Is Apple responsible for the drop in ad requests and publisher revenue?

Marta Todorczuk · Publishers.
Apple-Publishers-Revenue-ITP
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Designed as a safeguard for users, Apple’s ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) became a threat to publishers.

Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), introduced by Apple in September, failed to meet publisher approval (to put it mildly). A default setting in Safari’s update, it aimed to limit ad tracking by wiping out retargeting data in just 24 hours. Designed as a safeguard for users, ITP became a threat to publishers. Three months later, it’s time to analyze its actual role in the ad ecosystem and ask one fundamental question: do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Back to basics

The first Apple operating systems to contain Intelligent Tracking Prevention were iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, both released in mid-September. It’s an intricate period in almost every publisher’s calendar. That’s because, at the end of the quarter, ad rates always tend to grow. So measuring the “ITP effect” right away was difficult.

As of now, users updated 6 out of 10 iPhones and only 1 out of 4 Macs. For that reason, we will focus on mobile devices exclusively. It’s an acceptable sample to verify whether publisher concerns were justified. Of course, there is no absolute explanation to this phenomenon, as it heavily depends on audience specifics. If most of your users use mobile devices, you are among the most vulnerable group.

Ready or not, here comes ITP!

To check the effect of ITP among our key publishers, we ran a DFP query (using Ad Exchange historical data) to compare monthly rCPMs. In the screenshot below, we’ve demonstrated how to set the query to run properly. There is no need to add previous iOS updates because, according to Apple, it applies to less than 8% of devices.

Apple-Publishers-Revenue-DoubleClick-Report-DFP

Choose all the metrics you consider important for your everyday reports and run the query. Now you’ll see how ITP affects your performance and revenue.

As an example, below you’ll find the rCPM comparison for a few websites we’ve analysed:

Here’s a case of one of our publishers active mainly in the LATAM region.Apple-Publishers-Revenue-Report-LATAM-Ad-RequestSimilarly one of our European publishers and the results we have observed.Apple-Publishers-Revenue-Report-Europe-Ad-RequestApple-Publishers-Revenue-Report-Europe

What can you do with this data?

There are a couple of solutions. But before applying anything, publishers should carefully analyze their situation individually. If your performance dropped slightly, up to 10%, you likely don’t have to change your strategy.

If the drop is strong enough to cause serious damage, e.g. up to 30-50%, you should definitely consider making a change. But what kind of change?

  1. If you are using paid traffic, devices running on iOS 11 can be excluded from the target group (remember that the CPC ratio will be higher).

  2. More direct campaigns can be exposed to 11 iOS users exclusively, so programmatic ads have more potential on other operating systems. Direct campaigns that are less dependable on cookies are less likely to be affected by ITP.

  3. Try to diversify your audience by introducing new types of content.

What about the wellbeing of end-users?

Last but not least, every change in the digital advertising environment should be judged based on its influence on end-users. So how does ITP influence them? One could say that the Intelligent Tracking Prevention system is a ‘tip of the hat’ to their privacy and general experience (retargeting ads won’t keep stalking them for too long).

But are they at least aware of what happened once they installed the updated OS on their devices? It’s a tricky question.

TechCrunch noticed something recently – the driving force behind every OS update (and the reason why Macs are updated less often than iPhones) is not safety or privacy concerns. The real trigger for users are dozens of new emojis.

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