What Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention Changes Mean for Advertisers

In late 2017, Apple released iOS 11, which included the new Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature for Safari. Then, in 2018, Apple announced an update to ITP, further limiting how advertisers can track browsing data using cookies. This is great for consumer privacy, but how will Apple’s latest changes impact your advertising campaigns?

What’s Changed?

For years, Safari has blocked third-party cookies on webpages, but these rules didn’t include first-party cookies or cookie trackers placed on ads. However, with the original introduction of ITP, Safari began deactivating any type of cookie designed to track users across sites after 24 hours — including first-party cookies. After the initial 24-hour tracking window, the cookie only operated as a user login. ITP also deleted tracking cookies entirely if the user didn’t visit the site for more than 30 days. By comparison, the standard cookie in Google AdWords is available for retargeting use for 30 days, and many other bid tools make them available for 90 days. With the newest updates to ITP, the 24-hour tracking window is completely removed, meaning the cookies that many advertisers rely on for retargeting and attributing conversions to the correct campaign element will no longer be able to measure conversions on Safari at all. Reducing the reach and tracking that dynamic ads can have on mobile devices is especially impactful for industries with long sales cycles, such as auto advertisers. By deactivating conversion tracking cookies, such as legacy DoubleClick Campaign Manager (DCM) iframe or image pixels, Safari prevents advertisers from collecting site visit and browsing behavior data to build personalized content and messaging. Plus, this doesn’t necessarily mean users will see fewer ads — just ones that are more generic and not tailored to their personal interests. Who Could Be Impacted by ITP Changes? Mobile campaigns running on Safari browsers will feel the greatest impact as Safari makes up 50% of the mobile browser share. However, the number of mobile web campaigns pales in comparison to those run in-app, meaning the overall impact on conversion reporting will be relatively limited. Desktop campaigns running on Safari browsers will have few consequences, as Safari’s share on desktop is less than 10%. Mobile in-app campaigns are not affected by ITP since they do not rely on cookies for user tracking. Since mobile activity for most social media platforms happens in-app, those campaigns won’t be significantly disrupted by the change either. Catch Up With These Terms to Know First-Party Cookies – Data owned by the advertiser and collected on its own website. First-party cookies do helpful things, like remember your username and password automatically the next time you log in, but they are also very useful in advertising to build retargeting pools and track conversions that result from ads. Third-Party Cookies – Data owned and collected by an outside company. An easy way to spot third-party cookies is the domain name doesn’t match the website the user is currently visiting. Third-party data is most commonly used in behavioral targeting campaigns. Google Tag Manager (GTM) – A tool that allows marketers to add and update website tags from an external platform, rather than editing their website code directly. Global Site Tags – A new JavaScript tag developed by Google that allows advertisers to send website conversion data to AdWords, DoubleClick, and Google Analytics. Global site tags are ITP-compliant.

Quick Tips for Advertisers

As any digital media buyer will tell you, data on the websites people visit and how they behave on different sites is critical to building a long-term successful campaign. Fortunately, we’re one step ahead to ensure your campaigns stay on track.

  1. If you’re seeing campaign conversions drop and you suspect it might be due to ITP, do an analysis comparing data from your CRM or other marketing management tools to see if it follows a similar trend. While data between platforms will never match 100%, it often follows similar trends.
  2. If you are using legacy DCM iframe or image pixels to track conversions on your site, then you need to replace them with a GTM container tag — unless you have already implemented the pixels via GTM, in which case you are all set. When implementing pixels via GTM, iframe and image DCM pixels are automatically converted into ITP-compliant global site tags, so you will be able to continue tracking conversions coming in from Safari browsers.
  3. Google recently implemented global site tags, which are ITP-compliant and streamline website tagging for all Google products. If you are using a tag manager other than GTM, you need to implement global site tags to continue to send website conversion data to platforms like AdWords and Google Analytics. Otherwise, you may see a drop in your conversion data moving forward.
  4. Take advantage of the growth of in-app traffic and expand your media strategy beyond the browser to limit your exposure to ITP. And if your brand has an app, make sure you are maximizing downloads with the latest strategies.

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