Opportunities For Digital Advertising Amid A Fluctuating Landscape

Founder & CEO at Kochava, the leading mobile attribution platform and mobile data marketplace. 20+ yrs as a technology innovator and leader.

Just like the world we’re living in, there is a good deal of uncertainty in digital advertising right now. In the middle of the current pandemic, the adtech world is mapping out new avenues for growth in the wake of sea-changing news from tech giants and regulatory entities this year. Apple’s announcement about the limitations with its ID for Advertisers (IDFA) — the primary way advertisers have customized ads for consumers with iOS devices — is only the latest hurdle forcing the industry to forge new ways of transacting business.

The IDFA may not mean much to the average person, but to digital advertising professionals, and specifically for mobile-focused advertisers, not being able to easily measure and attribute ad placements is close to catastrophic. With restrictions on the IDFA, increasing data privacy regulations and Google’s deprecation of the third-party cookie, adtech companies have been sent back to the drawing board to devise how best to identify consumers through the devices they use. Challenge accepted.

A New Direction For Digital Advertising

Whether you saw it coming or not, it is clear now that the digital advertising industry is in flux. But I would argue that the challenge of accurately identifying customers started long before Apple’s announcement at WWDC in June. 

The industry, for the most part, has relied on static identifiers that were never a guarantee. In the early days of mobile attribution and measurement, Apple deprecated the universal device identifier (UDID), the static identifier used at the time for attribution and measurement. At my company, it signaled to us that static identifiers like the UDID and IDFA have expiration dates. When Apple deprecated the UDID, an array of third-party identification schemes were created, and we adopted most of them in preparation to best support customers. Once Apple announced the IDFA, the industry centered around this solution, but the need for brands and publishers to understand “identity” remained a keystone to any marketing efforts.

While the industry has been in a state of bewilderment with the impending loss of the IDFA, I’ll say that it is a blessing in disguise because static identifiers (like an IDFA or third-party cookies) are problematic. They can be transacted without knowledge of the first-party owner of the data. They provide no traceable history of consent necessary for use for targeting and measurement, nor do they enable the ability to apply permissions beyond the user’s consent between parties in the ecosystem. The removal of these standard identifiers paves the way toward next-generation, privacy-first identity solutions that work for the brand, the publisher and the end users themselves.

Preparation Is Key To Keeping The Ecosystem Moving Forward

In preparation for iOS 14 this September, many brands are arming themselves by leveraging a validated independent dataset to build holistic user profiles with mobile-first data for audience enrichment about user demographics, interests and behaviors, and other attributes useful for contextual targeting in the future. Additionally, both brands and publishers alike are considering a unified identity solution with a proven track record to host their custom identifiers.

Finally, because of regulations like CCPA and GDPR, all brands are arming themselves with a proper consent management system because Apple’s opt-in requirement is not a default for compliance with data privacy regulations. That said, existing and emerging tools should all incorporate data privacy compliance.

Silver Linings: Challenges Breed Innovation

Of course, many questions remain about the future of measurement and targeting. Will row-level data cease? How will we evaluate performance and optimize spend for results? Will identity solutions only solve for certain aspects? The list goes on, and with time, we’ll see what works and what doesn’t. Our current situation is certainly forcing the industry to rethink media, attribution and how to target contextually at the cohort level. 

You don’t have to wait and see what happens, however. Here are some preparations to consider:

  • Understand where your users are from and what privacy regulations you need to comply with.
  • Onboard users on your mobile apps to optimize the success of opt-in for the Apple Tracking Transparency framework.
  • Streamline your media-buying strategies around sources where you have clarity of execution.
  • Leverage as much cross-promotion as possible if you have a portfolio of properties and want to cross-promote users among your digital properties. 

Uncertainty is a part of life, but opportunity exists when we can adapt and innovate in the midst of it.

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