Google sets its own shakeup to mobile ad IDs, promising less ‘blunt’ approach

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Google is bringing its Privacy Sandbox initiative to the Android mobile operating system amid a period of heightened scrutiny toward how consumer data is collected online, according to a company announcement.
  • The search giant said it will develop more privacy-centric advertising solutions that curtail data sharing with third parties and can operate without cross-app identifiers. Those include Google’s own advertising ID that helps track and measure mobile campaigns.
  • Google said that “blunt approaches” to safeguarding privacy are proving ineffective, a likely swipe at Apple, which made similar tweaks to iOS last year. Google will continue to support its existing ad platforms for at least two years while trying to provide ample prep time for changes coming down the pike. Those changes are still primed to shake up a mobile space that’s already been roiled by Apple’s transparency framework.

Dive Insight:

The ramifications of Apple making its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) an opt-in feature by default are only just starting to come into focus. Meta Platforms, the company formerly known as Facebook, recently said it could lose up to $10 billion in revenue this year due to the pivot, and the social networking giant has already felt the blow when it comes to campaign measurement and performance. Now, Meta and its peers face another serious disruption as Google ports its Privacy Sandbox to Android and starts to sunset its own mobile ID.

The search giant took care in the announcement to differentiate its strategy from Apple’s, as the IDFA clampdown has left many firms that have historically relied on the ID scrambling to adjust course. Google is providing a long runway to deprecation and promising to work closely with parties that could be impacted. Apple, a more insular company in some respects since it doesn’t control an sprawling ad network, initially had to delay its iOS update following strong industry pushback.

Google’s announcement includes testimonies from app operators that depend on mobile ads for growth, including Snap. Inc, which has expressed some frustration with Apple’s handling of the mobile ID transition. The blog post also linked to a portal for early feedback from developers.

“We are excited to collaborate with Google to develop new privacy-preserving standards for Android,” the Snapchat owner said in a press statement.

The developer feedback page notes that Google will initiate early tests for its privacy-centric models throughout 2022, with plans for a beta release of a new software development kit that tries to be more mindful of third-party data sharing by year end.

Even if Google takes a more open-ended approach than rivals, the news still puts another nail in the coffin for a substantial aspect of mobile advertising. Meta has previously stated it needs to rebuild many of its targeting and optimization systems in response to Apple-related headwinds. Those same principles could now carry over to Android as well.

With the news, Google also broadens the purview of its Privacy Sandbox, an increasingly significant project but one that still hasn’t delivered many tangible solutions. The initiative has played a key role as the tech company gears up a plan to deprecate third-party cookies, another popular way for businesses to keep tabs on users online. In lieu of cookies, Google is testing an offering called Topics that targets ads based on the top interests accrued from a user’s recent browsing history in Chrome. Topics are part of Google’s proposal for changing how the Android ecosystem functions.

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