The Apple Popup that’s about to Torpedo the Online Ad Industry

Is Apple about to ruin everything for the digital ad agency? Judging by the collective gasp from agencies and marketers during Apple’s recent WWDC2020 Keynote event, something big just happened. That “thing” is the privacy feature announced during the event for the upcoming iOS14, explains Anupam Chugh in Medium.

“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,” Chugh writes. “No user in their right consciousness would look to opt-in for personalized ads considering it’s used for monetization purposes.

“This makes Apple’s own IDFA obsolete as advertising agencies can’t use it to precisely retarget a specific user,” Chugh continues, although he notes that apps running on the iPhone would still be able to track ads.

Back in April Basecamp’s founder David Heinemeier Hansson suggested to Congress that the solution to consumer backlash over ad targeting is to simply ban targeted digital ads.

“If companies couldn’t use our data to target ads, they would have no reason to gobble it up in the first place, and no opportunity to do mischief with it later,” wrote Gilad Edelman in Wired describing Hansson’s testimony before Congress. “From that fact flowed a straightforward fix: ‘Ban the right of companies to use personal data for advertising targeting.’”

Meanwhile, Apple went ahead and made it the user’s choice… a rather stunning example of how tech can enhance consumer choice when it wants to.

User tracking is the fuel that keeps the digital ad industry running; as consumers push back the current model is at serious risk of collapsing. Digital ad giants Facebook and Google can’t be happy about this either; both are billions deep into the need for consumer tracking. And where Apple goes, Google probably needs to follow or risk losing more Android customers to Apple and their pro-privacy stance.

“But being the most popular mobile ecosystem gives [Apple] leverage over others to come up with such masterful strokes,” Chugh concludes. “They’ve given the world hope for an ad-free privacy-focused future which will surely win the hearts of consumers all over the world.”

For brands, it’s time for a reckoning on how those dollars are being spent. We know the industry is rife with fraud and waste; and now consumers can act on their stated preference to not be tracked. So while digital ads will continue to be cheap and easy, their value will continue to plummet.

Meanwhile, marketers are rediscovering the true value of printed ads, especially in trusted magazine media. This move by Apple only makes the case stronger. So thanks, Apple, for doing the right thing. The ad industry will survive, innovate and evolve like they always do. And maybe it might even grow up.