Home The Disconnect Between Mobile Advertisers and Consumers

The Disconnect Between Mobile Advertisers and Consumers

The populace of the Internet has made its wishes painfully clear. They do not want to be tracked, do not want advertisers to identify them or their behaviors in any way, shape or form. Apple understands this, and that is one of the reasons that it is deprecating its Unique Device ID (UDID) in an attempt to pre-empt advertisers and analytics services from tracking user behavior. All in the name of privacy, of course.

There is a disconnect between the advertisers and consumers. Since Apple started bouncing apps from the App Store for using the device identifier, analytics services and advertisers have pitched “how to work around UDID” solutions. Many consumers see that and squirm. They do not want advertisers to get around UDID.

Usurping UDID

Advertisers are going to great lengths to find alternatives to UDID. The industry is scrambling and a plethora of solutions have come to the forefront. To many consumers, this brings a delightfully wicked smile to their faces. The more advertisers suffer, the more consumers’ think, “you get what you deserve.”

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed guidelines for mobile tracking. It urges companies that offer mobile services to work toward better protections, including disclosures on when and how user behavior is being tracked. The goal is transparency and to provide users with short, easily accessible disclosures available on small screens.

We have been down this road before. In the 1990s, advertisers were just figuring out the power of tracking user behavior on the Web. After a series of fits and starts, the industry settled on first-party cookie tracking as a way that is fair to both advertisers and consumers. Advertisers can use cookies to tell where a user is, what sites they frequent and target advertising to them. On the other end, users can block cookies if they so choose.

An effective standard like first-party cookies has not been created for the mobile ecosystem yet. Apple’s UDID was the most effective solution for mobile advertisers on iPhones and iPads because it told trackers almost everything about the user. Where they are, what apps they are using, what they are doing in those apps, how they interact with ads in those apps. The UDID allowed developers and advertisers to target advertising, send relevant push notifications and prompt users to open an app. It was the one-stop shop for all analytics needs. Now that it is gone, developers and advertisers feel the need to find a new way to do all of those things.

Whether users like it or not.

The Need for Compromise

Consumers like apps. Consumers like free stuff. Consumers like free apps. There is great value in apps, from the games they play to weather information or listening to music.

We have mentioned it many times on ReadWriteWeb, but even when an app does not cost money, it is not free. One way or another, users pay for their apps. Part of that is giving up their data so that advertisers can send ads to them. On the Web, data is currency. It is unreasonable for consumers to think that Apple will get rid of unique device IDs and, poof, there is no more tracking.

There needs to be balance. The UDID caused privacy concerns because it allowed advertisers to get some of the most granular data possible about a user. That could include personally identifiable data. That is information that advertisers crave but is generally considered frowned upon to collect and maintain.

“So ultimately what the industry needs is a solution that balances consumer privacy needs & commercial marketing needs so that value can be provided to both the consumers and app developers. Such a solution should be well-communicated and easy enough for all constituents to understand,” said Craig Palli, a VP of Fiksu, a Boston-based mobile marketing company. “Currently, methodologies of this nature are being built. Interestingly, we saw this same debate emerge in the late ’90s on the desktop, where ultimately first-party cookies prevailed as the solution that best balanced consumer and commercial needs.”

For its part, the primary players in the advertising industry are saying the right things. They want to find a solution to this “UDID problem” while still respecting user privacy and the desire not to be tracked.

“I’ve spent many years in the mobile industry and understand how important targeting has become to advertising effectiveness and monetization,” AdTruth VP James Lamberti said in a press release last week. “I’ve also spent enough time studying the issues to understand that privacy is paramount. What AdTruth offers is an ideal targeting technology for mobile devices. It delivers the targeting capabilities that are so critical and it delivers them deep within the boundaries of acceptable privacy practices.”

For the consumer, the notion of “acceptable targeting” sounds like an oxymoron. For the advertiser, not allowing mobile tracking seems like a great way to put a lot of people out of business, including the developers that make the apps people love so much.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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