With Apple planning to roll out its new IDFA update shortly, which is expected to significantly reduce the amount of behavioral data available to advertisers across the mobile eco-system, Google is also exploring its options on this front, as it works to bring Android up to speed with the broader push towards increased data tracking transparency.
As per Bloomberg:
"Internally, the search giant is discussing how it can limit data collection and cross-app tracking on the Android operating system in a way that is less stringent than Apple’s solution."
Google, of course, is already looking to address concerns around data collection by eliminating third party cookies on the web. But Google is also reliant on gathering audience data for its own ads platform, and as such, it's been working on alternative solutions that would still enable targeting, though in a less intrusive, and individually-focused way.
In replacement of cookie tracking, for example, Google's working on a new, interest-based solution which would allow advertisers to target groups of people with common interests, replacing individual identifiers.
Google's Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) process builds ad audiences based on web browsing behaviors, without logging personal information.
"The browser uses machine learning algorithms to develop a cohort based on the sites that an individual visits. The algorithms might be based on the URLs of the visited sites, on the content of those pages, or other factors. The central idea is that these input features to the algorithm, including the web history, are kept local on the browser and are not uploaded elsewhere — the browser only exposes the generated cohort."
According to recent reports from Google, it expects that FLoC will enable advertisers to reach up to 95% of their current conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising, softening the impacts of the change in cookie tracking. There will, of course, be variations in this, but that's essentially what's Google's aiming for - as opposed to Apple, which is less concerned with the broader industry impacts as a result of the IDFA change.
Because Apple doesn't derive the same revenue from digital ads, and as some have argued, the IDFA change actually benefits Apple's business interests because it will push app developers towards alternative revenue streams, like in-app subscriptions, which Apple does take a cut of.
Whether that's the main motivator or not is impossible to say, but regardless, the IDFA changes are coming, and are set to have a big impact on ad effectiveness.
As such, it's good to note that Google is taking a more considered approach to its solution. Reports thus far have suggested that Google will not be looking to include explicit, opt-in prompts, like Apple's IDFA change.
But even so, there will be impacts. While Google is looking to cater to all sides, and ensure developers are still able to utilize data tracking, as more digital privacy tools are rolled out, they will cause major shifts to the digital ads landscape. We won't know the full extent of such until each element is introduced, but with the greater push towards increased transparency, and consumer choice in how their data is used, businesses need to consider how they adapt their audience research processes, in order to maintain ad performance.
How good is your connection with your audience? How much audience data do you have within your business?
How reliant is your marketing process reliant on third-party data?
These are the questions businesses need to ask, and consider as more of these measures are rolled out.