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Apple privacy moves spur businesses to rethink digital ads, newsletters

Posted by Kanika Sinha

July 12, 2021

In a move framed as giving iPhone and iPad users broader control over privacy, Apple has rolled out new features that have sent the digital advertising ecosystem into upheaval.

Apple first roiled the digital-ad industry by curbing in-app tracking with its App Tracking Transparency program or ATT, which took effect April 26 and requires users be asked for permission in order to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies.

More recently, the tech giant unveiled its Mail Privacy Protection or MPP initiative at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, which is expected to create severe disruptions for email newsletter publishers and email marketers when it is released with iOS 15.

What ATT and MPP change

App Tracking Transparency: This privacy setting effectively restricts apps from collecting information from iPhone and iPad users and then sharing it across apps and websites owned by other companies without their consent. While tracking previously transpired by default, now app developers must get users’ permission. The change hasdecimated the revenue stream for advertisers, app developers and measurement companies that came to rely on granular user data. In particular, digital advertisers count on selling targeted advertising, but they can’t use existing ad attribution and event methods to compile behavioral and device data for users who opt out.

Mail Privacy Protection: This feature restricts senders from using invisible pixels within emails to collect and track information about the recipient. MPP helps users to mask their IP address, location as well as hide whether they opened a particular email.

In the email newsletter and email marketing industries, it is standard practice to employ hidden pixels that gauge subscriber behavior and tag their campaign performance. MPP deprives them of this quintessential metric they rely on for selling advertising to businesses. And as more users embrace this anti-tracking feature, it will hold broader ramifications for email newsletter publishers, advertisers, email marketers and ad-tech companies.

Few Apple users are opting in to tracking  

Apple’s ATT initiative has put a crimp in Facebook's ad models by effectively negating the ability to track users beyond the app. According to recent data collected by analytic app firm Flurry, only 7% of iOS users have opted in to being tracked online.

With the de facto leader of online advertising already feeling the heat from ATT, the newsletter industry is now jittery about Apple’s latest privacy setting, the MPP.

Additionally, Apple dominates the email ecosystem, with 60% of all email accounts opened in its software. This makes changes triggered by MPP all the more significant for every player in the advertising world, including publishers and agencies.

What’s ahead for digital publishers

Whether it spells the end of online advertising or something else is uncertain, but Apple’s recent decisions are likely to usher in a wave of innovation in the industry. Many advertisers are already shifting their spending toward Android device users, and prices for ads targeting iOS users have fallen.

The ATT initiative has spurred online advertisers to hit the reset button and come up with a strategy that will allow them to thrive without unfettered access to users’ data at its core.

The same goes for ad-based newsletters post-MPP. With their traditional benchmark gone and no open rates available, publishers will need to transition away from user-centric models to find new metrics to understand their audiences and alternative analytics solutions to measure the ad performance.

In the wake of these disruptions, some businesses are reconsidering their advertising spend. A number are planning to hold back altogether until another effective way to measure the results of their campaigns is available.


Kanika Sinha
Kanika Sinha

Kanika is an enthusiastic content writer who craves to push the boundaries and explore uncharted territories. With her exceptional writing skills and in-depth knowledge of business-to-business dynamics, she creates compelling narratives that help businesses achieve tangible ROI. When not hunched over the keyboard, you can find her sweating it out in the gym, or indulging in a marathon of adorable movies with her young son.

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