There is a war raging between Facebook and Apple, two of the biggest controlling forces in the targeted advertising space. The conflict has been building for months, and it is now in full swing, with both users and businesses caught in the middle.
The struggle is over Apple’s fight for user data privacy vs Facebook’s need to gather user data in order to help businesses deliver targeted ads. So let’s first break down the changes Apple has made that started this all.
Apple’s push for privacy
When the iPhone operating system iOS 14 released last fall, Apple doubled down on their continued efforts to ensure users that their personal data is protected on an iPhone. The company detailed an upcoming system that would force every available app to ask the user for permission to save their data.
Users have always had some level of control over their privacy on iphones, which continued to be the most sold smartphone in 2020, but this update made a large splash. Now, users would be presented with a large notification upon first opening an app that tells them they can deny the app any ability to track them. Surely most users would make the choice to protect their data.
This could have a strong, negative impact on businesses that rely on user data to help their social ads target the right audience.
There was such a strong initial pushback against the requirement that Apple decided to delay the enforcement of this feature until 2021 after its announcement in September 2020. And now that the feature has arrived on app-makers’ doorsteps, Facebook is scrambling.
Facebook’s campaign against Apple
Facebook’s fight against this change began with a series of announcements to users across its main app and its business manager platform.
The message read, “Apple has announced product and policy changes that may significantly impact the way you can run ads, measure performance, and engage customers.” It also linked to a blog update that laid out a more detailed response to Apple’s decision.
In a more reactionary section titled “Our Response”, Facebook said that they disagree with Apple’s approach, but they have no choice but to comply, or else Facebook will be blocked from the App Store. They claim that rejecting the policy and being blocked would “only further harm the businesses and users that rely on our services.”
Perhaps the most attention grabbing tactic Facebook has taken was placing multiple full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Washington Post. The second ad, titled “Apple vs. the free internet,” the tech giant aligned itself with the needs of small businesses and free ad-supported websites in an effort to appeal to readers.
Apple CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter to defend the company’s decision, saying “We believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used. Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before, App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.
How this affects your business
It needs to be made clear that both businesses wrapped up in this conflict are invested only for the financial impact these features have. Facebook clearly cares how much money businesses are willing to spend on utilizing Facebook’s swath of user data for targeted ads. And Apple is leaning into privacy features because it has become a major selling point for their products in recent years. It is perhaps their largest marketing push in the last year.
So while Facebook claims this campaign is being done in support of small businesses, this is clearly an appeal to the humanity of users. They want negative word of mouth to start spreading against Apple, in hopes that the feature gets rolled back.
But at the same time, nothing Facebook is claiming is false. This change does have the potential to decrease the reach and link clicks of businesses advertisements through the platform.
So in the end, it falls on your business to decide how you want to market yourself while this fight ensues. If the bulk of your marketing is done through facebook ads, it might be worth investing in other ad platforms that aren’t as impacted by Apple’s privacy feature. Some businesses are focusing more on their Android phone applications, as the Google Play Store is not presenting users with the same privacy notifications.
What’s important here is that businesses don’t need to pick a side. These are two major tech companies fighting to keep their marketing effective. Don’t get caught in the middle, just stay informed and find ways to shift your marketing efforts while users make their choice for either privacy or personalization. It truly could go either way.
To read more from us about balancing targeted ads in the age of digital privacy, check out our recent blog.