Apple Prepares to Leverage Displaced Meta Advertisers

Shoshana Wodinsky, Marketwatch:

In the year since Apple CEO Tim Cook denounced ad-based business models as a source of real-world violence, Apple has ramped up plans to pop more ads into people’s iPhones and beef up the tech used to target those ads. And now, it looks like Apple’s looking to poach the small businesses that have relied almost entirely on Facebook’s ad platform for more than a decade. 

Marketwatch found two recent job postings from Apple that suggest the company is looking to build out its burgeoning adtech team with folks who specialize in working with small businesses. Specifically, the company says it’s looking for two product managers who are “inspired to make a difference in how digital advertising will work in a privacy-centric world,” who want to “design and build consumer advertising experiences.” The ideal candidate, Apple said, won’t only have savvy around advertising, mobile tech, and advertising on mobile tech, but will also have experience with “performance marketing, local ads or enabling small businesses.”

Apple has spent years marketing itself as a privacy-focused business making its money the old fashioned way, when its users are happiest with the products and services they buy. These as-yet unannounced ad slots may be more respectful of users’ information. Even so, I firmly believe an expansion of ads across its platforms concurrent with its efforts to rein in others’ tracking behaviour — and, by extension, impacting small business advertisers — will damage Apple’s credibility and users’ satisfaction. Nobody is going to not buy an iPhone because there are ads in Maps, for example, but plenty of people who use Maps are going to feel a little cheated.

The maxim “if you are not paying for the product, you are the product” is as inaccurate as it is a cliché. If Apple really is planning to put more ads in its products, it shows that you can pay thousands of dollars and still be the product — because the line on each chart must go up.

Couple that with what feels like ambulance chasing as a knock-on effect of what I am sure many believe is a legitimate expression of privacy ideals and it reflects poorly on the company. One great reason strong privacy protections should be legislated by countries is to prevent businesses from twisting for their benefit something many, including Apple, consider a “fundamental human right”. Meta has spent years trying to redefine “privacy” for its own benefit. Apple’s definition may be closer to what you and I may think is truly private, but it should not get to make that decision.