Retargeted advertising—connecting with consumers who previously visited your website or mobile app—is one of the most obvious ways digital data is used to power internet ads, but recent privacy updates to Apple have put them in danger, and the companies that live to retarget are trying to figure out what to do next.
Constellation Agency, a marketing technology agency, is one of those companies. “You actually have lost all retargeting capabilities,” says Diana Lee, CEO and co-founder of Constellation Agency.
At least, the old way of retargeting is over, Lee says. The classic retargeting tactics relied on the old infrastructure of the internet, like device IDs and cookies, which are increasingly being phased out by Apple and Google. Brands used to be able to build persistent profiles on consumers based on what they did on their websites, and then hit them with ads elsewhere online for the same clothes or groceries they just browsed.
With that method losing its effectiveness, Constellation has tapped into one of the workarounds by promoting “immersive” ads on Facebook and Instagram that let consumers interact with products directly in the ad unit, as if they were a brand’s own website, thereby collecting the same data to retarget ads.
“People believe in digital retailing on a website,” Lee says, “but with the ‘cookieless’ future and iOS 14 changes, interest data from websites are going away.”
In April, Apple implemented anti-tracking policies in an iPhone iOS 14 software update, which forced apps to ask users to track their device activity. If users opt out, then the apps do not get access to what’s known as the Apple Identifier for Advertisers, which is a code associated with each device that is used by ad tech companies like Constellation Agencies to target, retarget and measure the effectiveness of ads.
There has not been any official number released from Apple or major apps like Facebook that confirm exactly how many users agree to be tracked, but Lee and others say the opt-in rate is exceedingly low. (Lee cites widely accepted industry stats from Flurry Analytics in May that claimed that 96% of people opt-out of tracking, though there have been multiple reports that offer varying degrees of consent, and every app has a different rate of consent.)
What is clear is that advertisers large and small are having more difficulty targeting ads; and there are fewer conversions where consumers take actions on those ads, like making a purchase or downloading a game.
Facebook is one of the sites where the effect on advertisers is most pronounced. Facebook is so large, with more than 10 million advertisers using its automated ad manager system, that any changes are more visible.
Jesse Pujji, co-founder of Ampush, a marketing technology platform, is one of those Facebook advertising specialists who is feeling the effects of Apple’s new rules.
In a recent Twitter thread, Pujji presented a hypothetical scenario about a consumer on Facebook, he called “Sara.” “Before iOS 14.5+, Facebook could track ‘Sara’ from her clicks on an ad to her specific activity on a brand’s site, store this data, and continue to collect, building up a database on Sara’s patterns. Now what happens when Sara opts out of tracking,” Pujji said.