Today, online retailers have the ability to serve a variety of targeted ads across multiple channels. We run ads on platforms like Google, Bing, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Tik Tok. We run ads in browsers, on apps, TVs, tablets, and phones. Ads are run in different states and countries.
All ad networks are overseen or regulated by a person, a board, a company, a network, or a government agency.
These ad networks can be affected by government regulations, laws, and policies and the companies that own the browsers, like Google. Apps can be affected by the operating systems they run on, like Apple’s iOS14, or by ad network owners, like Facebook. All of these separate parties and interests are enforcing privacy-first practices, causing a layered and significant shift in digital advertising.
The companies advertisers partner with to run their advertising campaigns collect, store, procure and share data on their users. The data is collected through first-, second-, and third-party cookies and used to help build audiences. We use audience data to structure our campaigns and target users we believe will be most interested in our ads. User data also enables us to track performance. As digital advertising changes course away from individual user data to better align with widespread consumer privacy preferences, digital marketers will be navigating a fresh approach to targeting and measurement.
This blog will contextualize the history of privacy and how we've reached the current "privacy-first" landscape, as well as explain the actions digital marketers can take to adjust their strategies now and in the future.
A Brief History of the Privacy Landscape
Significant data breaches on major platforms led to billions of people's data being misused, mishandled, and stolen over the years. These data breaches helped shine a spotlight on the topic of data privacy and precisely the way customer data is collected, used, stored, and shared across the internet. The public response began to shape data privacy as an essential concern.
As a result, companies and governments started to adapt their policies to meet users' demands for privacy and transparent data sharing. Below is a high-level overview of the big events that have taken place in the last few years to address privacy concerns.
If you've been in the industry long enough, you've heard the term Intelligent Tracking Prevention or "ITP," which Apple put in place to prevent first-party cookies from acting like third-party cookies on interfaces, like Safari. This first iteration occurred back in 2017, and subsequent iterations were made to avoid industry workarounds.
Different government agencies also responded. The EU implemented GDPR in 2018, and California put CCPA into effect in January of 2020. In 2020, Google announced their plan to phase out third-party cookies and more recently took a public stance against individual tracking while also introducing the start of their privacy-first solutions.
In 2021, Apple released iOS14 which included a provision that required apps that run on iOS, such as Facebook, to allow users to opt-out of sharing their data. This software update will soon result in users being shown an App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt asking users to give explicit content for tracking upon opening an app. If you have a social account, you've probably heard the term ATT and iOS14 many times by now.
Privacy Timeline: Increasing Focus on Privacy Across Platforms and Laws
So Why Does It Matter?
While digital marketers think of Google in terms of Google Ads, it's important to remember they also own Chrome (where most ads are served). And while we think of Apple as the company that makes our phones and laptops, they also control the most popular App Store, and the policies they implement can affect the apps ads run on. For instance, Chrome and Facebook are often accessed via an iOS app on an Apple iPhone. As a result, they're going to need to abide by Apple's rules. Additionally, Google and Facebook rely on personal data for audience insights and remarketing, affecting a significant portion of the current ad delivery and measurement capabilities.
Industry Shifts: How Privacy Regulations will Affect Engines & Audiences
Here's a more detailed overview of the impact these privacy regulations will have on digital marketing channels and how platforms are responding:
- Google Ads’ remarketing audiences and similar audiences may decrease in size while current interest-based audiences that rely on 3P cookies will disappear. New audience options will become available, such as Google Privacy Sandbox’s FLoC and FLEDGE.
- The performance will likely fluctuate on iOS
- MSFT Ads’ remarketing will continue to function correctly as long as you can tag websites with the latest UET tag.
Display & Video
- Display programs’ specialized targeting will be heavily affected as audience options shrink
- Programmatic 3P audiences will need to pivot to new data collection methods
- GDA & MSAN audiences will shift in the same way they do for Search
- The loss of Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) may cause the size of Facebook’s website custom audiences, app custom audiences & retargeting audiences to decrease.
- The loss of access to longer attribution periods could lead to Facebook campaigns seeing longer learning phases.
- Facebook’s Ad accounts are limited to 8 conversion events (outside of page view).
- Facebook Conversions API will use advertiser’s 1st party data instead of relying on browsers’ data
- Pinterest has started to invest in first-party solutions to allow advertisers to continue to measure campaign performance
The most significant impacts will be on third-party audiences and channels that rely on specific data signals to perform, like Facebook and Programmatic Display. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with these changes. Digital marketers need to research data privacy changes to understand how they will impact their accounts.
What Can We Do Now To Prepare For A Future Without Third-Party Cookies?
Marketers should understand what's going on even if they don't know the ins and outs of every law and policy.
- Understand the latest laws & policies and how they apply to the data you're collecting
- Have your in-house dev team create opt-out options for website visitors and signal opt-out requests to ad networks
- 3rd party consent management system
- Use first-party data wisely
- Secure your data
- Find new ways to gather insights. Try geo-based experiments rather than cookie-based ones
- Optimize first-party data collecting with robust first-party tagging
- Incentivize data sharing - What value exchange will you facilitate with your customers to be trusted with data access? Start testing alternative solutions, like Google Privacy Sandbox & Data Clean Rooms
- Use contextual targeting
- Be ready to respond to change
What Can You Do to Make Your Website Privacy-Friendly?
It's essential to understand policies, obtain consent when collecting data, maintain transparency and be responsible with user data. You can do this in-house, or there are now third-party companies who can help your website stay up to date on compliance.
Looking into the future, we'll all need to use some creativity. You can be creative with how you find data insights without relying on third-party cookies, for example, using geo-based experiments like our Lift Mentality solution. Also, consider finding a new way to build your first-party data collection, which will be crucial when third-party data disappears.
Action to Take: Build a robust, incentivized first-party data collection strategy. This strategy includes steps you can take to drive customer loyalty.
Perhaps most importantly, remain flexible and continue adapting to change as marketers have done many times before. We're used to adjusting to changes in the visibility of data. Who remembers when we were able to see search query data at the order level? That ability is long gone! We learned how to shift our way of looking at the data to fill in the gaps. This change will be as prominent as other shifts we've experienced in the digital marketing world, but remember, we are all ushering in the necessary change to a privacy-first world together.
5 Privacy Tips You Can Use to Take Action Today
Do you want to learn more about the steps you can take to be compliant with the privacy-first landscape? Fill out the form to download our exclusive one-sheeter, with an interactive checklist, to learn what you can to further take action today!