Are Apple and Google putting an end to deliverability and tracking of consumers?

BY CEO & Founder Steve White February 26

In the digital marketing world, only a couple of things are important – deliverability and tracking. Deliverability is simple: if the customer cannot see your display ad, it’s useless. Tracking, perhaps not quite so simple, is a cookie placed on the online shopper’s computer whenever they visit a website, enabling advertisers to retarget them with ads based on their browsing history.

We’ve all enjoyed this functionality — but is it coming to an end?

Recent actions by a couple of companies that pretty much control the Internet have raised concerns that the all-important deliverability and tracking of consumers may be in peril. If an advertiser can no longer effectively deliver relevant ads to a targeted audience, income will be dramatically reduced. In fact, digital marketing will become the casualty of war. And believe me, there is a war going on.

On one side of the battlefield is Google. Earlier this year it announced the upcoming native introduction of ad-blockers into the Chrome browser – the most popular browser in the world. Advertisers freaked out. However, as more details emerged, advertisers calmed down and began to support the initiative.

It turns out that Google wasn’t targeting advertisers as a whole, it was simply attempting to make the Internet less annoying to consumers by reducing the types of intrusive ads users were complaining about – namely pop-ups, auto-play videos with sound, and large sticky ads consumers couldn’t close.

Of course, these annoying ads led to high-bounce rates but, at the same time, provided websites with incredible income. With over 59 percent of market-share for browser use, advertisers had a right to be nervous.

The other side of the battlefield is manned by Google’s sworn enemy, Apple. Apple and Google don’t play well. They never have. But how is Apple even a threat when Google has almost 60 percent market share? The answer is simple, the iPhone. In fact, it is so popular, that over 50 percent of cell-phone users own an iPhone. When you consider the fact that over 52 percent of web pages are visited via a mobile device, the threat becomes clear: what web browser does the iPhone use? Apple’s own Safari!

But why is that important?

Google tracks everything everyone does online. Period. They may not share it with everyone, but that doesn’t erase the fact that it happens. Apple decided to throw a wrench in their operations by implementing what it has named, “Intelligent Tracking Prevention.” In a nutshell, it prevents advertisers from using third-party cookies to track clients past the 24-hour mark. This effectively handicaps effective digital marketing retargeting and measurement strategies. All in the name of consumer privacy.

With all this going on, how can you, as a digital marketer, avoid becoming a casualty of war?

First, it is important to understand the difference between first-party cookies, which are those from your own website, and third-party cookies, those from a marketing partner’s site.

When it comes to Apple, it doesn’t limit first-party cookies – those embedded on your own website – to the 24-hour time limit (they limit to 30 days). This allows you to continue your successful retargeting and attribution strategies.

However, in dealing with Google, be sure to abide by its advice on what types of ads are intrusive and which are not, for example, pop-ups, auto-play videos with sound, and large sticky ads. According to Google, these detract from the consumer’s web browsing experience.

Check that your digital marketing partners aren’t using third-party cookies, ensure that your site follows these new rules, and you shouldn’t have a problem. If you don’t, Google will warn you and, after a period of non-compliance, will simply block all your ads. Bad thing.

My advice? Have conversations with your digital marketing vendors and analyze your own website for ads that could raise red flags with Google. In addition, ask your vendors if they use first or third-party cookies.

Bottom line: Because the vast majority of the retargeting display advertising ecosystem utilizes third-party cookies, your results will be inaccurate unless you augment tracking with a first-party cookie tracking solution.