The Sky Is Not Falling: Apple ITP 2.2 and What It Means For Marketers

The Sky Is Not Falling: Apple ITP 2.2 and What It Means For Marketers
Friday, May 17, 2019
Sari Stein

When Apple announced this week that it would be introducing an updated version of “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” on Safari II and IOS 11, it caused quite a stir in the marketing community.

What is Intelligent Tracking Prevention?

Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) is a privacy feature that Apple rolled out back in 2017. It was designed to allow Apple device users to limit cross-device tracking of their digital activity. As more users are concerned about advertisers tracking their every move—and retargeting them with ads—ITP is designed to give users more control over their own privacy.

How does it work?

  • It limits the lifespan of first-party cookies set by JavaScript. After a certain length of time (previously 7 days, now changing to 1 day), the Safari browser will expire cookies set in this way (designed to target advertising tracking scripts). First party cookies set by a server-side interaction (such as a site login) will be unaffected.
  • Third-party cookies are no longer accepted by the Safari browser at all.

How does this affect digital advertising campaigns?

  • The inability to set third-party cookies means that advertisers are not able to explicitly track viewthrough conversions in Safari. For context, a viewthrough conversion is where the user is exposed to an ad, does not click it, but later visits the advertiser’s site and completes some action.
  • The time limit on first-party cookies means that even post-click conversions will not be attributable to a media click beyond a 24-hour tracking window. If a user clicks an ad, does not buy, but returns 2 days later to make a purchase on the site, the advertiser will have difficulty making the link between these two actions.

What changes in ITP 2.2?

This rollout of ITP 2.2 makes two big changes from the previous version:

  • Reducing the time limit on first-party cookie tracking from 7 days to 24 hours.
  • Limiting some of the workarounds that Facebook, Google, and other companies had previously implemented to allow marketers to continue tracking after ITP was first rolled out.

These are the two big reasons that a (relatively) minor update is causing such an uproar among marketers.

These changes impact Safari users only, who—as of April 2019—represented approximately 4% of desktop and 26% of mobile users, according to NetMarketShare. This is significant, but it’s not everyone.

Furthermore, this change is part of a larger trend towards giving users more control over their personal data as privacy concerns continue to make headlines. So, it’s not unreasonable to assume that other browsers may follow suit.

The sky is not falling

The key thing to remember is that there’s no need to panic. These types of changes happen all the time in the digital world. The impact here is likely to be less severe than other major tracking changes—such as when Google stopped providing keyword data for organic search clicks back in 2014.

Jenna Watson, Vice President of Digital Media at DAC, has this advice for advertisers:

“We need to acknowledge that we’ll never have 100% fully tracked behavior, and to get comfortable with that. At Google Marketing Live this week, even Google acknowledged that we’re moving away from perfectly tracked user journeys. The number of users that don’t accept cookies or have opted out will increase. So, marketers will need to rely (again…like we used to) on things like context.”

These changes are part of the ever-evolving attempt to get it right when it comes to user privacy. Just because we CAN track something doesn’t mean we SHOULD—as Target infamously found out the hard way when it tried to use Big Data to predict pregnancy. Then, as now, using too much user data only served to scare away the very customers they were trying to reach.

Cross-device conversion tracking and cross-channel attribution is a useful way to track the success of media programs—but it’s certainly not the only tool in our toolbox. We as marketers have always had to think carefully about how we target and reach people with relevant ads without being creepy, invasive or annoying. ITP is no different. After all, our goal is to connect with our customers, not to put them off.

ITP: Are you ready?

Here’s a short checklist that marketers can review to make sure they’re ready for ITP:

  • Learn about your audience from other sources. Go through the exercise of creating user segments, conducting customer research, and understanding buyer intent, behavior, wants, needs and attitudes.
  • Go contextual. Think of other ways to get in front of a consumer when they’re likely to be receptive to your message, such as with contextual and native advertising. By targeting users based on the content of the site they’re browsing at the time, rather than on their recent individual behavior, we can effectively reach people when they’re likely to be more receptive to these messages.
  • Ask for permission from your customers to collect data from them and contact them directly through channels like email and CRM, rather than relying on third-party browser tracking and ads. Be transparent about what you plan to do with that data and honor your commitments.
  • Don’t panic. The impact of ITP 2.2 is likely to be minimal in the grand scheme of things. Your campaigns may need to be optimized slightly differently for Apple and iOS devices, but they can still be optimized even with incomplete tracking.

Want to know more about how you can use data to improve your business? Let’s talk!