iOS14 Update: Part One and Part Two.

How It’s Impacting Google Advertisers

Like Facebook, Google advertisers will lose the ability to track data from Apple users who opt-out of tracking, losing substantial data in the process. Lost tracking data such as a user’s characteristics, online behavior, and website actions impact the advertiser’s running targeted ads. But first, we need to discuss how the iOS14.5 update affected Google’s Click ID (GLCID).

Google’s Click ID

The Google Click ID is a unique parameter in the URL, with ad clicks to identify the campaign and other attributes of the click associated with the ad for ad tracking and campaign attribution. Since the update, Google stopped sending click IDs for iOS14+ traffic. Before the update, each click was unique, but now the GCLID will come empty and will have another token and come with a generic badge for your traffic.

So, what does this mean? You can send conversions like before with GCLID back to Google with no issues, unless those are iOS14 conversions. For Apple users, the Google conversion is now broken. The only way to gather information is by using the latest Google Analytics, or a properly installed Google Tag Manager. This setup helps bypass the generic parameters and helps improve Google Attribute for iOS14+ traffic, but it will not be precise. We’ll discuss this later in the blog.   

Which Ads are Impacted by the iOS14 Update?

Google Search Campaigns

Let’s start with the one that is partially in the clear. Thankfully, Google Search Campaigns are based on keywords and searches vs. a user’s characteristics and preferences, having no impact with the iOS14 update. However, advertisers running Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) will experience impacts because traffic coming from iOS14 users will not be identified as before. Instead, they will be grouped by interests, making tracking less accurate.

Google Display Campaigns

Unlike search campaigns, display ads are auction-based and depend on user data, personal interests, age, and gender. With the update, some of these past behaviors and characteristics will be less visible, and targeting will be restricted to the current page they are viewing.

YouTube Campaigns

Advertisers running ads on YouTube will run into issues because, among Google’s properties, two of them have widely used apps – YouTube and Gmail. We’ll be focusing on YouTube since it is an excellent source of traffic. The issue arises with iOS14 users using the app that click on ads because those cookies will now be blocked by Apple’s ATT policy, restricting data to a single session, and directly will not accurately send conversions back to Google.

However, if users have their Google accounts linked to their YouTube accounts, this may continue to grant advertisers access to their previously watched videos and personal characteristics.

What about Cookies?

All of the privacy changes are leading towards a cookieless future. Tracking and remarketing will cease to exist the way we know it, and new strategies will emerge based on the tools presented to us by the platforms that own first-party data. Google will be the last company to block third-party cookies, eventually introducing their two protocols:

  • FLoC (Federal Learning of Cohorts)
  • FLEDGE (First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment)

Both will group users to perform targeting & remarketing. The harsh truth is that brands that are unable to adapt to first-party data gathering will suffer the consequences. Brands and advertisers need to start implementing first-party data gathering and strategies today.

Publishers will rise in power as domain owners have access to first-party data. First-party data also introduces responsible data collection, processing, and storage. Platforms like Google, Facebook and Apple will not be affected by the privacy changes as they own the first-party data users share on their platforms. Instead, they will be offering advertisers ways to use their platforms to reach their target audience. Examples of these include Google’s FLoC, Facebook’s Aggregated Event Measurement.

Google originally scheduled their protocols for 2022, but they’ve delayed the release a couple of times, the latest delayed schedule being 2023.

What is Google Doing in the Meantime?  

  • They are working on their Google Privacy Sandbox. This new initiative will introduce five APIs as substitutes for targeting, remarketing, and conversion attribution functionality.

What We’re Doing for Our Clients 

  • Constant research and adequately adapting to each platform’s tools, making sure to comply with the new tracking rules. (Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Facebook’s Aggregated Event Measurement, Google’s upcoming FLoC and FLEDGE, etc.)
  • Researching and adapting CDPs (Customer Data Platforms) to bring first-party data strategies unique for every brand while integrating them into their own strategies and systems.
  • Continued online monitoring to stay up-to-date with the latest privacy laws, researching and reviewing new tools introduced to the market that bring new opportunities for digital marketing, and implementing the ones that fit a specific business need.

Although everything discussed so far might seem a little complicated, we’ve barely started scratching the surface of all of the changes to come. If you want to learn how these changes will affect your business strategies and adequately adapt to the future, schedule a call with our team of experts!