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Privacy setting's impact on ad tracking across mobile devices

iPhone Privacy Settings for Marketers

Nikki Wallen

iPhone Users Are Opting Out.

iPhone users may or may not know, but within Privacy Settings, there is a section called “Advertising” that gives you the option to toggle ad tracking on or off. In this article we explore why users may choose to disable ad tracking and the impact on targeting efficiency for marketers.

At first glance, it may be tempting to some users who experience ongoing ad fatigue, to disable their ad tracking in hopes that this removes their device from receiving future ad impressions. However, in reality, Apple States: “Opt out of receiving ads targeted to your interests. You may still receive the same number of ads, but the ads may be less relevant to you.” From a marketer’s perspective, if you’re going to be forced to see advertisements across your web and app browsing experiences, why would you not want the offers to reflect interests and categories that you care about?

We live in an age where there is a lot of fear around data sharing and online privacy, the volume of misinformation available to consumers certainly doesn’t help. A report from Pew Research shares some grave insights. “4,727 U.S. adults were polled with a straightforward, 10-question test. It checked for basic knowledge about phishing, online advertising, and cookies. Only 20% of people answered 7 of 10 questions correctly. Just as devastating? Only 2% of people got all 10 questions right.” If no one understands how their data is being used, there’s no wonder why fear continues to fuel many iPhone users’ data sharing decisions.

Virtually every programmatic platform offers some level of first-party targeting functionality, some more robust than others. For example, Google offers a broad range of affinity, behavioural, and interest-based segments that advertisers can choose freely, based on a campaign’s unique requirements. This data is amassed in real-time from the billions of searches, website visits, and online actions that occur every second around the world. Just by conducting your everyday online activities, you are providing valuable data points that fuel and shape advertising strategy and efficiency.

One point to consider is that by limiting ad tracking, you are not preventing your internet service provider, or search engine of choice, from passively observing your online behaviour. Though the plan to sunset the widespread use of cookies online has been announced, targeting strategy, for now, is still heavily centered around the access to first-party audiences across channels.

Just how detrimental has iPhone’s option to disable ad tracking been on the marketing industry at large? This point is heavily debated. Marketers might instead focus on opportunities to leverage internal data (mailing lists, CRMs, etc) or opt for pricier third-party data, if they are concerned about targeting accuracy.  

In conclusion, though the world has shifted to honour an individual user’s data privacy rights much more so than say, a decade ago, we still have some work to do to ensure that reliable information is available to both marketers and consumers alike. In the meantime, if you are an iPhone user, we encourage you to explore your privacy options.

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