For years third-party software marketers have used the infamous advertising cookie to track individuals’ online activity in order to tailor ads specifically to them based on their online behaviour. Privacy advocates have for a long time been averse to this practice as it is seen as a violation of privacy. Hearing their pleas, earlier this week Apple incorporated a new policy that can effectively kill the practice of third-party cookies. In a separate move, Google is also planning an update to its Chrome browser that will radically alter how ads are targeted on websites. These moves by both giants can derail the way companies have reached audiences and made money from ads since the early days of internet marketing.
What changes is Apple incorporating?
Apple now requires apps running on its devices to get consumer permission before tracking their activity on other apps and websites. The use of unauthorised third-party cookies is already banned on its Safari Web browser. Apple has justified its move by way of improving privacy.
Are third-party cookies banned for good? Not quite. Now, apps that want to track user behaviour for advertising on iPhones and iPads will have to prompt users to agree. This is referred to by Apple as App Tracking Transparency, or ATT.
Presumably, most people won’t want to opt in to being tracked. While this is beneficial to keep data private (As it should be), it could have a detrimental effect for advertisers. This may render ad campaigns less effective and potentially harder to measure.
What changes is Google incorporating?
On the other hand, Google is also making changes to how cookies behave on their browser, Chrome. Their answer to the privacy dilemma is what can be considered a “cookie alternative”. Google will now allow advertisers to continue targeting groups of consumers but will not give them access to an individual’s web history. While Apple may have taken what’s considered more of an extreme route, Google justifies it’s effort as a balancing act between privacy and the survival of Web Publishing, which depends on ads.
In essence, Google’s change lumps groups together for targeting. Advertisers can market to you based on the groups you’re in but they can’t market to you based on your individual behaviour. In trials, Google says, marketers converted their commercial messages to sales at 95% of the rate they did with the old cookie system. It is still unknown as to when the proposed changes, known as Federal Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), will be implemented.
These changes by Apple and Google will require digital marketers to be agile and change the way they do things, as old systems of targeting might not be as effective anymore. Hopefully, this can usher in a new age of advertising whereby individual’s privacy is not spared for the sake of profits. Implemented correctly, a future that involves ethical marketing in the digital space can benefit all parties involved.