Apple is trying to deliver the knockout punch to the mobile app marketing industry. Unfortunately, it seems to have connected. First, the loss of the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) privacy policy is official. This happens on Monday, April 26, 2021. Now, a lot of us mobile advertisers feel like we’re fighting a losing battle against Apple. Currently, Spotify, Epic Games, and others are calling for anti-trust measures against Apple.

Hey Apple, You Suck!

Apple claims to be seeking “fairness” by enacting ATT. But, they prohibit downloading apps unless you download the app directly through the App Store. Also, they get a cool 30% commission charge from downloads. Interestingly, the commission tax isn’t fairly applied. For instance, sales of other goods and services like Uber, Instacart, or Grubhub are not impacted.

Also, Apple is adding a “suggested app ads” feature to App Store. This feature debuts at the end of the month, and suggested apps are displayed prominently on the main page of the App Store. Again, the irony is these suggested apps are based on a user’s Apple ID, so age, interests, previous downloads, and more are factored in. So, how is this seeking “fairness” and focusing on user privacy concerns?

To further highlight Apple’s lack of fairness, they require the use of their proprietary in-app payment system. Yup, Apple forces users to use ApplePay instead of less-expensive payment methods like PayPal. And, this is under the guise of security and privacy protection for consumers. However, Apple still has major issues with App Store Scams and fake apps.

But, Spotify points out how Apple’s desire for “tracking fairness” doesn’t always apply. For example, if a user would like to select a default audio platform that isn’t Apple Music, they can’t. So, Apple Music is your forced default, regardless of your preference. Is Apple acting as a consumer advocate or in their own best interest?

Apple and iOS advertising

Image Credit: 9to5Mac

ATT Ramifications

I believe iOS14.5 and ATT are Apple’s attempts to wrench back merchandising control from Facebook and Google. Personally, iOS 14.5 is a blatant and overly aggressive tracking change. It’s artificially cloaked as “consumer privacy” to allow Apple to try to claim the moral high ground.

The ramifications of ATT are not exaggerated. Sadly, it’s a tectonic shift that will roll back advertising efficiency 15 years. Unfortunately, Apple was the only party involved in ATT development. This is diametrically opposite of Google’s privacy sandbox, which is being done with open industry participation.

Can Apple really claim the moral high ground? Truthfully, what Apple is doing is defining what they deem as acceptable privacy and tracking. True consumer choice allows users to choose to be tracked or not. So, “who watches the Watchmen?”

Apple users cannot opt-out of being tracked by Apple and app developers. Instead, Apple is drawing an arbitrary line around sharing of tracking information. Yet, they call that “a human right”. So much for privacy! Today, iOS users don’t have a choice to protect their privacy. They cannot use other App Store marketplaces to buy or download apps. They’re forced to use Apple’s AppStore, and can’t pay for purchases through a neutral third party. So, Apple tracks your downloads, purchases, and your music. But, heaven forbid a third-party app does that!

The True Motive of ATT

Unfortunately, this isn’t some conspiracy theory on the fringes of the Internet. Sadly, ATT is﹘in my opinion﹘part of a broader movement to prolong users’ dependency on Apple. Users must use AppStore to find and download any and all apps to their iOS device. And, the AppStore doesn’t have good merchandising or recommendations that are beneficial to the user. In fact, it’s an annoying and unnecessary step between advertising and installing. But, it’s Apple’s attempt to regain control of content distribution on iOS.

Truly, ATT inflicts maximum damage on performance mobile app advertising and the open web. It’s a blatant power grab to consolidate market power. And, it continues to allow Apple to operate its own AppStore closed ecosystem. They still define the rules for privacy. Apple can track and report as they see fit. Yet, they still claim to be a consumer advocate.

Apple is Targeting Third-Parties

ATT is intentionally attacking the third-party ecosystem. Moving forward, this ecosystem will be challenged to personalize and customize advertising. So, you can no longer enhance and enrich a user’s experience through targeted ads. Today, advertisers are very efficient at matching users to interesting apps. In fact, ads are a huge factor in content discovery. But, if app developers can no longer survive on advertising, where do they turn? Oh, right﹘Apple. Yes, Apple has developed a way to force app developers to need them even more.

Monday’s iOS 14 rollout shakes the mobile advertising ecosystem to its core. The small-to-mid-size developers and companies that service those firms will be the most impacted. Unfortunately, the loss of personalization will put the mobile advertising industry back 15 years. The number of ads consumers see will not decrease. However, the number of spam ads (non-personalized) will quickly become overwhelming. Companies in industries with branding dollars like CPG, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and automotive will use their large coffers to inundate mobile app consumers. Will ATT result in a better advertising experience for users? No. But, it will drive lots and lots of ads no one cares to see.

Automation and Account Simplification Will Drive Layoffs

Unfortunately, another consequence of Apple’s ATT will be layoffs. It is basic common sense. If you can’t run advertising as efficiently as you could last month, you are going to pull back the budget. And, if the inability to identify people most interested in an experience, media buying will require fewer people.

And, SKAdNetwork’s very limited tracking capabilities will drive massive consolidation of social advertising accounts. In fact, the gaming and performance industries will see significant account consolidation. Currently, advertisers and agencies have competed and benchmarked each other using unlimited ad accounts. Not anymore. As a result, most mid-to-large advertisers will streamline media buying. They’ll take their only iOS14 accounts in-house and consolidate. Consolidation is all around us Applovin buys Adjust, EA buys Glu Mobile, etc.

What You Can Do

Still, with the loss of IDFA, account simplification, and media buying automation, creative is again king. So, no matter what happens, you still need to prioritize content. Yes, there will be a fundamental shift in creative testing away from the simplicity and purity of A/B testing. Now, you’ll simply upload your assets into asset feeds for “blob optimization.”

Soon, you’ll see a shift from variation and simple creative enhancements to all-new creative concepts. This will cause a massive increase in the need for better, faster, cheaper creative services. Fortunately, Consumer Acquisition can provide this for you with our new CA+ creative services agency.

Here are some creative best practices you can use for your mobile game advertising:

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