It’s been over a year since Apple released iOS 14.5, the iOS version that changed everything. And it’s been several since the major mobile measurement partners (MMPs) shared a stage together. In the Evolution of MMPs panel at the App Growth Summit Berlin 2022, the largest mobile attribution companies had an open discussion about the evolution of measurement on iOS, what might be on the way for Android, and the role of the MMP in a privacy-centric world.
Here are seven key takeaways from that discussion.
1. The role of MMPs in a post-privacy world
When it comes to the future of mobile measurement, the primary role of an MMP will be the same as always. MMPs are an unbiased source of data. They partner with companies to measure mobile ad performance, prove ad investments are worthwhile, and optimize them for better results.
In our post-privacy world, the partner part is more significant than ever because the rate of industry change is so much greater now. By letting an MMP monitor the ecosystem changes on your behalf, you can shield your teams from constant disruption and uncertainty. It’s a full-time job. One that shouldn’t be handled alone.
2. Temporary workarounds like fingerprinting are not a good investment
Apple has made it clear it intends to crack down on “tracking” of any kind, including fingerprinting.
For individual advertisers, this means engaging in workarounds can be risky. If you’re caught violating Apple’s policies, your app can get kicked out of the App Store until you fix it. But for MMPs, the risk is much greater. If Apple discovers an MMP violating the policy, Apple might ban every app using that MMP all at once! This has unfortunately happened in the past.
MMPs have taken different approaches to this risk. Some (like Branch) believe that knowingly exposing its customers to the possibility of enforcement action by Apple is too great a responsibility for any vendor to take. Others have elected to continue permitting workarounds, at least until Apple begins more aggressive policy enforcement. But every MMP agrees that investing in short-term workarounds is, in the end, a waste of time and effort. The best long-term strategy for advertisers is to embrace the new world of measurement.
“The best strategy for the future of measurement is to embrace the new world and not waste time and energy trying to squeeze out just a little bit more device-level data through workarounds that Apple will inevitably crack down on, whether this year or next.” — Alex Bauer, Head of Product and Market Strategy at Branch
As a business, you shouldn’t have to worry about these nuances or need to pay attention to every little change.
3. The state of Google Android Privacy Sandbox
Where Apple abruptly altered the industry, Google is trying to strike a balance. Google appears to be considering what was going on in the ecosystem and what happened on iOS. Learnings over the last few years from the web version of Privacy Sandbox have resulted in proposals that could work for everyone. And it might actually be a good replacement.
“First-party user identifiers, like third-party cookies and device IDs, were powering a lot of really important functionality, but they were also tracking vectors. It’s inevitable that these identifiers are eventually going away, so what you’re looking for now is: what’s the replacement and how do you make sure it protects user privacy without upending the entire industry? Google’s Privacy Sandbox is actually a pretty good replacement, all things considered, compared to what it might have been.” — Alex Bauer, Head of Product and Market Strategy at Branch
4. MMM is not a threat to MMPs
Media mix modeling (MMM) is not sufficient to replace everything an MMP provides. It’s not just an add-on.
“MMM is probably the future of measurement because what we’re moving toward is a world with very tactical, channel-specific metrics which might help you optimize your Apple Search Ads campaigns and Google ad campaigns separately, but they won’t give you what you need to compare those two across a level playing field. And that’s the premise of next-generation MMM…you can run [MMM] maybe even every day and get this comparison of not just your ads but all of your paid and owned and earned channels.” — Alex Bauer, Head of Product and Market Strategy at Branch
In other words, an increasingly important part of the conversation is how to use MMM as a diagnostic tool to understand how these more tactical, channel-specific metrics compare.
5. More and more, marketers are going beyond mobile
Marketing channels outside of mobile are gaining traction. This could be due, in part, to Apple’s privacy changes. Or it could be, in part, because of changing consumer behaviors. For instance, QR codes on linear TV are increasingly used to entice consumers into an app or offer. And nobody can ignore the rise of connected TVs (CTV) and the new advertising channels they provide.
Now, the real need is for brands to get a good picture of what users are doing regardless of the screen. This means marketers truly need to measure everything.
“CTV just happens to be another platform that is gaining traction. It’s not the first or the last. You need measurement on all of them. We make sure we support linking and measurement on every platform our customers use, whether it is mobile, desktop, CTV, etc.” — Alex Bauer, Head of Product and Market Strategy at Branch
6. Incrementality testing is another useful tool to have in your toolbox
Advertisers sometimes wonder if incrementality testing is the replacement for traditional attribution. But they’re more like complementary solutions. Traditional attribution doesn’t answer the question, “Would I still have had this conversion if I didn’t do something?” Incrementality can answer that. And it has an added benefit. As the industry moves away from deterministic, device-level attribution systems, incrementality testing provides the information needed to tweak the variables in something like MMM to ensure it’s accurate.
7. MTA is the promised land that hasn’t arrived — and now isn’t going to
When it works, multi-touch attribution (MTA) is an incredible tool. But it’s not the way forward. MTA was always complicated to build. Now, with all the new privacy restrictions removing access to user-level identifiers, there’s no longer a feasible, technical way to do it on mobile.
“What you should be asking yourself is: what information were you trying to get from MTA? Usually, it’s trying to gain insight into how everything else contributed to a successful conversion, but solutions like next-generation MMM provide other — and better — ways to do this.” — Alex Bauer, Head of Product and Market Strategy at Branch
Build your strategy
Ads have long been the inexpensive, low-hanging fruit for marketers. And while ads aren’t going anywhere, the marketing world is evolving. Now is the time to both build a strategy for other marketing channels and optimize the funnel instead of pouring more cheap traffic into the top. Because of this need to diversify, most marketers are now growing other owned and earned channels. These have always provided great value, but they are now getting the attention they always deserved.
As marketers expand focus into other channels, while still sticking to tried-and-true paid channels, measurement will not only be imperative but also get more complicated. Changes like Google Privacy Sandbox and SKAdNetwork also mean that mobile measurement is starting to become commoditized. Since MMPs are all playing with the same tools, marketers should look beyond purely technical differentiation when choosing a measurement partner.
Don’t try to maneuver this increasingly complicated measurement landscape alone. Rely on an MMP to be your ally. MMPs bear the brunt of industry changes, help navigate the many nuances, and optimize cross-platform campaigns. And don’t despair! Big shifts like this are why mobile is such a dynamic, incredibly exciting space — and always will be.