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How Google’s Privacy Sandbox will impact mobile marketers



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March 4, 2024 | 7 min read

Mobile advertising is transitioning into a world of heightened user privacy where new tools are being built to establish safer standards of data usage

To learn more, we spoke to Luckey Harpley, a senior product manager at Remerge – a team of in-app retargeting specialists. Luckey discusses how these privacy developments will impact app businesses – and what mobile marketers can do to prepare for the new era of mobile advertising on Android.

Why do you think retargeting is such an important channel for app businesses who want to advertise on mobile?

It's all about stickiness and getting users to hang around. That could be bringing back long-term but inactive users, coaxing newly acquired users to get engaged, or a strategy for when you’ve exhausted your user acquisition capabilities.

Why is mobile advertising going privacy-first and why does it matter for advertisers?

This is primarily being driven by users. Users have become more aware of malicious actors exploiting their data and they want more control and transparency of how it is shared. The changes matter for advertisers because they don't have a choice. The Android Privacy Sandbox will impact every app that has a software development kit (SDK), which is all of them, so app businesses are going to have a shaky period while the industry adjusts to the new norm.

What is Google’s solution and how is Remerge helping?

Through their Privacy Sandbox, Google is planning for a cookieless browser future and a Google-ad-ID-less future on Android. To facilitate remarketing on Android specifically, they are developing their Protected Audiences API (PaAPI). Part of this API will mean that the audiences, (called ‘custom audiences’), which a user belongs to, will be stored on the user’s device. It is these custom audiences that Remerge would use as a signal for conducting our clients’ remarketing activities.

AppsFlyer, a leading mobile measurement partner (MMP), with its strong audience management tooling and widespread SDK adoption is the perfect partner for Remerge to work with. AppsFlyer benefits by having the capability to facilitate remarketing to their clients, and Remerge benefits from the on-device custom audience management of the AppsFlyer SDK.

When Apple rolled out their App Tracking Transparency framework (ATT), app marketers had to relearn the mechanics of iOS retargeting. How do you think the launch of Google’s Privacy Sandbox will compare?

The Privacy Sandbox rollout is different for two reasons – timing and transparency. Google is giving us years of advance warning and are being incredibly collaborative. We speak every two weeks with the product teams at Google, and they really want to understand how things work for players in the mobile AdTech industry. Google wants this product to succeed and they know that their best chance of this is to involve industry partners.

Remerge is excited to be one of these key partners and to be playing an active role in the development of the Privacy Sandbox with Google. We are seeing our feedback being taken into account and the design proposals are changing accordingly, right before our eyes. The collaboration has been a lot of fun, and being the interviewee on the other end of a product manager's questions is quite a contrast to what I’m used to.

How will retargeting on Android work from a technical perspective without advertising IDs?

Segmentation will stay the same. At Remerge we don’t use cross app data. User activity will still be monitored based on a per user, per app identifier – and we’ll use those to create segments, or custom audiences, which the users will be joined to on the device. It's the next step where things change. The auction for the ad impression will happen on the device itself, and while we will know an auction is happening, we won't know for which user. The price we’re willing to pay for the impression will be a lot less informed, but the process is more privacy-centric.

When a bid is won, assuming there is an ad impression or click, the conversion attribution will happen on two channels:

1. The current way, using Google Referrer as well as Deep Link Referrer, as these attribution methods are ID-agnostic. However this mechanism won't support ‘view-through attribution’.

2. Google is also building its own attribution API, which from the advertisers’ perspective should look the same, but it is technically much more complex, so there will at a minimum be some growing pains.

What can advertisers do now to prepare for an ID-less future?

A good first step is to speak with an experienced mobile advertising partner such as Remerge. We’re always happy to have a discussion about what’s coming up with the Android Privacy Sandbox. Otherwise, getting educated is essential. This is going to impact every app that wishes to promote its products and services – so collaborating with advertising partners who are actively working on building these privacy-safe ad solutions for Android will be essential to give advertisers the best chances of success.

What should app businesses look for when choosing a mobile advertising partner in the new era of privacy-safe mobile advertising?

You are going to need a partner that is fully integrated with all the Android Privacy Sandbox APIs, and can provide a deep understanding of how they all work. At Remerge, we’re close to having a working prototype already and will be good to go by the time that device ID’s are fully deprecated.

Do you have any predictions for the future of mobile retargeting?

Consolidation of retargeting tools and companies is already happening within the market. This trend will increase as different players react with varying degrees of success to this new paradigm.

Apple is apparently now considering the development of more advertiser-friendly tools for iOS retargeting. What are your thoughts on that?

Apple is indeed taking baby steps in this direction. I think that the first thing that we’ll see is some type of attributed retargeting reporting, and then hopefully later on we’ll see some sort of privacy-based user retargeting and bidding mechanism. Apple’s motives are a bit of a black box. I’m not sure there are too many people happy with the way ATT rolled out, so I expect they’re getting plenty of feedback and have quite a choice of topics they want to focus on.

Any last remarks about the looming new era of privacy-safe mobile advertising?

Watch this space. Things are about to get very shaken up, and only those that are well-prepared for it will prosper in the next few years. From day one we’ve been syncing closely with Google and all the MMPs, so no one in the remarketing industry is better positioned than we are to hit the ground running.

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