Criteo counts the cost of Apple’s ITP rollout, sunsets its Predictive Search offering

The rollout of Apple's ITP tool could negatively impact Criteo's revenues by up to $20m in Q4 / Criteo

Criteo today (November 1) reported revenues of $564m for the three months to September 30, an increase of 33%, although it forecast that Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Solution (ITP) could negatively impact revenues for the all-important final quarter of the year by 8-10%.

Factoring in its recent purchase of HookLogic, Criteo forecast Q4 revenues after traffic acquisition costs of $260-$263m (analysts had previously expected this to be in the region of $280m) equating to comparative growth of 13-15%, with the company’s share price down by 6% in pre-market trading.

Since its introduction in mid-September 2017, ITP has cost the adtech outfit “under $1m in revenue”, although its introduction has now prompted the company’s leadership to adjust its fourth quarter guidance, indicating a potential negative impact of $20m for the period. Additionally, Criteo is now forecasting that revenue growth for fiscal year 2017 to be between 26% and 27% as a result of this adjustment.

ITP makes it difficult for third parties to obtain data on users of Apple’s Safari web browser by impeding the ability of website owners and adtech outfits to track them using cookies. This makes its rollout particularly pertinent to companies such as Criteo given their historic use of cookies to help advertisers track audiences.

The adtech outfit’s current ‘ITP solution’ collects anonymized e-commerce data using the HTTP security protocol, which can then create a customer ID that is used to let advertisers target audiences on publisher websites, with Criteo's leadership claiming that its current solution allows it to mitigate about half of the potential impact of ITP.

Criteo chief executive Eric Eichmann reported that it is working through “the kinks” of the ITP impact, including the integration of its technology solution with ad exchanges that it buys media inventory from, as well as ensuring direct publisher adoption of it.

According to Eichmann: “We haven’t done this [implemented its ITP-compliant solution] with all the exchanges at present, and some are more difficult than others in terms of the implementation, so that’s what creates some of the uncertainty over what we can mitigate.”

He added: “The question with exchanges is are they okay using these mechanisms, and with most of them the conversations are good – some are already implemented – and others we need to work harder with them to get that.”

Under questioning from financial analysts – the potential impact of ITP was a recurring topic – Eichmann also addressed the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) on its revenue forecast, something the company’s leadership doesn’t foresee a negative impact from.

Although, the impending rollout of GDPR is a major question mark hanging over many adtech outfits, especially given that the current guidance indicates they have to seek express consent from consumers to handle their data.

“There’s quite a bit of uncertainty still about what it means exactly, we believe still that there’s a couple of things that we’re excited about,” said Eichmann, adding that the standardization of privacy regulations across all 28 EU members states could prove an operational advantage, especially if the model is adopted elsewhere in major markets further afield.

He added: “One of the things that GDPR hasn’t been clear on yet is whether or not to make sure there’s clear consent [by a consumer to process their data] and that’s something that we do today. I think one of the concerns of the [European] Commission, as we understand it, is that it’s a bit clunky to have each website ask for it, so they’re looking for ways to do this. And then there’s a third element to that, and that’s the legitimate reason to have that [consumer data] and we feel quite good about that.”

Meanwhile, the company’s leadership also revealed that a year after the launch of Criteo’s Predictive Search solution, it has decided to retire the product. Criteo's leadership spoke of a “volatile market”, explaining its decision, despite having circa 200 clients already using the product. This is because Criteo found it difficult to measure the performance of the solution over alternatives that were available to clients, meaning that its leadership did not believe it was a scalable product. It was “wiser to redeploy those resources elsewhere,” according to Eichmann.

Although, this was offset by the company’s C-suite announcing the rollout of Criteo Customer Acquisition in the US and France after a beta launch in the UK in October, as well as a reported successful rollout of its CRM regathering tool Criteo Audience Match – a CRM retargeting tool. This is in addition to the continued rollout of its data collective, which it launched earlier in the year.

Elsewhere, Criteo’s leadership underlined how it has doubled-down on its efforts with brand safety initiatives including the improved filtering of invalid traffic, as well as suspect IP addresses by partnering with three external vendors of such wares, plus its participation in the Coalition for Better Ads, as well as Trustworthy Action Group (TAG).

Ronan Shields

I'm the digital editor at The Drum, and cover adtech and martech. Prefer news and analysis, over opinion pieces. Current fascination(s) are blockchain and media futures trading; also curious about transhumanism on a personal basis. NYC-based, but really London Irish.

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