Written by Nick Heer.

Why Was There Such a Huge Gap Between App Tracking Transparency’s Release and Its Apparent Effects?

Patrick McGee in a Twitter thread:

Basic answer: the apparent lag was one of perception.

When Apple introduced sweeping ‘do not track’ changes 16 months ago, the economy was booming. Covid had caused spending habits to experience a once-in-a-century shift away from services and towards goods.

[…]

Smaller brands weren’t necessarily hit by Apple’s policy changes later than the major platforms, but supply chain issues and a global pandemic created a “fog of war” that made it difficult to understand why, for instance, last year’s holiday sales period had disappointed.

This is the most convincing argument I have seen for the discrepancy between the booming financials of ad tech firms in the face of App Tracking Transparency which should, some analysts say, have destroyed much of their business. What it does not necessarily explain is the often better performance some of these companies saw in areas where the iPhone has a stronger market presence.

From the (likely paywalled) article McGee wrote about the shift in the Financial Times:

Obvi, an online shop for women’s health, was among the companies that were hit by an abrupt downturn last November when the cost to acquire new customers skyrocketed.

[…]

[Chief marketing officer Ashvin] Melwani said his marketing budget was around $20,000 a day, with 90 per cent going to Facebook. In the past few months Obvi has cut its budget, shifted spending to TikTok, and reoriented the company towards repeat customers.

Sure, many things are probably all happening at the same time. ATT may affect performance in North America, and the delay in its effects could be attributable to fortuitous timing. Meanwhile, performance in Europe could be faltering because of regulatory changes, all markets outside the U.S. are affected by the strong dollar, and Meta’s products are facing waning relevance worldwide among advertisers. Each company’s unique product mix is, I suppose, affecting each of them differently.

Even if all of this is true, and ATT really does make it more difficult and expensive to target ads, I stand by what I wrote:

Does ATT really “[deprive] consumers of widespread ad relevancy and advertisers and publishers of commercial opportunity”? Even if it does — which I doubt — has that commercial opportunity really existed with meaningful consumer awareness and choice? Or is this entire market illegitimate, artificially inflated by our inability to avoid becoming its subjects?

This massive and pernicious industry is facing its reckoning. Unfortunately, several small businesses are built on its illegitimate foundation, and they need an effective and ethical way out.