- 8 mins read

New horizons for Performance Marketers: Predicting future challenges and solutions

2021 has been a challenging year for digital marketers — less so because of the pandemic, but rather because of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework that made it significantly more difficult to glean data from users’ mobile phones. While some consider it to be a positive, value-adding development that will add value to the industry, many worry it will hinder targeting efficiency and make reporting on campaign outcomes more difficult.

To find out how digital marketers have been grappling with this new challenge, four seasoned digital marketing professionals representing major industry players share their vision.

The most painful issue for the digital marketing industry right now

Any performance marketer will tell you that the ATT framework launched in April 2021 is a pain point for the industry that isn’t going anywhere soon. In short, the ATT has massively reduced the number of total devices tracked by restricting access to the Identifier for Advertisers – the app version of a cookie.

This framework has had a direct impact on mobile advertising dollars, with marketers now having to optimize campaigns with less data and often facing lower return on investment. While there is general frustration in the industry about the reduced amount of data for efficient advertising, some marketers see a silver lining to this situation:

“I don’t think this is a step back – rather the right step forward. Passing permission & control elements back to the users will allow for the real value of apps to show. Big companies should find ways to win back the trust of consumers, educate them and prove there’s nothing wrong with relevant ads.” 
Farshad Dabeshkhoy – Managing Director, Wise.Blue

On the other hand, some observers doubt that Apple’s reason for taking this step was a purely altruistic desire to protect its users’ privacy. The company has a vested interest in weakening competition and taking the biggest piece of the advertising pie for themselves:

“Sure, we need to protect the users and their privacy. But there’s a downside to this framework, and it’s not only about losing lots of information and reduced advertising efficiency and value. I am an avid supporter of open internet as opposed to a “walled garden” approach which restricts information to subscribers of a particular service or platform. The present situation is opposing healthy competition, creativity, and diversity.”
Alexander Gösswein, VP Key Accounts EMEA, Criteo

We can compare ATT framework challenges to what happened to email marketing when the double opt-in rule was introduced and when stricter anti-spam controls were initiated by the big email services. Many marketers saw these changes as the end of email as an advertising medium.

Before these changes, email was generally regarded as spam. Five years later, the respect for email marketing has grown immensely and it is still among the best-performing marketing channels in terms of ROI. So, it’s possible that app data tracking finds itself at a similar crossroads and is in the beginning stages of a transformation that will create a more meaningful and valuable resource for both users and advertisers.

Preparing for the “cookie-less future”

As Alexander Gösswein put it, advertisers are currently transferring from a third-party data world – that we’ve seen for the last 15 years or so – to a first-party data world. It will mean the loss of some information, but ultimately it will be about having the right data. The ones with better first-party data will be the ones succeeding in the industry.

Big companies like TikTok claim they have been putting user privacy first for a while. TikTok’s Head of Growth for Central Europe, Arturs Lukasevics, revealed that the company is now internally working on new first-party solutions, including app server-to-server connections and SDK.

In the future, apps will continue finding new ways to keep their users engaged on their platform for as long as possible. TikTok is ready to embrace this situation and offer merchants first-party integration-enabled ways to manage all their e-commerce processes from TikTok itself, including shopping and fulfillment.

“Brands large and small are finding new and unique ways to engage with our community, and we are doing our best to ensure a positive and safe environment for our brand partners that choose TikTok. We also work on educational content and guides for advertisers with best practices on what kind of content to post on TikTok.”
Arturs Lukasevics, Head of Growth for Central Europe at TikTok

SMEs: how to balance ambition with a limited budget

Small businesses and startups often have small budgets and ambitious goals, which is why they need to implement well-founded and detailed strategies that account for every dollar spent.

Nowadays, it’s not possible to have an effective marketing strategy for only on one channel or social media platform. Every platform serves a different purpose– TikTok is for entertainment, while Twitter is the go-to medium for real-time conversations, discovering new stuff, or making purchasing decisions.

“First of all, you need to understand where your main audience is and where to best achieve awareness for your business. Then you need to use a mix of platforms to communicate your brand because each platform serves a different purpose.” 
Farshad Dabeshkhoy – Managing Director, Wise.Blue

While the new framework makes it harder to leverage previous experiences and create lookalike audiences on Facebook, it doesn’t affect all targeting capabilities like interests, behavior, age, and gender, which can still be used as a foundation for reaching your primary target audience. So, fortunately, platforms still offer ways to reach the right people based on your criteria.

Digital marketing in the influencer age

Despite the changing times, the most important components of advertising have remained the same: content and context. Or, in other words, the message you deliver and the environment it’s delivered in. When it comes to influencer marketing, we see a major shift from promoting a logo or brand to promoting a person. The reason why influencer marketing is so effective is because it’s easier for people to connect to people than to brands.

Alexander Gösswein adds that, as early as 1997, L’Oreal was already doing testimonials on TV where real people were sharing their experiences using L’Oreal products. Now it just happens on a different platform and on a smaller, but wider scale. Even small influencers can gather a significant number of followers and produce impressive results.

On TikTok, influencers pass advertising messages to their audience via entertaining reels…and it’s very effective. The platform calls influencers “creators” and ads are referred to as TikToks. This is possible because when brands join TikTok, they’re asked to think as marketers but act as creators. As a result, 70% of users say that TikTok ads are more enjoyable than those on any other platform.

“Content on TikTok is unique, you cannot just take your existing marketing video and post it there. At Printful, it took us a couple of weeks to figure out how to adapt our marketing to TikTok in order to avoid negative comments from the community. And it’s the only channel where you can still go viral without paying anyone.”
Raitis Purins – Head of Marketing, Printful

What’s on the horizon for digital marketing?

The cookie-less future is not as grim as it may seem at first glance. Sure, the landscape is changing, but space is being created for honest advertisers and publishers who value their target audience’s privacy to make marketing more meaningful. That’s something we can all root for.

The industry is still looking for better ways to adapt to the new ATT framework. But one thing is clear – although Apple’s attempt to level the playing field may seem like digital marketers are being pushed 20 years back, it can also be seen as an opportunity to make the industry more meaningful.

“Marketers are and will increasingly be forced to find new ways to think about what the creative ad can do to help target and engage users in a new way. We are now seeing a new trend – targeting using creatives. Years ago, we used to look at basic ad parameters like the size of the image, but now we are striving to do much more. I believe that such tailored and helpful ads make the world a better place.”
Farshad Dabeshkhoy – Managing Director, Wise.Blue

This article is based on a panel discussion from the Httpool GoGlobal event. Watch the full panel discussion here.