Some thoughts on Apple's new Intelligent Tracking Prevention
Apple announced ITP, Intelligent Tracking Prevention, on June 5, 2017. ITP is enabled for Safari by default in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. You can read Apple’s official description of, and justification for, ITP here.
What is ITP?
In laymen’s terms, ITP is a cookie blocker. It is primarily designed to prevent the use of third-party cookies to track, record and use consumer behavior on the web. It seems that the key criteria Apple is using to determine which cookies to block is essentially recency - if a consumer has interacted directly with a site, cookies from that site will be preserved. If not, cookies are purged and prevented from being set until the user again interacts with the site.
What does this all mean?
With Safari representing about half of mobile browser traffic in North America, this new approach from Apple is likely to have a fairly material impact on the status quo of digital marketing. While there is no way to see the future, here’s what we see being affected:
Web analytics and attribution - Google Analytics, far and away the largest analytics provider on the web, relies on third party cookies for conversion tracking. Google is currently taking steps to address ITP’s impact on their services, but this is just an example of the scope of impact of this change. We think it is fair to say that smaller web analytics companies may be impacted. Further, any attribution modeling based on long-term, cookie-based conversion tracking will be affected.
Retargeting - ITP will certainly have an impact on cookie-based retargeting. Third-party cookies will be purged after 24 hours; providers like Adroll could be impacted. However, retargeting that is executed using platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. where consumer profiles are built using a number of different logins and data points, are unlikely to be affected. Ironically, this move by Apple may serve to strengthen the offerings of their competitors.
Behavioral Targeting - ITP will certainly affect current behavioral targeting methodologies. These methodologies are largely based on leveraging third-party cookies to create behavioral profiles of users as they move across the web. As noted in the retargeting section above, this is less likely to affect platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google, but would impact DSPs and similar platforms. This may result in increased usage of probabilistic targeting and an increased reliance on content targeting. Again, perhaps ironically, this move from Apple is likely to result in digital advertising that more closely resembles traditional television advertising.
Ad Serving - Server side ad insertion has been available for a number of years, but has largely been passed over in favor of client side ad insertion, which is much simpler to execute. As ITP rolls out more broadly, it is likely that we’ll see increased adoption of SSAI, which is not reliant on third party cookies for execution. It’s also worth noting that SSAI will obviate current ad blocker technology, which is browser based, as well.
What does this mean for you?
These changes will not be unique to any one industry type. Digital marketers across the board will be impacted in the ways outlined above. However, verticals that utilize web sites and apps that are highly “sticky” (requiring frequent logins and usage) may fair better under ITP than other marketers, due to the aforementioned importance of recency. It’s a good time to keep an eye on your cookies.