Trackin’ Ain’t Easy
Senate hearings regarding social media, enterprise data breaches and mistrust of technology organizations have led to a cultural conversation regarding data. How is “my” data being used by companies to track and sell products to me? What sort of behavior do these companies have on hand about my behavior?
Since many consumers are unaware to what degree they are identifiable to a marketer, a desire for transparency and knowledge has become more important to both consumers and technology organizations. Industry-wide changes and major announcements from Google and Apple continue to impact marketers’ views on their advertising effectiveness, requiring even more nuance when measuring performance.
Since 2017, Apple has deployed and expanded upon an increasingly rigorous Safari tool, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). This tool was originally launched to control 1st- and 3rd-party tracking on a user’s browser, limiting the amount of data that is knowingly or inadvertently shared with parties other than the site. By default, Safari blocks 3rd-party tracking and only allows 1st-party cookies that are used for session browsing (keeping a user logged in, for example). These cookies were originally deleted by Safari after 30 days of disuse. Various workarounds have been developed by technology companies (Google, Facebook) to measure their own attribution through 1st-party cookies that have functionality similar to 3rd-party tracking cookies. This in turn resulted in the Apple’s newest iteration of ITP, which shortens the length of a cookie to be stored for only 24 hours. This has led to a shortened conversion window, which drastically limits the attributable conversion window for a digital ad campaign. Interactivity with websites that have Facebook widgets integrated into site experience requires a user to log back into their social account if the specific domain has not been visited in 24 hours.
Google’s roadmap states that sometime within this year, the tech giant will formally stop accepting any tracking outside of their proprietary Privacy Sandbox. This will minimize the volume and usage of 3rd-party cookies and will bolster the usage of their own 1st-party data sets. The Privacy Sandbox attaches a unique ID for advertisers to monitor delivery and conversions.
With a move towards transparency and a decrease in the importance of the cookie, the major technology players (Apple, Google, Facebook, etc.) are positioning themselves to be more valuable within their own walled gardens. For example, within the Google platform, the click will have more importance in diagnostic measurement than it has in the past 10 years, favoring the performance weight for the Google-dominated paid search landscape. Any platform that weighs performance on the last-click sales (Amazon, Walmart) will paint a picture of performance that will likely not consider the wider world of the in-market media mix.
The only permanent theme in the world of media seems to be impermanence. Shifting regulations, both state and federal, as well as tracking methodology changes will continue to keep marketers and their advertising counterparts on their toes – you can bet on that.