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Apple… But What About Consumer Privacy?
What happens when the leading manufacturer of smartphones and consumer electronics begins fortifying the walls around their gardens?

Naturally, they start building out their owned and operated Demand Side Platform (DSP).1

All Eyes on Apple

Based on a Senior Product Manager, Demand Side Platform job posting, Apple is looking to develop, “the most privacy-forward, sophisticated demand side platform possible.”2 Building out a DSP is a sure-sign that Apple is intending to grow its advertising revenue, however it remains to be seen whether their planned DSP will be focused on Apple’s O&O properties or the broader Open Exchange. As of now, Apple has not confirmed that it is building out a DSP, but as Ronan Shields, writer for Digiday puts it, “no company builds ad tech like this unless they’re serious about making a bigger move on media dollars. It costs too much time and money to do it on a whim.”1

Since Apple’s announcement of Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)3 in 2017, the Cupertino based company has championed consumer privacy and further limited digital marketers from targeting potential consumers. Safari’s ITP effectively disabled third-party cookie tracking in the browser, limiting advertisers’ ability to target and serve media to users. Along with rolling back its MAID’s and IDFA’s, this trend continued with the release of iOS 14.54 in April 2021 which required all apps to request the consumer’s permission to track them. The result of these change is that advertisers who wish to reach users within Apple’s ecosystem have had to pivot, relying on predictive consumer targeting versus 1:1 third-party cookie targeting.

Unfortunately, the programmatic landscape is barreling towards one massive 2-player game where Google and Apple will continue to exert as much influence in the marketplace to ultimately drive shareholder revenue. Vendors, agencies and brands have come to rely on ever increasing obfuscated solutions to deliver targeted media and attribution. As the market continues to consolidate around Google and Apple, marketers at all levels and at all steps in the chain will have to make a choice that balances transparency and business results. Solutions like The Trade Desk’s Uid5 promise a third-party option to maintain identity and a reliable level of attribution, but they are ultimately up against adoption rates. As of today, solutions like these do not scale well due to Uid 2.0 specs not working to include non-logged-in users.

Data clean rooms6 have cropped up as another solution where walled garden first party data can be comingled across partners. This silver bullet promises to address privacy concerns for consumers, allow walled gardens to maintain strict ownership of their data, and enable advertisers to deliver and attribute at scale. However, there are many hurdles to overcome, chiefly that clean rooms are expensive to develop and utilize,7 leaving challenger and mid-level brands out in the cold. The depth of data needed to be shared within the clean room poses another challenge. Ultimately, both solutions present significant challenges and represent no sure-bet option to protect from further Apple and Google consolidation.

Overall, the programmatic industry has been affected across all channels in a major way, significantly limiting reach and ability for measurement. There certainly is an eagerness to reach Apple’s audiences, and to do so in a cost-effective, meaningful, and measurable way, which is what a theoretical Apple DSP could offer. As of now, it is unsure how this will affect the programmatic industry, but one thing is certain, advertisers and brands will be waiting with bated breath to have the opportunity to reach the now seemingly unreachable Apple users.

Empower’s Programmatic Solution

ClearTrade® is Empower’s proprietary programmatic buying solution that brings performance improvements to advertisers’ programmatic media campaigns through customization in media buying algorithms, data, inventory and attribution. Since the launch of ClearTrade in 2013, Empower has trailblazed a series of strategic partnerships to strengthen its programmatic capabilities and inventory access. From building custom algorithms, incorporating clients’ CRM databases, to providing attribution that reflect onto relevant client KPIs, we pride ourselves on working to address ever-evolving unique business needs in the programmatic landscape.

So how does Apple’s potential DSP affect Empower’s programmatic clients?

Should Apple develop their own DSP in the coming years, ClearTrade will continue to vet fits for our clients, adding it to our tech-stack if the demand is there. Just as we’ve done with other DSPs (such as Amazon’s), we would leverage the exclusive access to their first party data and inventory, enabling ClearTrade to provide an additional wealth of opportunity.

More than 40% of all US web traffic8 comes from users utilizing browsers with ad blocking technology (e.g., Safari, and Firefox); this figure only increases if mobile devices are factored in as well. What this means for programmatic buying is that many consumers are no longer accessible by leveraging third-party cookies. As it stands, Apple DSP is poised to enable programmatic buyers to reach consumers unreachable over the past 5+ years with effective and targeted media, and ClearTrade will be ready to take advantage of this added reach whenever and however Apple rolls out its DSP.