Omar Oakes
Sep 15, 2020

Media industry urges Apple to hold talks over ad tracking changes

Proposed changes would see advertisers unable to automatically track iPhone users across apps.

Apple CEO: Tim Cook
Apple CEO: Tim Cook

The world’s leading media and advertising trade bodies have jointly sent an open letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook to urge the iPhone-maker to take part in talks about its plans to restrict the way advertisers can track consumers across apps.

The cross-industry Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media sent the letter to Cook today as a first public invitation from the industry to work with Apple since it announced changes to its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA)

The IDFA is a random device identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device. Advertisers use this to track data so they can deliver customised advertising, but the new iPhone software iOS 14 will require users to opt in to tracking, which means that the IDFA will be present only for users that explicitly opt in. The expectation is that the percentage of those users who do opt in will be relatively low.

However, Apple said this month that these changes would be “delayed” until early next year. iOS14 is expected to launch when Apple rolls out its new suite of iPhones and iPads after tomorrow’s Apple September Event, when the products will be revealed. 

In its letter to Cook today (published in full, below), the Partnership said it welcomes the delay and urged Apple to meet industry representatives “soon” in order to address “widespread questions and concerns”. 

The proposed change to the IDFA is the latest hurdle facing the digital advertising industry, which is already contemplating a future without the widespread use of marketing cookies, after some browsers turned off default opt-ins for third-party tracking with cookies. The most popular, Google’s Chrome browser, is expected to follow suit within the next two years. 

Campaign contacted Apple for a response and will update this article with the company's comment if it provides one.

The Partnership comprises global and national trade associations, such as the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4 As), the Association of National Advertisers, the IAB and the IAB Tech Lab, Network Advertising Initiative, and the World Federation of Advertisers. 


As the leading organizations representing global brand marketers and the digital media and advertising industry, we welcome your decision to delay the proposed policy changes for Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) for iOS 14 until next year, and we request an urgent meeting to ensure we use that additional time to launch a collaborative process to address widespread questions and concerns around those upcoming changes.

We share your strong support for consumer privacy and choice, and we hope to work together to strengthen and extend those important goals, while also protecting the consumer experience and the ad-supported digital economy. In particular, we hope to better understand the specific rationale for such changes, how the changes will be implemented, and what steps might be taken by marketers, publishers, app developers, and other parties to ensure that critical functionality is preserved.

Without immediate engagement in a cross-industry dialogue, we believe the proposed changes could have a negative impact on both consumers and businesses, as iPhone and iPad users risk losing access to many popular ad-funded apps, news organizations and other publishers are starved of a vital source of revenue during the current economic crisis, vibrant ad-supported innovation and competition withers, and critical functionality grinds to a halt across the advertising supply chain.

Following are some of the issues we would like to discuss around iOS 14:

·      What mechanism, if any, can advertisers use in the future to cap the frequency of their ads on Apple devices, so users don’t face a blizzard of the same repeating ads? 

·      Whether apps will be allowed to require IDFA activation from their users, as many depend on advertising revenue for viability, or will they be forced to shut down or limit their distribution to non-Apple devices?

·      What changes might Apple consider to its proposed new policy to maintain the goal of protecting privacy but avoid comprising functionality or damaging the app ecosystem?  

·      Whether you are willing to allow the IDFA to be used for non-targeting purposes, such as campaign measurement, attribution, and ad fraud detection?

·      What privacy-protective systems or tools can marketers use in the future to reach groups of users with common interests on Apple devices?

·      Whether Apple will commit to the same policy that it is applying to other businesses by using a consistent interface and language before it collects any user information for its own marketing-related purposes?

More broadly, we believe it is vital to avoid the emerging structural risk from a patchwork of conflicting policies around addressability being implemented by the handful of companies that control browsers and operating systems.

That is why our industry recently launched the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media, to help create global, industry-wide standards for addressable media. The Partnership’s objective is to safeguard privacy and improve consumer experience, while protecting key functionalities like customization and analytics necessary for digital media and advertising.

We would like to invite you to join with us in this effort, so we can work together to develop an effective universal solution that extends across the entire ecosystem, not just to Apple-owned products and platforms.

We believe it is essential to adopt a fair approach that balances the interests of companies that control platforms with those of consumers, publishers, third-party networks, and developers. After all, it is the products and services of our members and their apps and media offerings-that make up the overwhelming majority of time consumers spend on Apple devices, that are in large part a contributor to the success of Apple and its products.  We also are inviting representatives from other browser and operating system companies to take part in that effort, so all of the major stakeholders will be represented.

Given the significant time needed for marketers and other companies to adapt their systems, it is imperative that we meet soon, so we can discuss those issues and potential solutions with time to implement them across the industry.

We appreciate your willingness to discuss these important issues with your peers in the digital economy, and we look forward to a productive dialogue that will ensure privacy and preserve the robust ad-supported digital marketplace.

Campaign UK

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