Commentary

ANA Criticism Of Apple Is Occasion To Tout Publisher Strengths

  • by December 7, 2020
The Association of National Advertisers last week criticized Apple for cracking down on a method of audience tracking that lets ad-technology companies pose as first parties. I disagree with the ANA's argument— it is another occasion for publishers to tout their strengths in helping advertisers to reach consumers.
As MediaPost's Wendy Davis reported last week, Apple had updated "Intelligent Tracking Prevention" in the software that runs iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. The privacy measure can now tell when ad tech and analytics companies were using a method called "CNAME cloaking" to get around other measures to prevent tracking of people who use Apple's Safari web browser.
Apple has steadily restricted the use of third-party cookies over the years. In March, it started blocking the tracking technology in Safari by default. With Google planning to end support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser in 2022, the media, marketing and ad tech industries are working on new methods to ensure that advertising reaches consumers.
Google is well aware of the effect of disabling third-party cookies on publishers.

The company last year shared study results that found publishers lose 52% of programmatic ad revenue without the tracking technology. The study was meant to criticize Apple's privacy practices -- months before Google announced its own steps to disable cookie tracking -- but was somewhat flawed in focusing on open auctions rather than private auctions and preferred deals that give publishers more control over their pricing.

Apple's privacy measures should serve as another reminder for publishers that they need to take steps to control their own destinies instead of being subject to the whims of Silicon Valley frenemies.
Amazon, Facebook and Google rival publishers for viewer attention and ad dollars. Apple has a smaller ad business, but apparently wants to turn the internet into a universe of subscription-based apps that make money through the App Store, where it charges hefty commissions.
Publishers need to continue developing first-party data about their audiences, which will become even more valuable as third-party cookies are phased out. Publishers have valuable content for contextual targeting, and they provide a brand-safe environment for marketers. These strengths will remain key selling points.
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