Peter Koczak is YouAppi’s Director of Partnerships in the EMEA region. In this blog post he discusses the effects of recent data privacy trends via legislation (GDPR) and private sector initiatives (ATT) in Europe and how they both enhance individual’s data security and obscure the conversation about what it really means to have privacy in apps.
Is Europe Leading the Way in Data Privacy or is it Just a Delusion?
As a proud citizen of the EU, I tend to view things from a bubble. I like to think that we Europeans take data privacy more seriously than the rest of the world, however that statement is borderline ignorant, if not outright arrogant. True, GDPR was the first of its kind to at least address a concern that has never been addressed before. One could only hope that it’s not our last attempt because, in practice, GDPR is equivalent to ‘Reject All’ for all data processing activities, so there is definitely room for improvement.
Initiatives from both the private sector (for example, ATT) and governmental bodies (CCPA) clearly show that the world, in fact, cares about all these challenges. It feels like this is just the beginning though. It’s all going to get a lot more complicated from here. As it should, because there is no simple answer to the complex questions of data privacy, autonomy and individuals’ rights; especially as we march towards an evermore digitized world.
On the one hand, as a consumer, I embrace these changes and opt-out of things that can be opted out of. On the other hand, as a marketer, I understand that it’s not as simple as companies or government agencies would like us to believe. Sometimes I catch myself giggling when I see Apple’s ads about privacy related features. The super simplified message doesn’t even allow the consumer to think about the real meaning of privacy in apps. Is taking away the advertising ID really making our devices safer? I don’t think anyone could answer this question with a clear yes or no just yet.
Context is Key
I debate a lot about whether hyper targeted ads will actually have a decisive effect on my shopping habits or not, but ultimately my answer is no, they won’t. A contextually targeted ad is more likely to make me “convert” and I truly believe that is the approach every marketer should take. At Reappi, I have the privilege to shape, contribute and fine tune the method that allows us to target users while respecting their privacy with or without advertising IDs.
So what is it that we, as consumers really should demand from these legislations and directives? I would love to see a framework where companies are encouraged to cater to cohorts of users and not specifically to just one user. That is where I feel we have the edge in Europe as it’s possible to harmonize data protection laws of more than 400 million potential users efficiently.
Contextual Targeting in a Privacy-Driven Landscape
In the increasing absence of device IDs, it’s critical advertisers shift their focus away from user-based behavioral targeting (user information collected from past interactions). Instead, they should pivot to what cohorts of users are consuming in the present moment. This is the contextual targeting approach to advertising.
While many data processing abilities have been curbed, mobile marketers can still leverage probabilistic attribution and contextual targeting signals to create relevant ad experiences. As noted above, these methods allow us to target users while respecting their privacy with or without their advertising IDs.
- Probabilistic Attribution: Through probabilistic attribution, advertisers can assign campaign membership probabilities to a user based on attributes, behaviors, and anonymous user-level in-app data. On iOS, SKAd postbacks containing campaign ID, source app ID and conversion value can also supplement this data; as well as, ad network-reported data showing installs, impressions and spend.
- Contextual Signals: Contextual signals indicate to marketers what kind of ad creative to deliver within the context of the app. This is based on anonymized user behavior data and device-based contextual signals. These signals include the strength of network connection or battery level. A dying battery, low storage space or poor network connection are all indicators that a user is unlikely to download a data-heavy mobile app. Consequently, these signals indicate an ad for such an app would be less likely to perform.
Additional Contextual Signals
This includes all basic information about the environment in which the user is interacting with the ad. For in-app inventory this might include data points like app category, subcategory and app version which are provided in the bid request. This information can be used to communicate that a user scrolling through a lifestyle app, for example, could be a potential customer for a consumer packaged goods (CPG) product.
App Level Engagement
Advertisers can then couple this basic app information with user engagement insights and other first party data to identify audiences or ad placements that are most engaging. For example, if a user has an increased session duration in the app and has clocked previous engagement with a previous ad (for example, clicks), it’s easy for advertisers to determine if the users on the app fit the target audience profile.
Recent initiatives from both the private sector (ATT) and governmental bodies (GDPR) clearly show that Europe is leading the march towards a privacy-driven landscape. This no doubt benefits the data security of the EU consumer. But, it also obscures the conversation about what constitutes real privacy in apps. Taking away device IDs does not necessarily ensure consumers’ data is safer, especially when it comes to Big Tech. In the increasing absence of device IDs, it’s critical advertisers shift their focus away from user-based behavioral targeting. Instead, shifting their focus to what cohorts of users are consuming in the present moment.
- Through probabilistic attribution, advertisers can assign campaign membership probabilities to a user based on attributes, behaviors, and anonymous user-level in-app data.
- Contextual signals, based on anonymized user behavior data, indicate to marketers what kind of ad creative to deliver within the context of the app.