Balancing targeted advertising in the age of digital privacy

When Apple announced it’s latest iPhone software operating system, iOS14, it went all in on privacy features. This is nothing new for the leading phone manufacturer, but Apple wants their customers to have greater control than ever over their information.

This is an admirable effort on Apple’s part, as businesses like Facebook and Google come under scrutiny for mismanaging user data. But how do the new features, which are already adopted by 25% of users, affect your ability to effectively market your business?

What has changed?
The new notification makes users more aware than ever of how their data is used across the internet, mostly for targeted advertising.

Normally, new features of a phone operating system wouldn’t mean much to businesses that aren’t involved in that ecosystem. But with Apple’s iOS14, which released on September 16, businesses that rely on targeted advertising and marketing are more affected than ever.

The new system will require apps to ask users to allow data to be tracked and saved to their unique online profile, most commonly used for targeted advertising.

Facebook went so far as to warn app developers that the new privacy changes will severely weaken its ability to track users and serve targeted ads. 

“Our ability to deliver targeted ads on iOS 14 will be limited…” Facebook said in a release. “As a result, some iOS 14 users may not see any ads from Audience Network, while others may still see ads from us, but they’ll be less relevant.”

Audience Network is Facebook’s system for utilizing the unique identifiers that phones create for their owners. They read that info and create a profile for ad targeting that can follow the user into other apps and services. This also helps Facebook build its audience data for paid ads in business manager, which has been a powerful tool for businesses to reach potential customers.

How immediate is the change?

The tracking features do still exist, as the operating system did not outright kill them. That unique identifier, called the IDFA (ID for advertisers) is still on a user’s iPhone. But the big change comes from iOS14 forcing apps to ask the user for permission to track. This weakens the potential effectiveness of the IDFA.

When given the choice, we can assume many users will refuse to allow apps to track their data. In 2020, the digital landscape is shaped by the ongoing struggle between privacy concerns of users, and the need for businesses to reach new audiences through targeted advertising.

So as more users come to adopt the OS and learn about the privacy features, the more people will inevitably opt out of data tracking within apps. Once an app is opened for the first time after the user updates their phone, they will see a pop-up that asks if they want to allow the app to save their data.

How should you adapt?

After Facebook put out its warning to developers, Apple decided to hold back some of the features until next year. The goal is to give app developers more time to adjust to the changes.

Users even have the ability to opt out of receiving targeted ads based on the profile stored on their phone.

It won’t be until 2021 that Apple forces all apps to warn users about the data tracking.

“We are committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them. To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year,” reads Apple’s developer note.

So if your business provides an app to customers on Apple’s App Store, you do have additional time to comply with the changes and develop your app around the idea that users can opt out of providing data.

But even if you don’t have an app, this change still heavily affects your business’ ability to reach new customers that are potentially prime to spend money with you. Should Facebook abandon its utilization of the IDFA, one of the largest sources of user data will be dampened.

Since this is a war of sorts between user’s concerns and advertisers’ need for data, it is important to remain sympathetic to the users. 

In the end, you likely have a level of concern for your digital privacy as well. Try to think about the things that you wouldn’t want data trackers to know. You can then build your targeted marketing campaigns to not be blatantly directed at the user.

You can still utilize the audience databases that exist, but avoid looking like you’re specifically targeting a single action or interest. This will all help maintain good will among privacy-minded customers.

It might also be beneficial to broaden the audiences that you target. If your business sells to mountain bikers, for example, you can keep your audience size large by including all kinds of bikers in your targeting. If the mountain bikers start opting out of data tracking, that audience will shrink within the ad networks. And the more people feel like ads are being forced upon them via hyper-specific targeting, the less they will trust you.

If your business values a balanced approach to targeted advertising and marketing, contact The Post and Courier Advertising today.