How can brands survive the digital Clash of the Titans?

Google and Apple have gone to war. Each side is focusing on their own business models, making browser changes that are ostensibly done in the name of ‘privacy’, but in fact, also are restricting user choice.

So what does this mean for brands that want to deliver relevant, consented advertising across any browser or device?

By relying on current tracking mechanisms in display to try to deliver and then report on both new and existing customer engagements, brands are struggling. But why have we ended up caught between Google and Apple? And how can brands survive this war on data?

It’s been a tricky two years for display

It’s been a difficult couple of years for the display advertising industry. In 2017 Apple rolled out Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which limited the ability for website owners and advertising platforms to track users across domains by purging cookies after 30 days.

Taking things one step further, earlier this year Apple launched ITP 2.1, which caps the lifespan of first-party cookies to a maximum of seven days.

Google joined in the battle this month by announcing changes that enable Chrome users to delete cookies used for online ad targeting without losing first-party data.

And then, of course, just to make things more interesting we have the data restrictions enforced by last year’s GDPR and the upcoming ePR.

Who is the biggest loser in the data battle?

So who is the biggest loser in this war on data? Sadly, it’s everyone: the brands trying to advertise, their customers looking for products and offers they want, and the businesses who rely on advertising to support their free content model.

Research has already shown that customers prefer seeing relevant ads to irrelevant ones. Advertising is the lifeblood of the internet’s free content model, and every brand knows that the right message, at the right time, with the appropriate personalisation delivers results and customer loyalty.

So, as long as it’s done transparently, why shouldn’t brands with the right legal means (explicit consent) deliver ads to customers who want to see them? And why shouldn’t businesses who rely on advertising be able to show relevant ads? As long as all three parties consent to it, it’s a win-win-win situation.

Instead, right now we have a scenario where Google and Apple are making strategic decisions that prevent brands and content owners from delivering and attributing relevant advertising across all browsers. And, as a result, everyone is missing out – including the customer.

What is the impact of this Clash of the Titans?

To find out the extent of the impact of this data war, we analysed a solution based on cookie ID against our hybrid solution for a cross-browser campaign in the UK over seven days.

Given the UK is where iPhone and Safari penetration (with the abundance of iPhone) are high on mobile, while Chrome is high on desktop, the results clearly demonstrate the challenges of an ID-based versus Hybrid approach:

Attribution based just on cookie IDs tracked:

  • 35% less attribution on Chrome

  • 95% less attribution on Safari

The impact of this on the device was felt:

  • 37% less on Desktop

  • 75% less on Mobile

So brands that rely on just cookies are now getting up to 95% less attribution on Safari, and up to 35% less attribution on Chrome (even before Chrome implement their changes).

This means that any targeting or attribution based on cookies in Safari is now useless.

Why we need to move towards a transparent, lifecycle-based model

So what now? To survive, brands need to find a way to maintain and grow market share through relevant, consented advertising that supports user choice, ePR and other legislation across any browser.

Any efforts should support user privacy and transparency about how data is used, and respect user choice for relevant advertising. And relevant advertising is not just about targeting against an ID.

We have found that a hybrid approach for targeting and attribution is the way forward in display and can be the most effective in finding new customers, prospecting them to purchase and grow customer lifetime value.

It combines multiple data points or identifiers that might be available in each browser to fully support the different approaches of Apple and Google. Even when storing no personally identifiable information and data which is fully minimised, it is still possible for a brand to deliver relevant (not personalised) advertising across any browser to those who consent.

And this is all brands, customers and content owners want: the ability to deliver relevant, consented advertising in lifecycle marketing. So while Google and Apple are fighting their own battle, everyone else can carry on with business as usual.

Andy Houstoun is product director at Crimtan.

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