By Craig Weiss
Chief Operating Officer, True Influence
Unsurprisingly, other big tech platforms are not lining up to play in Google’s privacy sandbox. Basically nobody who uses the Chormium-based browsing platform is adopting it, and of course Apple and Microsoft are likely creating their own proprietary user data revenue strategies – always in the name of consumer privacy, of course.
Just last month, Apple’s iOS 14.5 rollout introduced a new App Tracking Transparency feature, which basically establishes a second highly visible opt-out for behavioral tracking, and hence ad targeting, inside apps. And about 96 percent of users have taken Apple up on this offer. Forbes suggests that this is a play by Apple to kneecap Facebook’s main source of revenue (it controls about 20 percent of the online ad market today) and push consumers into buying ad-free versions of apps from Apple’s own marketplace.
And of course, Apple’s Safari has been known to collect a few bits of data itself (Safari comes in only ninth in Nord VPN’s privacy rankings for this year).
As always, follow the money.
How Does the Privacy Sandbox Model Affect B2B?
Programmatic display advertising has become a critical component of Account-based Marketing (ABM) and other B2B revenue ops models.
At the classic “high funnel” stage, it builds brand and product awareness. Smartly re-targeted display can lead prospects to download a content asset and opt-in to a more personalized, first-party marketing conversation. And being able to integrate those first-party interactions seamlessly with your display retargeting platform lets you reinforce your latest whitepaper or webinar offer to a specific contact across all online channels.
So any change to the market value or functional capabilities of display targeting is a big deal. B2B lives on the infrastructure built for B2C and plugging into an 18-month buying cycle requires an integrated martech stack, not walled-off targeting platforms or a privacy sandbox.
Google has stated that it does not intend to participate in identity triangulation programs, which let marketers infer the location and business contacts for users whose PII is protected via hashed IDs or other anonymizing devices. (We employ such technology here at True Influence). That’s another roadblock to building a consistent conversation with buyers across all the online media where they live and work. It also compromises last-touch attribution that’s critical to optimizing multi-channel campaigns.
It’s my belief that the other big tech platform vendors will likely wall up their revenue channels in similar fashion. To be clear, display advertising isn’t going anywhere. But it’s going to be less effective for multi-channel B2B marketers if the market continues on this path through the privacy sandbox.
What Can Change this Course?
Perhaps the best hope for more open ad targeting solutions that genuinely protect individual privacy while serving the interests of buyers and sellers is the simple fact that nobody likes spam.
Those 96 percent of iOS users who declined to allow apps to track their behavior probably won’t like the added influx of irrelevant ads Facebook will flood into their feed, or the subscription fee they may end up paying for what they have come to know as a “free” service. Marketers are going to buy pre-roll video spots; they can be smart and interesting or stupid wastes of time.
Again, to be clear, we here at True Influence agree with the overall philosophy of building and targeting audiences of like-minded individuals with display ads, as opposed to micro-targeting individuals before they opt into a relationship with your company. But we also believe marketers need access to these audiences across all online media, and response to display needs to seamlessly integrate with a comprehensive revenue plan.
A marketwide degradation in the quality of ad targeting and marketing personalization will ultimately undermine those solid FLoC conversion rates Google is touting. Particularly in the B2B space, content publishers will increasingly turn to self-served native ads or other high-touch formats to preserve their own revenue. There’s been speculation about a resurgence in content-contextual ads, which are ideal for first-party interactions, but basically offer no value in market demand sizing and broad conversational reach, which are now considered baselines in B2B. Unfocused display ads served across various ad networks will be little more than junk.
So, I’m hopeful that the market will simply correct itself against this trend, and the privacy sandbox won’t become our standard.
Obviously, other vendors have seen this coming for a while, and have been developing alternative user identification systems that don’t rely specifically on tracking an individual user’s browser via a third-party cookie. We partner with LiveRamp whose IndentityLink technology is based on data from first-, second- and third-party data collections. More publishers may elect to share anonymized first-party data with such services, or offer it ad-hoc via data marketplaces for individual advertisers to consume and meld into their own custom audience segments.
There are options, like Google’s privacy sandbox model, but at the moment the path ahead is not clear.
Trust Is As Important as Privacy
Smart B2B marketers understand and agree that individuals’ privacy is critical, and that there has to be a better solution than third-party cookies, at least as they have been implemented to date. But they also know that smart cross-platform ad targeting serves the interests of both the seller and the buyer.
Meaningful, personalized conversations build trust in a B2B relationship. And this goal is not served by a handful of tech platform owners with privacy sandboxes walling off user data in the name of “privacy.”
Open competition and common standards are good for business. And that’s the direction the big tech platform vendors are pushing for the programmatic display market.