Ad Privacy Updates – Do You Really Want This?

It is natural for consumers to be concerned about privacy. They want to have control over their digital footprint. We all want to have choices and feel safe when we’re online. Apple says “Privacy is a fundamental human right.” For internet and app users, it can be unsettling to think that their internet activity is being watched or monitored.

Ad privacy considerations are nothing new and it’s a controversial subject. It’s a tall order to define privacy and how it should be handled has been debated for a while. There are varying opinions and sides to the matter whether you’re a consumer, marketer, or tech company. After all, ad privacy is a big deal! 

There’s about to be a major change in the world of online privacy that’s going to quickly have an effect on a lot of things for consumers and businesses. 

What is changing for iPhone and iPad users?

If this change is pushed through (and it looks like it’s going to happen) mobile Apple users will have the choice to block the app from tracking their activity. Apple App Tracking Transparency will “request user authorization to access app-related data for tracking the user or the device.” When users open an app, they will be prompted to make a decision. Essentially, this updated privacy option asks users to say yes or no to having their behavior tracked and followed while using mobile apps. 

What Effect Will Updates to iOS Mobile User Ad Privacy Options Have?

These ad privacy updates are likely to be implemented in Spring 2020. With over 113 million iPhone users in the United States, Apple’s privacy option update is significant. It will have a major impact on users, marketers, and small businesses. Some of the implications and outcomes caused by the iOS privacy change can be predicted but others cannot. As a marketing agency, we are keeping a keen eye on these changes and paying close attention to client accounts because a noticeable change is inevitable. Businesses will have to make adjustments to their strategy as a result of this privacy update.

Consequences of the iOS Privacy Update

At some level, maybe the change sounds simple–Users decide if they want to be tracked or not. But, for many who may not fully understand what or how their behavior online is being tracked and what it is being used for this may cause frustrations. Irrelevant, unwanted, or bothersome content that isn’t as helpful to users will be displayed. Marketers will not have access to the same data. And, it will also force small businesses to adapt.

What Users Should Know About Their Data & Digitally Delivered Ads

It’s easy for consumers to think “I don’t want to see ads.” but realistically, consider that all of the media we consume has ads. 

Digital marketing ads are not going away. An individual user’s exact behavior data has been and will still be private. Understand that businesses nor the advertisers, who create and deliver ad content to user devices, have access to any single individual person’s private information. 

Advertisers cannot see names, dates, or other personal data. Therefore, users are not being ‘spied on’ when they’re online. Rather, consumer behaviors and interests are being generalized into data sets. This allows marketers to present content that’s relevant to individuals within those groups but markets cannot target any single specific person. That user data really improves the online experience for everyone. Users who choose to block tracking limit the ability of relevant content to be displayed on their device. 

Example: If Jane Doe has been to a website looking at shoes, she is obviously interested in shoes or is in the market for a new pair. It is a fact that marketers do not know that Jane Doe herself visited that particular website. A simple explanation of what happens is that Jane’s user behavior falls into a group of similar people interested in shoes. Since Jane is going to see ads anyway, she may as well see ads about shoes or with content that others interested in shoes also like. But if she blocks her data, she may see ads for more random things like beef jerky which grosses her out because she’s vegetarian!

What Will Happen Next?

There will be a domino effect. While users have a choice, the available data will be much more limited. The future will look like the past and the content displayed will be less relevant.  Again, everyone will have to adapt. 

Keep in mind that consumers have downloaded Facebook and other apps on their mobile devices and use them daily! These free apps rely on ad revenue to maintain.

Consumers Will Be Affected By Seeing Less Relevant Ad Content

As consumers, we don’t always recognize ads in our experience but know that ads are there and they aren’t going away. When marketing is being done well, relevant content that is helpful is presented and blends in with what consumers want or need. Ad content doesn’t distract consumers from their online experience but rather enhances it! 

Now, it does happen that there are less knowledgeable or inexperienced marketers who don’t set up their digital marketing ads correctly. It is noticeable and annoying for users when irrelevant content is served. Right now when this happens it’s likely that whoever set up the ads didn’t understand data or targeting but after the privacy update, many users will start noticing an increase in irrelevant ads.

Example: John Doe opts to not allow his iOS device to track his user data. Now he starts seeing a lot of content that he doesn’t care about and is not relevant or helpful to him. John asks himself “Why am I seeing all of this junk?!” and becomes annoyed. It also becomes harder for him to find the things he is looking for and his online experience has changed.

Marketing Agencies Will Be Affected By Limited Targeting Options

Digital marketing and digital marketing ads are not going away. While it is not the strategy of most small marketing agencies, there are always going to be aggressive marketers that try to force sales. However, as a digital marketing agency, it is our job to:

  1. Market information that solves consumer problems with products and services
  2. Help connect consumers to the businesses that can help them with their wants and needs

Successful digital marketing is done by being relevant and available with the right products and services for our audience of consumers when they need them. Not being able to narrow down audiences is extremely restricting for digital marketing. Remarketing will also become more challenging. There will be more guesswork involved in getting ads to the right audience and it may become a “spray and pray” ad world for a while.

Small Businesses Will Be Affected By Ad Costs

99% of businesses are considered small businesses. Now, user interests and needs are constantly changing. But at the same time, small business offerings and strategies around their products and services are constantly changing too. If options to reach their audience are reduced then ad targeting also suffers. It reduces the ability for businesses to meet their audience where they’re at. While some argue that these statistics are skewed, Facebook estimates that this will be a 60% cut in sales for small business owners. 

Also, less targeted ads mean placement will become more expensive and results will be affected. Small businesses will see fewer results from ad placement efforts. Facebook has already had to make some changes that have caused results to show less clearly. While we can look to Google Analytics for the full picture there are some additional attribution challenges that have yet to be realized.

It’s going to be even harder to get direct attribution. Remember 10 – 20 years ago when we only saw ads for really big brands? When it cost more only large companies are able to compete which widens the gap between rich and poor. Businesses may even be forced to spend their marketing dollars elsewhere. 

Apps Will Be Affected By Requiring Monthly Fees

Facebook and other popular apps will not be able to understand user behavior and what has been searched. With this technology update, when someone opts not to be tracked, again, apps will not be able to serve that user with relevant ad content.

There will be fallout for app developers. Apps survive by allowing ads to be placed on them. If marketers can’t target as much by placing relevant ads on relevant apps for their products and services, then the apps may be forced to start charging fees to continue providing their service. So, apps that could previously be downloaded and used for free will now require a monthly fee.

Especially for those who aren’t well-tuned into the marketing world, the implications of all these changes are bigger than what people can comprehend. Not only could some apps become extinct, but there will also be a socioeconomic impact that follows. It will affect what information people in different financial situations can afford to consume.

Example: Now Suzie Q can’t get a popular weather app on her phone for free because there’s not enough ad revenue needed to support and build it without charging users. She decides the monthly fee that’s charged is not something she can afford right now. 

Do You Really Want Complete Ad Privacy? 

Everyone loves to hate on Facebook right now. But, users already have every right to delete everything they have out there. If you think Apple is the “good guys”, consider that with this privacy change they will just own the data now. And it will globally affect everything online. 

While many will make a quick, perhaps feelings-based choice, it’s good to consider the benefits and the drawbacks of this privacy option update. It is a decision 50% of all iOS mobile users will likely have to make soon. Consumers and businesses should educate themselves. As consumers running and working at small businesses ourselves, it’s a decision we also have to make. 

Small businesses are resilient so they will adapt with creative solutions but their marketing strategies will have to change. One thing is for sure though, these changes will be substantial for everyone and the future of technology is always on its way!

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