Ad Limiting Going Mobile, Thanks To Apple

Ad blocking is bad enough, but we live in a world going mobile — as The Who once put it — at a very rapid pace. And, with Apple building a form of ad limitation into its latest mobile operating system, watch out, ad tech.

In a piece in AdExchanger on Sept. 7, attorney Alan Chapell notes that significant changes to iOS10 are “likely to cause harm to legitimately recognized advertising models.” In an email interview, Chapell tells Programmatic Insider that Apple is making the changes in the name of user privacy.

“In iOS9, Apple passes a signal for users that enable [Limit Ad Tracking] that tells the marketplace not to conduct interest-based advertising for that user. As noted by the Future of Privacy Forum: Apple specifically permitted companies to continue to use the ID for certain limited other uses when Limit Ad Tracking was enabled, ‘including frequency capping, attribution, conversion events, estimating the number of unique users, advertising fraud detection, and debugging’ (iOS Developer Library).

In iOS10, Apple will stop sending out the Do Not Track flag for users who enact LAT, Chapell writes. And, as noted by the Future of Privacy Forum: “Beginning in iOS 10, when a user enables “Limit Ad Tracking,” the OS will send along the advertising identifier with a new value of ‘00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000.’ This will more effectively ensure that users are no longer targeted or tracked by many ad networks across sites or over time. But it will also prevent the previously permitted ‘frequency capping, attribution, conversion events, estimating the number of unique users, advertising fraud detection, and debugging’ uses of this ID.”

“Generally speaking,” Chapell adds, “advertisers are less willing and able to advertise to users in situations where the aforementioned tools are not available to those advertisers. In other words, Apple has changed the functionality of the Identifier for Advertising [IDFA] in iOS10 in ways that breaks advertising models which are generally recognized as legitimate.”

What Apple is doing should not be confused with total ad blocking. But it is ad limiting in such a way that if significant number of iOS10 users opt for these privacy restrictions, it might not be viable to advertise to them.

Fascinating, and this raise a whole bunch of questions. If Google, for example, was as interested in privacy as Apple, wouldn’t Android be similarly burdened with this type of ad restrictions? But recall that Google generates billions in ad revenue. Apple doesn’t. Though, ironically, Apple does have a lot of mobile ad campaigns that could be affected by this privacy move. It comes down to whose ox is gored, so to speak, and in this case, Apple is showing its conspicuous indifference to the needs of advertisers.

Chapell concludes, “My sense is that this will impact apps operated by small to mid-sized pubs more than those operated by large media outlets. Apps run by the larger media companies have more advertising tools available to them.”

Wouldn’t it be ironic that Apple, which does not operate ad-supported media, sees a window of opportunity here? Sure, it’s all wrapped up in privacy concerns, but if Apple continues on its current course, constantly tightening ad restrictions, and if mobile keeps growing at the pace it is now, the ad tech future looks a little more speculative.

According to Wikipedia, iOS (previously known as iPhone OS), has the second-largest installed base worldwide on smartphones, but the largest profits. The global market share of IOS is 15.4%, it says. If only 5% of the installed base opts for the privacy rules mentioned above, perhaps that isn’t significant. Not yet, anyway.

2 comments about "Ad Limiting Going Mobile, Thanks To Apple".
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  1. Brian Nakamoto from Tightrope Interactive, Inc., September 15, 2016 at 4:32 p.m.

    Fiksu DSP thinks 14% of iOS users have already enabled Limit Ad Tracking as of July 2016.

    It'll get interesting on iOS if Apple eventually promotes it during device setup similar to Location Services.

  2. John Motavalli from Freelance, September 16, 2016 at 4:50 a.m.

    Right, Brian, these things matter if people know about it. I would expect Apple to promote it if they think it gives them an advantage. 

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