Apple's 'Auction' Ad Drops The Mic On Third-Party Data

Apple just closed the door on most tracking of consumer data in advertising.

Let’s face it.  We’ve been talking about the challenges in tracking, the death of third-party cookies and consumer privacy for years now, but there was a disconnect between what the industry said and what consumers did. 

As marketers, we stress out about GDPR and CCPA and the impact they has on our ability to track, target and deliver customized messaging.  As consumers, sometimes we click on the do-not-track button or we decline cookies -- but all in all the situation wasn’t grim.  Now, thanks to Apple and its one-two punch, the future is bleak.

First Apple went the way of adding a pop-up in apps that forced users to truly opt into third-party tracking. It was so easy and in your face, many consumers simply said “thank you very much” and opted out.  Now Apple is running a privacy ad called “Data Auction” on broadcast TV whose purpose is to scare the tracking right out of the industry. 



The ad is brilliant, if I’m truly being honest.  It features an auction with a bunch of creepy-looking folks, along with snooty rich people, bidding in real time on one woman’s data.  It calls out her browsing history, her location data (um, commerce data as they refer to it), her texting data and more. 

This ad is incredible in how accurately it raises the curtain and shines a light on the seedy underbelly of the industry by surfacing the sheer breadth of insight that marketers actually have on consumers and how the general consumer has no idea what’s happening -- and no control over it. 

I saw the ad and was amazed at the level of creative focused solely on raising awareness of the true issues of data privacy.  Of course, Apple still has access to your data.  It just doesn’t share it with others, but it’s able to use it.  So does Google.  So does Facebook.  So does Amazon. 

First-party data is still in play for most large tech companies, but this campaign makes it almost a certainty that third-party data will be gone within a year.  The access to the data will dry up, and the number of platforms that will accept it will diminish, because no company wants to be in the cross-hairs of the government as it passes legislation to ban the use of consumers’ data without their express written consent.  Targeting just got a whole lot more difficult.

I saw the ad and was impressed.  I made a note to write about it this week in my column, and between then and now I’ve seen column after column talking about it. 

Great creative gets people talking, and in this case it is getting a wider array of people talking about it outside of the standard industry trades.  That’s what happens when you shine a light on something that people have overlooked for years: You force a conversation about an uncomfortable truth. 

Consumers say they want their privacy, and yet they continue to post their entire lives on social media for all to see and read.  But when one of the largest tech companies in the world surfaces just how much of their data is in play, they're going to pay closer attention.

The ad hit me the same day I was informed that my credit card was compromised and someone had used it for fraudulent charges. Privacy goes hand in hand with security, and here I was being reminded just how little security there really is in today’s world.  With that immediate reminder, I was forced to deal with the truth that I should take privacy even more seriously.  It means time to update my passwords, double-down on two-factor authorization and more.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who saw the horrified look on the woman's face in the ad --and the way that Apple staged the shutdown of the auction with the simple click of a button on a screen. 

Apple does these amazing ads from time to time. There's "1984," "Think Different" and now "Data Auction."  It’s a reminder that ads can be cultural cornerstones from time to time and change the way people behave.  This one most certainly will.

1 comment about "Apple's 'Auction' Ad Drops The Mic On Third-Party Data".
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  1. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), May 25, 2022 at 3:33 p.m.

    Here is the ad, in case you have not seen it:

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