Shawn Lim
Jun 14, 2024

Tech On Me: Is Apple renewing its focus on improving its ad measurement capabilities?

In a busy tech week, Apple unveils new ad tools, Oracle exits from ad tech, Amazon makes a big Taiwan bet, and Musk launches a war on Apple devices, and other weekly highlights.

Photo: Flow 37, Adobe Stock
Photo: Flow 37, Adobe Stock

This week's focus 

While Apple’s OpenAI partnership at WWDC this week made the headlines, the company also released developer documentation for ‘AdAttributionKit’ consolidating its privacy-focused ad attribution technologies. 

This framework includes two main components: App AdAttributionKit (formerly SKAdNetwork) for app ad attribution and Web AdAttributionKit (formerly Private Click Measurement, PCM) for web ad attribution. Despite the rebranding, these tools' core functionalities remain essentially unchanged. However, a notable new feature is support for re-engagement campaigns, which will be available starting with iOS 18. 

This addition allows advertisers to track when users open an app after downloading it, aiding in measuring the return on ad spend (ROAS) for specific campaigns. The rebranding aims to simplify and clarify Apple's ad attribution tools, eliminating confusing and complex terms like PCM and SKAdNetwork. 

My take: Apple introduced SKAdNetwork as a way for developers to obtain user consent and use unique device identifiers for deterministic attribution. Most iOS users accept this olive branch of privacy, with opt-in rates to be tracked at 15-25%, depending on the app category.

Bobbie Gersbach-Smith, planning director for APAC at M&C Saatchi Performance, says that advertisers are left with the vast majority of their iOS target market shrouded in tracking limitations as there is a lack of granularity in the attribution signals compared to when device-level data is available; the number of in-app actions trackable is limited; and timing is an issueboth in terms of longer look back windows no longer being supported, and there being a reporting delay of up to 48 hours, effecting real-time optimisation.

While SKAdNetwork has faced criticism for its complexity and limited success in preventing fingerprinting while preserving ad effectiveness, the rebranding might signal Apple's renewed focus on improving its ad measurement capabilities.

In other news

Oracle Advertising is shutting down

Oracle Advertising is shutting down, as announced by CEO Safra Catz during the company's fiscal 2024 Q4 earnings call. The division's revenue had declined to approximately $300 million in 2024 from a reported $2 billion in 2022.

My take: Over the past decade, Oracle built its advertising capabilities through acquisitions such as Vitrue, Eloqua, BlueKai, DataLogix, and Moat. However, increasing privacy regulations and scandals like Cambridge Analytica have created significant challenges. Privacy laws like Europe's GDPR and changes by Facebook and Apple further complicated the advertising landscape, leading Oracle to gradually scale back its advertising operations, including shutting down AddThis globally in 2021.

Niall Hogan, general manager, JAPAC at GumGum says that Oracle's exit from the ad industry leaves a $300 million gap, which presents a golden opportunity for emerging players to step in and innovate. He notes the timing could not be better as the industry is already undergoing a major shift, with AI-powered targeting, data privacy solutions, and first-party data replacing reliance on traditional cookies.

He says: “Companies that are willing to embrace innovation and agility will not just fill the void left by Oracle, they will become the driving force shaping the future of advertising technology. This future promises not only superior marketing performance but also a commitment to respecting consumer privacy, a critical factor in today's data-driven world. This is a pivotal moment for the advertising sector, and those who seize the initiative stand to reap the rewards for years to come."

TikTok vs Google 

TikTok is exploring a new feature to challenge Google's dominance in search by allowing users to find products through photos on TikTok Shop. This feature is currently being tested in the United States and Southeast Asia. Users can take or upload images to find similar items for purchase, a capability reminiscent of Google's Lens and Amazon's visual search tools.

My take: I am not surprised that TikTok is doing this. I previously wrote about how TikTok's ad platform focused on targeting and audience tools and has significant potential to rival major competitors like Google and Meta. Unlike Meta, TikTok already offers advanced features such as targeting by hashtag, which it implemented in 2021. 

A notable advantage of TikTok's search-based campaigns is their ability to identify specific search terms or phrases that lead to sales. This is possible due to the platform's high on-platform or last-click shopping rate. By providing detailed insights into which search terms result in purchases, TikTok offers a level of detail that Meta cannot match.

On cloud nine?

Amazon plans to invest billions of dollars in Taiwan over the next 15 years to establish data centres, marking its latest expansion in Asia to cater to the increasing demand for cloud services in the region. Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company's cloud-computing division, announced opening an AWS infrastructure region in Taiwan by early 2025. This investment aims to provide secure data storage and low-latency workload operations from Taiwan-based data centres, reflecting AWS's long-term commitment to the area.

My take: Amazon’s move comes hot on the heels of Nvidia launching its new AI products at Computex. Nvidia’s co-founder and CEO Jensen Huang, who is Taiwanese, has seen his stock rise and, in the process, has positioned Taiwan as the centre of the global AI race. The rest of Amazon’s rivals are not sitting idle either. In May, Microsoft disclosed investment plans for Southeast Asia, while Google intends to invest $2 billion to establish its first data centre in Malaysia to power cloud services. 

Elon Musk's war on Apple devices

Elon Musk has threatened to ban employees from bringing Apple devices to work following Apple CEO Tim Cook's announcement of a partnership to integrate OpenAI's technology into Apple's operating systems. Musk criticised this move as a ‘security violation’. It stated that visitors to his businesses, including Tesla and SpaceX, would have to leave their Apple devices at the entrance, where they would be stored in a Faraday cage.

My take: This is the latest instalment in Musk's ongoing legal battle with OpenAI. Musk accuses the company of prioritising profits over its original mission to benefit humanity. Despite Apple's assurances that personal data will remain private with the new AI integration, Musk expressed doubt about Apple's ability to protect user privacy when partnering with OpenAI.

Umm... sounds hypocritical, coming from someone who allows porn on their platform.

New York's SAFE for Kids Act protects young minds

New York's state legislature has passed the SAFE for Kids Act, which will prohibit social media companies from displaying ‘addictive feeds’ to children under 18 unless they obtain parental consent. An addictive feed is defined as one that recommends content based on user information, such as algorithmic news feeds. Chronological feeds are still allowed under the new law.

My take: As the father of a two-year-old girl, I find it encouraging that regulators are protecting children's mental health and creating a safer digital environment. What is also important to note is that this bill prohibits online platforms from collecting or selling personal data from users under 18 without informed consent.

Looking ahead

Cannes Lions 2024: AI and ethics in the spotlight

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity starts next week. Thousands of industry professionals are gearing up for a week of inspiring content and discussions in the South of France. This year's themes include generative AI, corporate social responsibility (CSR), diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), talent and culture, the creator economy, consumer insights and trends, and creative excellence, reflecting the latest priorities and innovations in the creative and marketing sectors.

My take: Generative AI will be a central focus, with discussions on technological advancements, innovation, industry disruption, ethical considerations, and consumer engagement. It will be interesting to see announcements at the festival by the industry on AI reshaping marketing, advertising, and design, showcasing successful AI-driven campaigns and exploring the moral implications of AI-generated content. 

CSR will be another key theme, emphasising integrating ethical practices and community impact into business strategies. I am also excited to see DEI feature prominently, with sessions on systemic change, inclusive marketing strategies, and the implications of AI advancements for DEI.

Talent and culture will also be addressed, focusing on diverse perspectives and practices that support a positive, creative workplace. I want to see how individual creators influence marketing strategies and enhance brand engagement. Watch out for our coverage of it!

Shawn Lim is Campaign Asia-Pacific's media and tech editor. Tech on Me is his weekly blog for the region's ad and martech news. 

Campaign Asia

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