What Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention Means for Advertisers

smiling young woman in sunglasses looking at her phone

In late 2017, Apple released its latest iOS update, including a new Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature for Safari. ITP was designed to enhance privacy controls for users by limiting how advertisers can track their browsing data using cookies. This is great for consumer privacy, but how will it impact your advertising?

How It Works

For years, Safari has blocked third-party cookies on webpages, but these rules didn’t include first-party cookies or cookie trackers placed on ads. With the introduction of Intelligent Tracking Prevention, Safari will deactivate any type of cookie designed to track users across sites after 24 hours — after which, the cookie can only operate as a user login. It also deletes the cookie entirely if the user doesn’t visit the site for more than 30 days.

This means the cookies that advertisers rely on for retargeting will be unusable after 24 hours, and attributing conversions to the correct campaign element may be impossible after 30 days. By comparison, the standard cookie in Google AdWords is available for retargeting use for 30 days, and many other bid tools make them available for 90 days.

Reducing the reach and tracking that dynamic ads can have on mobile devices is especially impactful for industries with long sales cycles, such as auto advertisers. By putting a 24-hour life span on retargeting cookies, Safari prevents advertisers from tracking what websites people visit and how they behave on different sites. As any digital media buyer will tell you, this data is critical to building personalized content and messages to increase conversions. And remember, this doesn’t necessarily mean users will see fewer ads — just ones that are generic and less tailored to their personal interests.

how ITP affects cookies chart

First-Party vs. Third-Party Cookies

First-Party Cookies – Data owned by the advertiser and collected on its own website. First-party cookies do helpful things, like remember your username and password automatically the next time you log in, but they are also very useful in advertising to build retargeting pools and track conversions that result from ads.

Third-Party Cookies – Data owned and collected by an outside company. Third-party data is most commonly used in behavioral targeting campaigns.

how ITP will affect campaigns chart

4 Quick Tips for Advertisers

  1. If you’re seeing campaign conversions drop and you suspect it might be due to Intelligent Tracking Prevention, do an analysis comparing data from your CRM or other marketing management tools to see if it follows a similar trend. While data between platforms will never match 100%, it often follows similar trends.
  2. Take advantage of the growth in in-app traffic and expand your media strategy beyond the browser. Also, if your brand has an app, make sure you are maximizing downloads with the latest strategies.
  3. Ensure your campaigns are leveraging cross-device campaign technologies that track user IDs via a device graph, instead of cookies, so you aren’t limited by ITP.
  4. Google recently implemented a Google Analytics cookie, called the _gac cookie, which is an acceptable first-party cookie within ITP’s guidelines. Link your AdWords and Google Analytics campaigns to continue to track attribution and conversion activities from Safari as usual.

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There is nothing greater than helping clients achieve awesome things. This has been true for every role Katie has stepped into, including Digital Strategy Director at Goodway Group. So, it’s no surprise that after a decade in media planning, she is still helping her brand partners stand out in the crowded ad arena — whether that’s sharing the latest trends in TV ad extensions, explaining the benefits of full-funnel retargeting, or strategizing a paid social media campaign.