When Apple revealed iOS 16 at its developer conference this week, the marketing world held its breath, expecting the company to take the nuclear option to cut off data coming from iPhones that feeds mobile advertising. Instead, Apple appeared to give the industry a reprieve, for now.
“I am shocked,” said one marketing tech executive, who is familiar with Apple’s ecosystem and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Others were shocked, too. “We were expecting the same announcement,” said Andrew Casale, CEO of Index Exchange, the programmatic ad marketplace.
At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, mobile marketers thought Apple would expand anti-tracking features on iPhones, but the company was more reserved. Advertisers said Apple could be feeling the pressure from companies complaining about its heavy hand; that Apple has gotten shy about its anti-tracking tactics, after companies like Meta slammed its policies as anti-competitive. Even companies that have worked more amicably with Apple, like Snap, have been affected by an inability to help advertisers as effectively as before, and merchants are worried about not being able to grow without a digital line of sight into consumer behavior on iPhones.
Apple could see that its advertising and privacy platform “still isn’t fully baked,” Casale said. And Apple is “responding to pressure.”
Apple is not known for giving much deference to the advertising ecosystem, which is full of developers, publishers, third-party ad tech vendors, and of course, businesses that advertise. “There’s been a lot of collateral damage, where privacy was more expensive than [Apple] thought,” said Rabah Rahil, chief marketing officer at Triple Whale, an e-commerce mobile marketing platform. “It’s one thing to put privacy first when everyone’s rich, but it’s another thing when people are going through really challenging times and economic headwinds.”