Apple vs. Facebook and looking at Google’s FLoC plan


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Good morning, Marketers, and how many addressability alternatives are there?

As many as there are identity providers? Oh, plus data providers and adtech vendors, and all the open source developers playing in the Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox?

The situation is fascinating, as it oscillates between industry-wide co-operation and fierce competition to be the vendor that gets it right. After all, the third-party cookie game is over, and not everyone feels confident that going back to some form of contextual advertising is a viable alternative. I’ve been speaking with a lot of people recently about how these alternatives will shake out. Will we end up with one standard, or a wide choice? And at the end of the day, will they really show the ROI marketers expect?

Does Google’s FLoC alternative to third-party cookies make sense? 

FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC) is one of the main addressability alternatives under development in Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox. Essentially, it involves tracking the online behavior of groups of individuals, and storing that data at the browser level. This creates targetable but anonymized audiences for marketers.

Opinions differ as to how compelling FLoC is likely to be for marketers. Michael Schoen, SVP and GM Marketing Solutions at Neustar, told us “The early results that Google has shared are promising. You need to consider those results with a couple of teaspoons of salt, because often they’re done in comparison with completely untargeted advertising — and no-one does completely untargeted advertising online.”

Patrick O’Leary, founder and CEO at boostr, said that advertisers are likely to be increasingly concerned about the sheer number and variety of addressability alternatives being proposed, not just by Google, but by adtech and data vendors. “Does this just fit Chrome? What’s going to happen on my Apple or Android device, on my Roku or set-top box? Verizon Media has announced they have an identity solution, the DSPs have identity solutions. If I’m an advertiser, I’m going to be confused and concerned that none of this is going to be interoperable.”

Apple’s IDFA plan enrages Facebook

It’s not just Google that’s making waves in its bid to protect consumer privacy. Apple’s changes to its IDFA, the in-app identifier for advertisers, is imminent, and the details of what is being proposed is causing concern — and in the case of Facebook, outright condemnation.

All apps on Apple’s devices will be forced to require explicit consumer opt-in for tracking to be enabled. “Apple is taking a very aggressive stance here,” Michael Schoen of Neustar told us, “because not only are they requiring opt-in — they can enforce that opt-in is required. If an app does not present the opt-in functionality, and the consumer doesn’t actively opt-in, then literally the application won’t be able to access the IDFA. Apple is also requiring that other identifiers can’t be used, even if they can’t be directly blocked by Apple. It’s going to be interesting to see how that actually plays out.”

Facebook will aggressively message consumers to opt in, and is already denouncing Apple’s move as anti-competitive. “Having a logged-in user,” said Patrick O’Leary of boostr, “that’s gold. Facebook has very rich behavioral and contextual information about those people. It’s the ability [for users] to go off network that freaks Facebook out.” With around 80% of Facebook users accessing the platform only by mobile phone (a small percentage would access by iPhone, of course), users not choosing — or bothering — to opt in, will be depriving Facebook of much of the data it uses for ad targeting.

Why we care. Facebook proved itself well-insulated from advertising boycotts in 2020, but a trend towards preventing it from collecting user data (without consent) strikes at the heart of its value proposition to marketers.

Automattic to acquire

Automattic, the for-profit which owns open source CMS WordPress, has announced that it will acquire the widely used content analytics platform with the aim of integrating it with the WordPress enterprise arm, WordPress VIP. WordPress VIP clients will gain access to features like content measurement and analytics, and AI-driven content recommendations.

The cost of the acquisition was not disclosed.

Why we care. This is an acquisition which can help WordPress cement its dominance in the market as a CMS for publishers.

Google publishes new manual actions aimed at Google News and Discover penalties

Google has released a new set of manual action guidelines for publishers appearing in the Google News and Discover spaces. The manual actions warrant penalties for content violations including adult content, manipulated media, misleading content, and profanity.

Any publisher found to be violating the policies in Google News or Google Discover may be dropped from search results.

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