It’s no secret that Facebook has been strongly opposed to Apple’s upcoming iOS14.5 privacy updates, which will see the identifier for advertisers (IDFA) no longer used by default and a new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework introduced.
The social media platform has carried out a continued campaign against the privacy changes in recent months, warning that small businesses that use Facebook to find customers will ultimately suffer.
Although it’s been well-documented that the changes are coming, it hasn’t been clear exactly when.
However, Apple confirmed that iOS14.5 would start rolling out this week as part of its latest product announcement event.
Just days after Apple confirmed the changes were coming, Facebook made an interesting announcement. As part of a range of new solutions for advertisers, the social media app revealed it is now testing In-Stream Video Topics that let advertisers place ads against specific video topics using machine learning.
Facebook says the new advertising solution will help advertisers find “content that is contextually relevant to their target consumer”.
Facebook’s pivot towards contextual advertising is part of a wider industry trend, as marketers look for ways to target relevant audiences without relying on personal data collection.
And according to Kargo general manager APAC Robert Leach, the timing of Facebook’s contextual advertising announcement is no coincidence.
“The ATT and the iOS 14.5 release has been talked about by Apple for some time, so I imagine Facebook has been working and worrying on a response to that for some time,” Leach told B&T.
“I can only assume the timing of this is precisely because of the iOS announcement and the impact that will have immediately on advertising in apps.”
A Facebook spokesperson told B&T the announcement was not linked to the IDFA changes and pointed out that the company regularly adds new advertising solutions.
The company did confirm that it is working on new privacy-led advertising solutions that give users greater control over their data.
“We are investing in new approaches to privacy-enhancing technology and building a personalized advertising ecosystem that relies on less data, while helping to ensure a level playing field for both large and small businesses,” Facebook said in a blog.
Facebook also confirmed it is currently exploring advertising solutions that process aggregated data, as well as ‘federated learning’ solutions, which keep personal data localised on a person’s device.
Does contextual work?
Facebook’s new In-Stream contextual solution will inevitably bring with it questions regarding brand safety for advertisers. Facebook has confirmed that it will offer controls allowing advertisers to prevent their ads from running alongside specific content.
There will also no doubt be concerns that a contextual advertising solution – and other future solutions that are moving away from personal data – will not be able to deliver the same results as personalised ads.
But as one of the biggest companies in the world, Leach believes Facebook will be able to deliver results for advertisers through this new contextual solution.
“Facebook has got the money. I’m sure they have put a lot into this and I would imagine it will be fairly effective.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that contextual targeting works when it’s done well and there’s loads of research on that which shows many, many instances where good, contextual targeting works as hard or better than some third-party cookie-based audience segments.
There are many parallels between Apple’s latest changes and the changes it made to mobile browsing in recent years, with the introduction of Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which now blocks all third-party cookies.
Leach suggested that history could repeat itself.
“One of the things you’re likely to see – and this happened in mobile web – is a greater investment into Android devices,” he said.
“Now that is not necessarily a good thing and often the advertiser doesn’t know that is happening.
“But if it’s easier to follow the audience on Android than it is on iOS, then advertising companies will shift money towards Android.”
Leach added that advertisers should be taking a closer look at where their ad spend is going.
“Very often, and certainly in Australia, the Apple iPhone owners tend to be a slightly higher demographic and have more disposable income – probably the audience a lot of advertisers want to target.
“But if you look at digital trading programmatically across mobile web, if they’re layering on any sort of targeting, a lot of money actually goes towards Android devices and not towards Apple devices.
“But people don’t look at the logs so advertisers don’t know that. And they’re probably not getting the best return they could. That may well happen in this instance with app advertising.”
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