Apple and Facebook have waged a very public sparring match over the IDFA since Apple announced changes to its ad target identifier last summer. Most recently, Facebook launched a campaign that argued the loss of the IDFA and personalized advertising will hurt small businesses. We cover the highlights of Facebook and Apple’s publicity war and how you can leverage the drama to prepare your mobile marketing strategy in the run up to Apple’s IDFA restrictions this spring.

A Timeline of the IDFA War of the Walled Gardens

June 2020: Apple Announces the Restriction of the IDFA 

At it’s annual developers conference, Apple announced that starting with iOS14, they would require advertisers to ask users for permission to use their IDFA under their ATT framework. As an alternative to the IDFA opt-in provided by the ATT framework, Apple also offered its own solution to attribution and ad measurement: the SKAdNetwork.

August - September 2020: Facebook Complains, Apple Postpones

Facebook made its first official public statement in reaction to Apple’s restrictions in a company blog post. The post noted that iOS 14 would hurt advertisers and make Facebook’s Audience Network program almost unusable. In September, Apple announced it would push back it’s IDFA changes to 2021.

December 2020: Facebook Launches a Print Offensive

In December, Facebook took out ads in major newspapers claiming Apple's changes would negatively affect small businesses.

Source: TechCrunch

In response, Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted a preview of the opt-out message. He included a caption that noted users should have a choice about how their data is used.

Source: Twitter

January 2021: The Trash Talk Heats Up

In Facebook's Q4 earnings call, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, called Apple a "competitor". Later in the month, Tim Cook responded by making negative reference to Facebook in a speech honoring Data Privacy Day. Cook said, "If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation ... then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform."

February 2021: Facebook Makes an Argument for Personalization

In the latest round of public sparring, Facebook launched a campaign titled "Good Ideas Deserve to Be Found". It argues that personalized ads are vital for small businesses looking to reach consumers.

Source: Facebook

The Tea (aka What Mobile Marketers Need to Know)

Here’s the tea: Facebook and Apple both claim a moral high ground in this situation, but in different ways; Apple as a defender of consumer privacy and Facebook as a champion of small businesses against large monopolies. How does this matter for you and your mobile marketing strategy?

The IDFA is Getting Nerfed, But Not Without a Fight

There have been rumors that Facebook is considering an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for its App Store practices. If pursued, the lawsuit would allege Apple abused its power in the smartphone market by forcing app developers to abide by App Store rules that Apple’s own apps don’t have to follow.

That said, the IDFA is still going away. But it’s going away amid growing antitrust troubles for both Facebook and Apple. Currently, Facebook faces a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit and Apple is facing one from the European Union.

Take Note as Google Reinforces its Wall

Not to be left out amidst the walled garden sparring, Google also announced last week it will stop allowing the targeting of ads based on individuals’ browsing history across its advertising products.

Google’s blog notes that it will not build alternative identifiers to track individuals on Chrome or its third party ad products (DV360, Google Ads and Campaign Manager). That said, it makes no mention of its own use of tracking on Android apps, YouTube or on any of its other owned-and-operated properties or services, such as Search, Maps and Gmail. Basically, Google does not directly mention a plan to curb its own ability to track users across its own services. YouAppi CEO, Moshe Vaknin, notes that this makes strategic sense, as YouTube and search ads are massively lucrative for Google:

“Apple has always made it clear they want subscriptions to drive commerce and transactions on their platform. On the other hand, Google has always been more of a media company, as opposed to a device-driven one. Marketing is in Google’s DNA and search is a huge revenue-driver for them. Any move towards device ID removal will likely be less drastic than Apple’s decision even if they do ultimately follow suit in some form or another and make further moves to protect user privacy.”

The Consumer Privacy Trend is Catching

As we’ve previously predicted, mounting data restrictions in the name of the “public good” will continue to accelerate as we move into an age marked by collectivism and the use of data to increase transparency.

As you craft your IDFA opt-in strategy, keep an eye out for ways to adapt it for GAID which you should expect will require opt-in in the near future.Take strides to uphold consumer privacy in your data strategy, above and beyond what might be legally required at this moment. That is, create policies that are “consumer-first” and highlight the use of innovation to enhance transparency and accountability.

Facebook’s Argument for Personalization As #Inspo

A constructive application of Facebook and Apple’s sparring match is Facebook’s very public argument for ad targeting that helps users receive relevant advertising. Still looking for ways to communicate to users the value of opting in to sharing their IDFA? Take a page from Facebook and make an argument for personalization.

In the past, half of US internet users have claimed they would like to receive personalized content from companies in the form of product recommendations related to their interests. Dynamic creative optimization (DCO), or dynamically changing ads served to individual users based on real-time data, has shown impressive results. Based on our own internal creative testing for e-commerce campaigns, DCO results in at least a 30% performance lift.

As you build out your opt-in notification strategy, inform your users about the benefits of sharing their IDFA. Remember that 70% of consumers are open to opting-in for a tailored ad experience. Show the value of curation in the brave new world of impersonal, non-targeted advertising.

Who Will You Be in the Data Privacy Revolution?

If Facebook and Apple’s spat has revealed anything, it’s the need to define your app’s identity in the brave new world of data restrictions.

In the words of Tim Cook: “The path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.” Rather than take a side in the ongoing spat between Facebook (pro small business), Apple (pro consumer privacy) and Google (pro Google), how can you honor all in your advertising strategy going forward?

  • Data Privacy Concerns Are Here To Stay. Data privacy suspicions and calls for greater security measures by Big Tech will continue. Exemplify a “consumer-first” attitude in all that you do.
  • Make the Case for Curation in the New Age of Impersonal Advertising. Remember that 70% of consumers are open to opting-in for a tailored ad experience. Show the value of curation in the brave new world of impersonal, non-targeted advertising.