Experience TV episode 13: Mobile data privacy featuring Gadi Eliashiv

October 11, 2021 | 6 minute read
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Welcome to Experience TV, a live show on social channels about the economic revolution we’re living through—the Experience Economy—where brands compete on the quality of their customer experiences.

Here you’ll find the replay of our latest episode and all resources mentioned within. Follow me, Katie Martell—on TwitterLinkedIn, or the show’s Facebook page—to catch future episodes.

Episode 13 features my very special guest, Gadi Eliashiv, CEO and co-founder of Singular, as we discuss user data on mobile devices and how that data is kept private.

Watch below and read on for a few takeaways.

The state of ad tracking on mobile devices

Approximately 47% of US smartphone users have an iPhone. That’s more than 113 million users, giving Apple the highest market share in this country for both the iPhone and iOS operating system. This year, the company announced there are now more than 1 billion active iPhones in use. And as smartphones become the norm, so has targeted advertising on these devices.

Recent changes from Apple and other entities have thrown the advertising world into a bit of chaos as our industry balances tracking and measurement with user privacy. In this episode, we took a closer look at the current state of ad tracking and what these changes mean for digital advertisers.

Long live the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA)

Last June, Apple announced a new operating system: iOS 14 for iPhones and iPads. The release essentially killed off its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a device used by mobile marketers to attribute ad spend and track what’s most relevant for users.

As John Koetsier in Forbes writes, this was Apple’s “shot across the bow” of the $80B mobile app industry.

“The IDFA is dead,” he says. “Long live the IDFA.”  

Previously, the IDFA was mostly hidden for users in the settings app. Now, with the new version of iOS, every app has to ask the user up front for permission to share their data with third parties. If the user says no, advertisers lose access to the data.

Apple’s privacy priority

This change marks a key part of Apple’s messaging as it seeks to differentiate through its position on privacy. Watch the company’s latest ad about user privacy, highlighting the many ways the apps we use gather and share data about us:

This message is consistent with how Tim Cook has described the privacy situation:

Tim Cook tweet on privacy

Quote of the week: Steve Jobs in 2010

These messages are also consistent with what Apple has been saying for years, including its previous fearless leader, Steve Jobs, at the All Things Digital Conference:

“I believe people are smart and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.”

Jobs’ quote gives insight into Apple’s perspective as it’s taken steps regarding privacy in the decade since.

Will these changes related to privacy hurt businesses?

Currently, only 4% of US consumers using iOS 14 are opting in to have brands track their data for ad targeting. So, to put it mildly, the impact of this privacy change will be felt across the business world.

Original research from IAB helps clarify the possible repercussions of Apple’s IDFA measures. According to IAB, “Tracking is integral to a multi-billion-dollar economic system employing hundreds of thousands of people. [And] it makes much of the content of the web free.”

They estimated that if tracking data were lost today, publisher ad revenues and associated employment will fall by an average of 50%.

Verticals impacted by Apple’s privacy changes:

  • News and information publishers would lose $5.3 billion in revenue.
  • Multi-genre content publishers like Viacom, Hearst, News Corp, and Disney stand to lose $9.4 billion from advertising that benefits from tracking.
  • Specialized research and user-generated-content publishers like Yelp, Angie’s List, etc. would lose approximately $870 million in revenue.
  • Music streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartMedia could lose $1.4 billion in revenue.
  • Streaming game sites like Activision Blizzard, EA, Zynga, and Ubisoft would lose half a billion in revenue from advertising that benefits from the existing tracking methods.

US independent publishers and companies reliant on open web tech would lose between $32 and $39 billion in annual revenue by 2025. Read the full IAB report for more information.

The interview: Gadi Eliashiv, CEO and co-founder of Singular

I was so glad to have Gadi on the show to help us clarify what this means for digital advertisers and how to navigate our first-party data future. Watch our full interview (starting at 11:05 in the video above) for his complete advice, and be sure to dig into Singular's resources on this topic.

Some takeaways from our conversation:

  • This is about measurement. Gadi co-founded Singular in 2014 to help marketers make sense of their data, measurement, and ROI. What’s going on with iOS and third-party cookies is a critical part of understanding marketing effectiveness. Investing in digital with data that is less reliable puts marketers at risk.
  • Learn from the creators of Angry Birds. Rovio, a leading gaming publisher known for its Angry Birds brand, knew this shift to privacy for Apple would fundamentally change how they ran and measured iOS campaigns. The company pivoted early, in the spring of 2019, to invest in what Gadi calls “this new paradigm” rather than finding workarounds later. Read more at Singular’s website.
  • You may need a PhD. Gadi jokes that it can feel like you need a PhD to acquire customers on mobile. Apple’s privacy limitations have put the onus on marketing teams to become more sophisticated, investing in data science teams and technology to build more advanced models to predict if a certain user will convert.
  • Cover the basics. If you’re not already leveraging the new APIs available from Apple to support your reporting, it’s time to do so. For example, can you tell how many installs you have or how much money you’ve spent? Gadi recommends marketers not reinvent the wheel—there’s much to be learned from brands currently navigating these waters. One of the most common misconceptions: how much it takes to make mobile measurement actually work, at scale.
  • Martech and adtech coming together. Gadi believes the biggest impact of these privacy changes is that companies are now forced to reconfigure how they think about their data. In the past, he says, maybe you had a data management platform (DMP), a customer data platform (CDP), and a different system for running your analytics. Now, technology is forcing teams to unify that. Apple’s new API, for example, only provides one instance and a 24-hour window to understand the value of a user. Your systems need to come together and speak the same language.

    Read more from Oracle on the convergence of adtech and martech to create a seamless customer journey.
  • Embrace change and be agile to survive. Gadi’s take on what it’s like to be in marketing technology right now: “If you’ve seen the movies Inception or Dr. Strange, there's usually a scene where suddenly the gravity shifts and the person is running on the walls, or the universe changes and the buildings move around. That's what it feels like being in the MarTech space right now, and Apple is the one controlling the world. So, we plan and plan and plan on some new release, and then they make an iteration and it changes. It’s not a bad thing; it’s exciting. But you’ve got to embrace it and be agile to survive.”

More resources on this topic

Katie Martell

Katie Martell is the host of Experience TV, a show about the economic revolution we’re living through, the Experience Economy. She is known as an “unapologetic marketing truth-teller,” a LinkedIn Top Voice in Marketing, and "one of the most interesting people in B2B marketing.” Her forthcoming documentary and book, "Woke-Washed," examines the collision of social movements and marketing, and she is the author of "Trust Me, B2B," a short book about building long-term trust. Follow her on Twitter @KatieMartell and subscribe to The World’s Best Newsletter at Katie-Martell.com.

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