By Darwin Liu

War. Doomsday. Apple vs. Facebook. The bout between the two tech giants has been going on for years with no end in sight. If you’re reading this, you already know what iOS 14.5 is — the people’s champion, the “little guy’s” liberator — the advertising killer.

We live in a time where privacy is a luxury and Apple was promising to give it back. No more indiscriminate tracking. No more stalker-ish ads. Your data was yours. The only way companies like Facebook or Google could use your data?

You had to willingly grant it.

Beginning back this past May, any app that collects end-user data must obtain explicit consent from users. Analytics data suggests that over 96 percent of users chose to opt-out of tracking. If you’re a marketer, you’re understandably worried.

This is having a tremendous effect on our industry — but don’t worry, there are solutions.

How data privacy affects marketers
1. Performance

In the age of automation, Facebook takes care of bidding for us based on a multitude of signals. More signals and data directly equate to better results. 96 percent of opt-outs mean way less data. As a solution, Facebook now attempts to bridge the gap with modeling.

However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that marketing results will take a nosedive due to the loss of direct data.

2. Reporting

Facebook is notoriously difficult to report on. The numbers in Facebook rarely align with the numbers in a customer’s content management system (CMS), in Google Analytics (GA), or elsewhere. With the update, it’s nearly impossible to match up the numbers and justify investing in Facebook. This, in turn, causes more performance decreases, despite every marketer knowing that Facebook performs due to the platform’s ability to highly target a wide array of demographics.

We just can’t prove it.

3. Decision-making

Decision-making is hurt on both the marketer’s end and the client’s end.

For a marketer, we now need to make decisions on partial data. Ever drive on a busy highway with a blindfold? Yeah, me neither, but this is what it feels like. Instead of basing everything we do on the numbers, we’re now making indirect assumptions and hoping for the best.

For our clients, it’s like taking a Trust Fall on steroids. Facebook is now showing even lower numbers and the logical choice would be to move budgets elsewhere. Why aren’t they moving their budgets to “better performing” channels?

Because marketers are saying, “trust me.”

1. Server-Side Tracking Through Google Tag Manager (GTM)

Client-side tracking (via browser/app) is the standard way most marketers track users. The way a user gets “tracked” is by a cookie placed in the browser, app, etc. On the other hand, server-side is hosted on your own servers and has nothing to do with the outside world.

The downside is that it requires a dedicated web developer with extensive knowledge in both development and marketing. Simply reading Google’s article isn’t enough.

The possibilities and upsides are endless. This means more, complete data for all marketing channels (FB, paid search, email, etc.). More complete data means better machine learning, better decision-making by the marketing team, and greater ROAS.

Instead of the browser, the GTM is hosted on your own servers and you have full control over the data. You can validate the traffic and if done correctly, can truly understand where/how/what is converting. Marketing performance will improve, you can report better and on top of that, both you and your clients can make better decisions.

2. API To Offline Conversions Tracking

Offline conversions allow you to upload your own sales data into the majority of engines. If Facebook can’t attribute a transaction to a purchase, your offline conversions might bridge the gap.

For example, if Mike didn’t want to be tracked, clicked a Facebook ad in the Facebook app, and made a purchase, Facebook wouldn’t be able to attribute that back. However, if you were able to upload Mike’s data after the purchase into Facebook, Facebook can match that back to the Facebook ad.

API’s allow us to do this automatically in Google Analytics, Facebook, Google Ads. If we can match CMS sales data within our engines, we can be better marketers.

Bottom Line

Consumer data privacy is a huge focal point and this isn’t changing anytime soon.

IOS 14.5 is just the beginning with chrome already announcing plans to do the same. In an industry where data and privacy are kings, the marketers who can adapt will thrive, while the rest will fall by the wayside.

The good news is that marketers do have options. Smart marketers will keep up with the times and figure out the latest ways to get accurate data (conversions API and server-side tracking). If we adjust our lens when viewing performance, reporting, and decision-making challenges, we can continue to get in front of the right customers and grow our brands.


Darwin Liu is the founder and CEO of X Agency, an integrated digital marketing agency.

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