Green Bikes and Cookies: Is Apple killing remarketing?

What’s the deal?

No doubt you will have seen Apple release the latest version of Safari when they dropped the new Mac OS and iOS a few weeks ago. But did you notice they’ve bundled into Safari a new thing called ITP or Intelligent Tracking Prevention? ITP looks to be Apple’s attempt to kill remarketing.

Here’s what they had to say about it:

Intelligent Tracking Prevention. Keep your browsing to yourself.

Remember when you looked at that green mountain bike online? And then saw annoying green mountain bike ads everywhere you browsed? Safari now uses machine learning to identify advertisers and others who track your online behaviour, and removes the cross‑site tracking data they leave behind. So your browsing stays your business.”

No matter your opinion on re-marketing or re-targeting, and how useful you may find it as a marketer and a consumer, Apple seem to have got the bit between their teeth and think it’s an invasion of privacy.

What’s ITP going to do, and why should I be worried?

ITP is going to target sites which load cookies from other domains and prevent them from using those cookies for tracking after 24 hours. After 30 days with no subsequent interaction the cookie will be purged completely.

In practice this means that retargeting which relies on a tracking cookie will be unavailable after 24 hours and cookies used for measurement will only survive for 30 days. Safari has been doing this for a while with 3rd party cookies but now they’re doing it for 1st party cookies too.

All this means that re-marketing is going to get very hard.

There is also a school of thought that this could extend to affiliate cookies and other types of online advertising in the future.

What can we do about it?

Google has offered some help and said they’ll use the google analytics cookie to identify people, so remarketing can still happen through google display network – but only if you’re using the latest version of Google analytics tracking. If you’re still on legacy GA there will be some configuration needed to make this happen and make sure you’re set up for remarketing through GA cookie. Other smaller networks are coming up with their own solutions including banner insertions and non-cookie based tracking servers which may need additional configuration and specific handling in your analytics package.

The best advice is, if you’re doing any sort of remarketing do an impact assessment. This should focus on 3 key things to see just how much of a pain in the arse this is going to be for you:

  • Get an understanding of just how much of your traffic is currently coming from those using Safari on Mac OS or iOS. This will determine how big an impact you’ll likely feel.
  • Assess how much of your marketing mix is reliant on remarketing and retargeting. The bigger the chunk the more you should be worried.
  • Review which services you’re currently using for remarketing/retargeting and how they’ve responded to ITP. If you’re seeing a drop off in traffic, it might be time to look to move to another supplier who’s better able to cope.

When Apple first announced ITP there were a lot of blog posts written and a lot of assumptions made but having worked through the issue with a number of clients it really is a mixed bag as to how badly you will be affected.

It is something we should all be concerned about but it’s not necessarily for every business to fret over. Carry out your impact assessment, get informed and then you can make the right choice for you and your brand.

Apple Cookie Tracking Feature

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