Marketers across the industry shared their thoughts on Google’s decision, announced Wednesday, to limit tracking across apps on smartphones running the Android operating system. While many think it’s a promising move to protect consumer data, others believe it’s taking too long to make the change.
The announcement focused on the development of more privacy-focused identifiers to target ads and messages from brands on smartphones used by certain apps.
Meta, formerly Facebook, initially fought against Apple’s changes, but this week voiced support for the way Google plans to implement its privacy changes.
″Encouraging to see this long-term, collaborative approach to privacy-protective personalized advertising from Google,” Graham Mudd, vice president of product marketing, ads and business at Facebook, tweeted. “We look forward to continued work with them and the industry on privacy-enhancing tech through industry groups.”
A few days after Google made its announcement, Mudd made his own. On Thursday he tweeted to announce his departure from Meta after 10 years to cofound a company focused on privacy technology for the advertising ecosystem.
Many others across the advertising industry showed support, but had reservations about the ways that Google will approach the change.
“Google's two-year plan is too long and people deserve better privacy now,” said Marshall Erwin, Mozilla chief security officer. “As with announced changes for the phasing out of third-party cookies in the Chrome browser, we cannot afford to wait much longer.”
Mozilla pushed for change, calling on Apple in 2019 to drop IDFA tacking years ago, and urging Google to follow.
Sheri Bachstein, GM of IBM Watson Advertising and CEO of The Weather Company, called the decision “inevitable,” but said Google didn’t provide enough information about the change to understand what the new collaboration framework looks like.
Bachstein believes Google and publishers need to collaborate. “I am still concerned that we, as an industry, are allowing a few companies to create the privacy dialogue with our consumers,” she said. “As open web publishers, we need to collectively lead the conversation with our consumers and be transparent in how their data is actually being used.”
Mike Woosley, COO at Lotame, believes the industry needs to pay attention to the fact that Apple and Google always know who their users are while they use their products, regardless of a tracking ID.
“The need to use identity in marketing, which is critical for nearly all modern marketing, is not an issue for the dominant players, he said. “These changes primarily affect the rest of the digital media industry, those minor moons and satellites in orbit. Even Facebook has to go begging in this environment to the tune of $10 billion in lost revenue.”
He found it interesting that Google would be taking credit for doing something correctly, while pointing to Apple’s “sloppy execution.” All in spite of Google being known for innovation.
“Using this release to say ‘we lockdown better and harder’ feels like a circular firing squad,” Woosley said. “The privacy positioning, while factitious, is a native part of Apple’s ethos, not Google’s.”
“When IDFA went away, it really hurt the big walled gardens, Facebook in particular, because a lot of its traffic is based on iOS, and they can't change that,” said Shiv Gupta, managing partner of U of Digital. “It didn't really impact mobile ad tech companies, like the InMobis and Vungles of the world, because they simply moved their access around to more targetable inventory, essentially Android.”
Now, mobile ad tech will have to compromise, Gupta said, which might even the playing field a bit with the walled gardens.
The industry has about two years to figure it out -- but “the pendulum could swing back a bit toward the walled gardens,” Gupta said.
Andrew Frank, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, believes the value of the data will rise for brands maintaining an active mobile relationship with customers. Others will need to establish new ways of reaching audiences and assessing the effectiveness of their campaigns. In the long run, the market needs to develop better ways to empower consumers and balance privacy with desirable personalized communication.
As for Google losing dollars similar to Facebook, Frank doesn't believe that Google’s recent announcement about Android tracking policy will have much impact on its ad business. “While details of Google’s plans remain vague, there’s a credible view that blocking the flow of cross-domain tracking data will drive more ad budgets in the direction Google and other large walled gardens with their own wealth of data," he said.