Apple’s decision to limit cookie tracking upends targeted mobile advertising

The repercussions of Apple’s recent decision to limit cookie tracking on the new Safari 11 browser will be felt by all advertisers across mobile.

With cookie data restricted after 24 hours and purged after 30 days, Apple’s intelligent tracking prevention (ITP) means marketers’ ability to deliver targeted campaigns is hampered.

In the United States, where Safari accounts for more than half the mobile browser market, ITP has produced a strong reaction, with six trade associations from the digital advertising community having published an open letter objecting to the development.

Cookie crumbles

On the surface this is about advertising, and Apple putting pressure on the advertising ecosystem formed around its rival, Google. But when the trade associations wrote, “The infrastructure of the modern Internet depends on consistent and generally applicable standards for cookies,” they touched on the real war being fought, of which ITP is the latest battle.

The sustainable strategic advantages lie in the widespread use of proprietary unique persistent identifiers. Whoever scales its identifier can lay claim to a large slice of “the infrastructure of the modern Internet” and the benefits that will bring.

But GAFA – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – are not the only industry players with access to valuable identifiers.

Mobile network operators (MNOs) – the sleeping giants sitting on a telecoms market worth more than $1 trillion – have their own massively scaled mobile identifiers: billions of them, matched against real customers with real billing relationships at their root.

Apple’s announcement could be just the trigger MNOs need to make use of their own identifiers.

So, what makes identifiers the key currency of the digital advertising world, and, in an era of global data protection regulations, how can wireless carriers take advantage of Apple’s decision?

Value of identity

In an increasingly competitive landscape, brands depend on accurate and current consumer profiles to deliver relevant, personalized messaging.

Continuous consumer interaction with digital technology produces vast amounts of valuable information about who they are, what they are interested in, and how they behave, but to be used for effective targeting, each piece of data must be linked back to the consumer using some form of identifier.

Propriety persistent IDs – which are embedded directly into a device operating system (OS) or formed from registration based log-in data – are a more effective identifier than the traditional cookie in today’s mobile-first world.

The dominant propriety persistent IDs in the market are owned by Google, Facebook and Apple, allowing these companies to offer brands precisely targeted advertising opportunities. Anyone hoping to rival these ad-tech giants must have equally powerful persistent IDs at their disposal.

Publishers are already throwing their hat into the identifier ring.

In France, more than 20 publishers have banded together to challenge the “duopoly” of Facebook and Google, while Germany’s Verimi data platform initiative includes heavyweights Axel Springer, Lufthansa, Deutsche Bank and Allianz.

But it is hard to see how these publisher-driven models are anything more than walled gardens that will find it hard to scale beyond their members.

MNOs hold a wealth of first-party data

Mobile operators are uniquely placed to offer an alternative to the ad-tech giants as they have an abundance of deterministic first-party data that is verified with the customer.

More than three-quarters (77 percent) of U.S. citizens now own a smartphone – which are consistently switched on and always to-hand – providing a wealth of granular data relating to location and context, alongside more traditional demographic and behavioural information, all linked back to a persistent device ID.

Verizon’s acquisition of AOL and Yahoo, and the creation of Oath, is a signal of the potential that some MNOs see in the combination of identifiers and data attributes.

By making use of this in-depth, real-time data, brands can be far more creative with their advertising campaigns, reaching the right audience at the right moment with insightful, relevant and personalized messaging that builds enduring consumer relationships.

Challenges of data privacy and control

But making use of this mobile data to offer targeted advertising is not without its challenges, and there are two key obstacles for MNOs to overcome, the first of which is privacy.

While brands and advertisers increasingly understand the power and value of data, so do consumers, and the call for personal information to be protected grows ever louder.

High-profile data breaches – such as the recent Equifax scandal, which exposed the data of up to 143 million U.S. consumers – dramatically illustrate the need for data protection measures, and new privacy laws such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will have a global impact on data monetization practices.

The second issue faced by MNOs is one of control.

To achieve the scale necessary for effective monetization, their data must be combined with information from other providers and released to advertisers via the open ecosystem. But in taking this path, MNOs risk losing control of their data and diluting its value.

Dynamic de-identification is the answer

To capitalize on the valuable information they hold, without jeopardizing customer privacy, falling foul of data laws or losing control of their data, MNOs need ad-tech solutions that help them make the most of their persistent identifiers.

One possible solution is dynamic de-identification, which takes persistent IDs and converts them into non-persistent tokenized IDs.

Unlike persistent, dynamically changing identifiers make it impossible to identify the data subject, called “unlinkability.” They also allow proportional use of data where only the level of data attributes necessary for a specific task is revealed.

When MNO data is transformed into hyper-accurate verified profiles that are linked to tokenized IDs, it can be used for accurate targeting across multiple channels and devices without the raw customer data attached to a persistent ID ever leaving the MNO’s secure network environment.

As the data cannot be linked to individuals, its use remains compliant with data regulations, and is likely to be more acceptable to customers, providing the process is clearly outlined in conversations with them.

The need for detailed consumer profiles to inform relevant personalized advertising experiences continues to grow – especially now that Apple is effectively making the cookie obsolete – and MNOs are ideally placed to fulfil that need.

By joining forces with ad-tech vendors and moving away from persistent IDs, MNOs could create a mobile identity ecosystem to rival the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook, while remaining compliant with privacy laws, building consumer trust and retaining control of their valuable raw data.

Source: luxurydaily.com; 13 Oct 2017

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