Media Insights

Apple is about to crush your remarketing dreams.

If you’ve been relying on attribution tracking and driving users down the path to conversion through remarketing, you might want to hold on… I might ruin your week. Over the summer Apple announced a High Sierra version of Safari. It includes the Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature that’s scheduled to go live on September 25th. Surprisingly the media industry isn’t talking about this as much as it should be.

ITP is designed to help limit the creeper ads. You know the ones… you see them on two or three positions within one page, 40 times a day for a product you’ve already purchased because the buyers don’t know the concept of frequency capping or audience exclusions. It allows full functionality of conversion and remarketing tags for a 24-hour period and then is limited to only passing through log-in data. After 30 days, the cookies are automatically purged from the browser unless a user revisits the site to reset the cookie.

Let’s say you’re running remarketing for a retail chain, and the holidays are coming up. You’re segmenting your audiences by the products they view, and they’re being assigned to specific remarketing pools based on their activities… pretty basic remarketing strategies. With the ITP update, if they don’t visit your site and product pages daily to refresh that cookie pool, they’ll fall out of the remarketing funnel. So when Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around, they won’t see any dynamic remarketing based on their activity days, weeks or even months prior to the promotion. That relatively easy sell won’t happen.

Another real world scenario, one of our clients has a 200-day lag time from first interaction with the brand (both paid and unpaid) to transaction. 85% of the last-touch interactions are either direct or branded search, which is pretty standard for their vertical. Any customers converting through Safari will go from 200 days to 1. As a media buyer, we won’t have any visibility into what initially kicked that stone down the hill.

There are two lights at the end of the tunnel:

1. Google Analytics created a work around. They modified the Analytics code to allow conversion data to be passed from AdWords to Analytics for a longer period of time. You may say “no biggie… I don’t care since it’ll still track in Analytics”. Like I’ve referenced before in my rant over Google Attribution, that data is only session-based. It won’t track impression-based conversion data so if you’re using a 3rd party attribution provider that relies on impression-based conversion data, there will be an issue.

2. The High Sierra version of Safari is only for macOS, not iOS, so it just impacts the desktop versions… you can breathe again. With the majority of Safari impressions going towards tablet and mobile, it’ll only affect a small portion of audience segments, but is it only a matter of time? When Apple updates different features to one type of device, they generally roll it out to other devices in the future. iPhones and iPads could be next.

The whole idea surrounding limiting ads that stalk you across the web is great, but that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. Media buyers and planners should know a client’s ideal ad frequency. For those that don’t, I think Mitchell said it best. Media campaigns shouldn’t bombard customers with the same messaging. They should be served valued content at the appropriate time in order to move customers from awareness to the final purchase decision.


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