Ad Industry Invites Apple to the Table on IDFA Usage

Apple’s much-talked-about iOS 14 was supposed to include a major advancement for user privacy… and it was poised to have a massive impact on the digital ad industry.

“When iOS 14 rolls out to the public this fall, users would be greeted with a dialog that asks them to ‘Allow Tracking’ or ‘Ask App Not To Track’ their ad identifiers,” wrote Anupam Chugh in Medium in July. “No user in their right consciousness would look to opt-in for personalized ads considering it’s used for monetization purposes.”

Users may have been looking forward to this… but the ad industry wasn’t so keen on the idea. Facebook called out the idea as bad for publisher revenue on its platform.

“Ultimately, despite our best efforts, Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14,” read the post from Facebook.

For their part, Apple made a concession on the rollout of the privacy upgrade, saying developers would have at least through the end of the year to comply. Meanwhile, the ad industry is calling Cook to come to the table, in an open letter requesting an “urgent meeting to ensure we use that additional time to launch a collaborative process to address widespread questions and concerns around those upcoming changes.”

“The cross-industry Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media sent the letter to Cook today as a first public invitation from the industry to work with Apple since it announced changes to its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA),” writes Omar Oakes in Campaign.

“The IDFA is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device,” Oakes continues. “Advertisers use this to track data so they can deliver customized advertising, but the new iPhone software iOS 14 will require users to opt-in to tracking, which means that the IDFA will be present only for users that explicitly opt-in. The expectation is that the percentage of those users who do opt-in will be relatively low.”

Low enough that the ad industry is rightfully scared, having used — and too often abused — user data for far too long to take a sudden turnabout now.

“Without immediate engagement in a cross-industry dialogue,” the letter continues, “we believe the proposed changes could have a negative impact on both consumers and businesses, as iPhone and iPad users risk losing access to many popular ad-funded apps, news organizations and other publishers are starved of a vital source of revenue during the current economic crisis, vibrant ad-supported innovation and competition withers, and critical functionality grinds to a halt across the advertising supply chain.”

Sounds dire. And it very well could be. Yet the genie is out of the bottle on this, folks. Consumers are fed up, not just from the constant tracking and creepy retargeting but the lack of transparency in how their data is used.

Consumers are all intelligent creatures for the most part, and are willing to pay for the things they value … we have become a culture of subscribers. Brands and marketers would do well to figure out how to value their commodity high enough so that users will gladly opt-in.

The bar has been raised. And while it might be a good idea for Cook to sit down and talk, especially to help developers adequately work with the new regulations, we hope iPhone users don’t come out on the wrong end of this deal.