MADV 009 - Apple & Ads controversies

Ft. free lottery tickets, a billion $ bank robbery & some HR chaos

Must-read of the week: How to win the internet

  • #NotBoring is regularly an interesting newsletter. The episode on The Great Online Game is pure fire. Insert coins!

Apple new ad placement(s)

Last week, Apple’s awaited new “search tab” ad placement was released, and there’s been shots fired from all sides…

Great punchlines…

  • “Because the problem with the App Store is that there wasn't enough advertising. 🙄

  • My favorite quote of the week going without a doubt to Eric: “Apple has brazenly, in broad daylight, stormed into the Bank of Facebook, looted its most precious resource, and, camouflaged under the noble cause of giving privacy controls to the consumer, fled the scene” in Apple robbed the mob’s bank.

  • Wait, there’s more! (I know you didn’t click.. you should) "The odious specter of ATT: it’s an obvious commercial land grab dressed up as a moral crusade ... If anything is clear from the (protracted) rollout of ATT, it is that Apple’s PR department deserves a pay raise".

  • It’s indeed quite of an intriguing timing to sync this with ATT : “Why not let the paint dry on ATT before adding new ad units to the App Store?

In god we trust. All others bring data

  • … but away from opinions, early data shows its performance is absolutely dreadful so far. I’ve tested campaigns on a few apps myself, then talked to a dozen advertisers to see where I fucked up, but everyone had the same feedback: CPM levels to trigger any delivery are really high - even when only early adopters are live , and gambling & dating heavy bidders were kept away. I never really cared much about CPMs (sometimes even seeing high CPMs as a great thing), more importantly, very poor install rate are leading to unsustainable CPI levels. CTR wasn’t too bad, but given we’re charged on CPM, it doesn’t matter much. With almost no lever to pull besides new/existing users, age & gender, I’ve already heard various advertisers pulling out budget, with barely a week in.

  • There’s a also a couple of bugs reported, so be careful what total budget you allocate to those campaigns: in various instances, the daily caps weren’t respected. In others, the campaign kept running after being paused…

  • Did I ever mention I sell ASA consultancy/training/management? Here we go, the first sponsored link in MADV. But it’s “first-party”, so it doesn’t count, right?

In search of the next ad placements…

  • I’m quite disappointed that “search tab” ad placement isn’t going to bring the scalability many hoped for, but there’s more coming soon. Ad placements in own & operated apps (News & Stocks) are already confirmed in Apple’s documentation (although still in beta for the 13th consecutive month).

  • Before thinking about where, Apple wasn’t too sure if to add ads to the AppStore initially. In 2015, I made a bet they wouldn’t, I would still bet Steve would be infuriated now. Records reveal some juicy details, such as this quote: "if people are willing to pay [bot nets] to gain position, why don’t we just let them pay us?"

  • Interesting stat from the WSJ, 2011 edition: back in the days when the pie was about x200 smaller, Apple had a decent 1/6 slice of it. A year later, alongside its IPO, Facebook introduced mobile ads. The rest is history.

  • Many are now convinced Apple will end up opening up inventory within third-party apps and become a full adnetwork - Eric’s reasoning here.

  • I felt glorious for a second when I thought I had spotted an alpha version of “iAd 2.0” in the wild! yay! Until I was told this more likely just an SKOverlay instance, which some developers use for cross-promo (but here the advertiser & publisher didn’t deal together 🤔), or even some networks’ (Vungle has it in its SDK for 6 months) - although the lack of an “ad” label is quite intriguing in this context… The mystery is on 🕵️, if anyone can intro me to Adikus, thank you!

  • “iAd 2.0” is still probably happening at some point. After the large sales headcount growth in 2020, there are still several dozens other open positions for Apple Ads, some to “improve ad personalization”, others including a mention of a new anti-fraud team, which sounds to me like a final confirmation the inventory will move beyond Apple own & operated scope.

  • Some turmoil within Apple Ads HR: I learned last week that Apple had hired Chaos Monkey’s Antonio in April to lead ads product engineering. First, I was a bit surprised Apple even hired people with strong opinions - it’s been a long time this is not a place for the misfits & troublemakers, just like Google isn’t for innovators for a decade. Well, that escalated fast: once the hiring info reached mainstream news, internal controversy arose and he seems out now :/ Personally, I quite enjoyed his book a lot, if you haven’t given it a shot yet, you should. Fun & insightful.

  • Apple can use troves of personal data other networks can’t access to “personalize” ads, and still qualify it as first-party, outside of ATT consent (including downloads & purchases in third-party apps…). Not exactly in-line with “"what happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone But then, I’m wondering: will Apple report third-party ads inventory through SKAdNetwork? Or will we instead get the deterministic, granular detail sof AdServices, which would be an unprecedented level self-preferencing…

  • Talking about self-preferencing, I also wonder what’s the general perception on this “detail”: SKAN view-through requires 3 seconds, but ASA view-through just one second... Curious how Apple PR department would react to that one.

  • If the third-party tricky questions aren’t solved in time, the internal battle between editorial/curation and ads sales team will get heated. Let’s hope the latter won’t reach that point:

ATT stats controversy explained

“96% of people opt-out of tracking!” claim mainstream tech media clickbaity headlines (as seen on ArsTechnica, FastCompany, Mashable, Business Insider & many others), all quoting very early data from Flurry (which is updated daily, now around 5-13% opt-in).

“40+% opt-in rates!” say MMP benchmarks (Appsflyer, Kochava…), as well as Adcolony

”20-30%ish IDFA availability on ad requests!”, say a few other networks (Kayzen, Bigabid, Blis, Ad4screen...)

The reality is slightly more complex, between methodology details, users’ iOS14.5 adoption, developers’ ATT adoption, and varying sample bias (The stage, maturity and monetization model of apps using Flurry differ quite a bit from those using Appsflyer). I had a draft explaining why those numbers can all be true, but Alex Bauer did the job for me on AdExchanger (with additional perspective on his twitter timeline).

At least I discovered that Flurry was still alive (now part of Verizon), I hadn’t heard about it being used for years. With Facebook Analytics shutting down soon, and Firebase analytics module being what it is, I guess it’s nice to hear there are still other solutions out there for whom can’t afford proper professional analytics software.

The way I see it, public ATT opt-in benchmarks are a distraction. Advertisers have bigger fish to fry. Don’t get distracted and focus your attention where it deserves.

More ATT & SKAN content

For those who can still handle it… Not my #1 topic choice, but 🤷. Or maybe I love it after all.

  • iOS14.5.x adoption should reach an inflexion point imminently. Buckle your seatbelts

  • SKAN three point .. doh!” Maor wrote more details about the next iteration where various networks may receive conversion values. Watch the space to see who’ll be transparent enough to share if the did-win parameter is true or false, instead of trying to hijack attribution, à la SAN… I’ve said it countless time, I’ll repeat: raw postbacks need to be sent to whom they belong to. No idea why Apple would entitle networks trust.

  • Crafting prompt & pre-prompt copy, do & don’t by Appfigures

  • Appsumer has started a quite solid weekly news summary on ATT & SKAN, this week featuring the stats I mentioned above, some ranting about Facebook obfuscating the very few parameters SKAN discloses & more.


And that’s it for today! How many links did I manage to make you click on?