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What's the Latest on Privacy in Digital Media?

Google Keeps the Privacy Hits Coming

One of the most vexing issues facing digital media buyers over the past year has been the question of privacy and data. As we previously covered in our article regarding iOS 14 and the ripples it made through the digital media industry, the practice of collecting and sharing user data to assist with digital ad targeting and tracking is changing at a rapid pace, forcing advertisers to reconsider digital strategies that have been adopted and refined since the inception of the internet.

For the past year at The Ward Group, we have been taking steps to adjust our active digital strategies in response to the privacy issues. Our efforts include placing an emphasis on first party data, leaning into machine learning in place of granular audience targeting and relying more on contextual targeting than behavioral targeting.

While we continue to adjust and adapt to changes in the privacy landscape, we also keep an eagle eye out for new evolutions and updates regarding privacy that impact the media industry. One of the latest big privacy developments was revealed in February of this year when we learned of Google’s intention to restrict the tracking of cross-app user behavior on Android devices, much like Apple’s app tracking transparency (ATT) policy introduced and rolled out in 2021. That’s what we’re going to dive into here…

What Does This Mean for Digital Media Buyers?

What exactly does Google’s announcement mean for those of us in the world of media buying? In the announcement, the tech giant explained that the new Android policy will “limit sharing of user data with third parties” and “operate without cross-app identifiers.” With iPhone users already affected by iOS 14.5, this has the potential of making it even harder for advertisers to target audiences and track conversions from their digital campaigns going forward.

Another step in the Privacy Sandbox, the new policy will be implemented over the course of the next couple years, with more updates planned as it develops. When Apple decided to limit the collection of cross-app user behavior, the optimistic digital media buyer said, “Well, at least we still have Android.” Now, with Google planning on adopting a similar policy, the future of targeting and tracking users on mobile devices has gotten much murkier.

How Does This Relate to Apple’s ATT Policy?

A major difference between the policies of Google and Apple is the way each company is working with the industry. With the advent of iOS 14.5, Apple simply dropped the policy on the industry, leading to a mad scramble among advertisers to adapt and a public standoff with Meta. Google has chosen a much different course. Within its February announcement, in addition to disclosing the new Android policy will be developed slowly over the course of two years, the tech giant shared it will “need input from across the industry” to find a balance of ensuring user privacy that will still allow digital advertising to function well. Google claimed that “blunt approaches” to the privacy issue are ineffective, directly referencing Apple’s ATT policy and the effect it had on the industry. While each company is taking different approaches to the issue, what’s certain is that the two companies who control the vast majority of the mobile device market are in control of the fate of billions of future digital advertising dollars.

Your Media Stewards Are on the Case

While we keep up with these developments over the course of the next few years and beyond, one thing is for certain – digital advertising as we know it is long gone. Rest assured your digital media stewards at The Ward Group are embracing the changes and adapting as all good digital media buyers do to ensure are clients’ media investments are secure as can be.

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