Are You There, Publisher? It’s Me, Apple

‘It’s the first time they’re listening’: Apple is striking a more conciliatory tone with the ad industry — Digiday, 9/8/20

Hey publisher—you got a minute?

Apple here. I know what you’re thinking—how does a $2 trillion corporate entity speak to you one-on-one? Just picture this voice coming from the mouth of Steve Jobs in his tightest, blackest turtleneck. I sure like to think I still resemble his ethos.

Or how about one of those old-school rainbow Apple logos talking to you? Those logos we used to print on Macs? I loved those.

Anyway, I know we’ve had our differences in the past, and you guys are pretty grouchy about our 30% take rate for being on our very beautiful ecosystem (C’mon, it’s not like that mobile freak show Google has going on, amirite?); and that we turned off support for third-party cookies in Safari, which was a kick to your monetization’s groin; and that I haven’t done a great job helping you monetize your content on News; and then I just started redirecting your traffic from the web to my Apple News+ platform without giving you a heads up; and generally I’m not responsive when it comes to any of your concerns, and instead I just patrol around looking for my revenue cut.

But hey—I’m here now, and my ears are open. My eyes too if you have images to show me. Just no Flash.

Why now? Well, I heard you were upset about some major privacy initiatives we’re pushing in iOS 14. Namely, tracking via IDFA needs a user opt in now. See, we’re leaning hard on privacy right now—even have a cute commercial out where we made the Apple logo look like a padlock! 

It shouldn’t be surprising—y’all been jumping through the Intelligent Tracking Protection (ITP) hoops for a while now, and remember when we killed third-party cookies on Safari? Privacy is our big thing, and the gang decided we shouldn’t willy-nilly let you send IDFA off to the pestilence-filled ad exchanges without getting permission first. 

There’s even a notification created for you with language that probably will discourage users sharing IDFA. Whoops, I meant “won’t”—I meant the language won’t discourage users from sharing IDFA.

Apple iOS 14 IDFA privacy update means big changes for marketers

See? Who wouldn’t say, “Yes, please!” when reading that? I wouldn’t, but you know I’m real privacy-centric at the moment.

But we made a goof—September 15 was kinda quick to get prepared for a major change like that. You know, one that would completely upend mobile app advertising. So we’re pushing the deadline back a bit. How does “early next year” sound? Vague enough to feel a little like a reprieve, but still pretty ominous.

I’ve seen the term “stay of execution” across the trades—you ad tech folk have a flare for the dramatic. We’ll probably roll it out slowly and gently so the backlash doesn’t come to a boil again.

You can still implement the new privacy framework soon as iOS 14 launches. You probably should, I doubt we’ll kick the can further down the road.

Yeah, we had a lot of folks complaining—there were also developers of all stripes, ad tech maggots, and even advertisers! Advertisers aren’t supposed to understand what a loss of tracking will mean! Man, I guess they started paying more attention. Sigh, if it’s just one of those groups complaining, we swat ‘em away like a gnat, but this was like a colony of gnats coming at…

Oh sorry—got distracted. Stock went down 8%, took a $179 billion drop in market cap—apparently the largest ever decline! But we’re still the only $2 trillion company out there, so whatevs—we’ll give big shareholders an early copy of the 5G-compatibile iPhone.

This has got nothing to do with iOS14, by the way—merely coincidental, part of a tech stock selloff. 

Anyway, where was I? Yeah, I’ve been talking to some of my geniuses—everyone who works at Apple is a genius—and they said, “Why don’t we listen to the publishers for a change? They do produce all that content that makes us a lot of money. And we are going to need the pubs to get in line when we introduce our new ad network.”

Wait—I can’t remember if the ad network thing is public yet. Eh, it doesn’t matter. But look—it’s not iAd. Pretend iAd never existed. In fact, iAd never existed. We’re definitely not calling the new network iAd 2.0

Now go ahead—ask me anything.

Are we just being a bit more conciliatory toward publishers and ad tech in general because we’re worried about antitrust suits from Europe? HA! Who’s scared of the EU! (Don’t tell the Commission we said that. You don’t know anybody on the Commission, do you?)

What? Is there a separate opt-out panel for Apple’s own advertising using IDFA? Uh… Let me get back to you on that.

Wait—have you been talking to those Epic Games’ goons? Look, they played a little too much Fortnite and now they think they should own the yard. Not happening. What about the deal we cut with Amazon for Apple TV? Eh, just a one-off—and don’t kid yourself that you’ve got weight like Amazon’s to throw around.

I’m sorry—that was condescending. The geniuses tell me it’s a bad habit of mine. 

Are we trying to set up our own private web for Apple users where we control all data-sharing and monetization? Well… Would that be a bad thing? Apple users love our hardware and software, and we want to give them the digital privacy we think they deserve. Nobody else is making that happen, so maybe we have to take matters into our own hands. 

Can I ask you something, though? Why do you really need all that tracking capability? Can’t you target ads based on stuff like… Content? Context? You have so much to work with, why 

Oh, the marketers demand lots of measurement and targeting capabilities? You know, I advertise a lot too, but doesn’t all this stalking seem a bit ridiculous? How well does any of this hyper-targeted advertising work anyway? Attribution beyond last click is kind of a joke. As an advertiser, am I really entitled to all that data?

I get that advertisers are stuck in their ways, but we’re going to try to help you out here. Think about this—Safari turning off support for third-party cookies was the first step toward getting rid of that obsolete tech. Finally Google is kicking third-party cookies to the curb, which I hear may be a good thing for you, publisher. 

So what if Apple limiting targeting access to the most popular mobile operating system in America is nudging the overall industry in the right direction, better recognizing consumer privacy demands?

It’s just an idea. Well, it’s been nice chatting. I gotta go demean the Maps crew now for always eating Google’s dust. Let’s do it again some time.

Oh, and definitely have that iOS privacy framework ready to go by early next year. I want to see some opt ins! Or actually… I don’t really care.