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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Protecting ad revenue and prioritizing transparency in mobile

February 24, 2021 | By Jason White, Senior Vice President and Head of Publishers – LiveRamp @jasncwhite

Mobile internet usage continues to climb and 90% of mobile internet usage is spent in apps. This trend is only accelerating due to the global pandemic, which forced consumers to stay home and find new sources of entertainment. In parallel, ad spending continues to grow in the mobile environment, reaching $240 billion last year. 

Given the current state of play, mobile publishers continue to require innovative tools and technologies that enable them to connect their audiences with marketer demand. But this isn’t without its challenges, especially given new restrictions handed down by device manufacturers, like Apple.

Privacy enforcement

At their 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled a new framework dedicated to enhancing consumer privacy—the AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework. ATT will apply to iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14. It represents a fundamental shift in how app publishers engage with consumers. 

When Apple requires implementation of ATT, expected in early spring of 2021, app publishers will need to request permission to use app-collected data for tracking and accessing device identifiers. This includes Apple’s mobile ID, the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Publishers can only ask for permission once. It is persistent thereafter, until the app is uninstalled or the user changes their permissions

Put simply: Advertisers will no longer be able to target users by default, unless users explicitly opt-in.

What’s at risk

Once complete, this profound  shift will have far-reaching implications. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of users are expected to opt in to share their IDFA. Without users opting in, the majority will suddenly become unrecognizable. Mobile publishers will be left with a proverbial—and unappealing—black box. 

This will affect targeting, suppression, and measurement. Advertiser interest in in-app advertising will likely wane, and with it, the resources mobile publishers require to reinvest in building new products and acquiring new users. These changes may result in fewer free mobile apps, which could dampen the consumer experience and reduce industry competition. 

Although ATT is designed with consumer privacy in mind, we need to focus on more than privacy. We must do more to evangelize transparency. Transparency allows the industry as a whole to preserve the consumer experience and consumer privacy in a way that limiting access to free apps does not.

Mobile monetization must-haves

How do we do this? Here are three strategies that will equip the mobile publishers to monetize by delivering transparency: 

User Authentication

Users will provide login information (i.e., authentications) and share ATT consent in order to gain a closer relationship with the content they love. We need to champion authentications as a mechanism for transparency. An added benefit is that authentications are people-based and not device based. Therefore, they drive higher revenue. 

Additionally, new authentication strategies allow mobile app developers to reach the right end user and increase ATT consent rates. By authenticating themselves, individuals gain access to valuable content, brands are able to deliver better experiences, and publishers can develop closer, trusted relationships with consumers while protecting ad revenue.

Frictionless Demand

Understanding user session times, engagement and in-app purchases at the person level helps publishers hold on to as many unique audiences as possible. This allows them to activate against accurate data to achieve more ad revenue and efficiency. Publishers need frictionless demand pipes in order to seamlessly work with a partner that has strong demand-side connections.

Privacy and Security

Upholding consumer privacy, control and choice is imperative. Mobile publishers must find a way to improve the customer experience while maintaining compliance adhering to global regulations and app store requirements. This is the only way to continue to deliver key workflows necessary for business growth.  

The time is now

The impact of ATT and other near-term privacy shifts is nothing short of seismic for the mobile app industry. The stakes are high. App publishers may lose their ability to monetize valuable ad inventory. However, they may also lose also direct relationships with consumers who value the fun, exciting experiences they provide—especially during the ongoing pandemic. 

These three strategies are imperative to act on now. They are the foundation upon which app makers can start to build direct connections to audiences seeking trust and transparency in a time when few authentically provide it. 

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