There are some interesting new features in iOS 6 that impact on mobile advertising. Overall they make it easier for advertisers to advertise, for users to turn the volume up or down on advertising, and for both to meet in the middle.
Or, more simply, they make for smarter identification, smarter ad formats, and much smarter privacy settings.
We’ll be looking at some of these new features over the next few days. Today, we focus on Apple’s smarter ID system.
Advertising needs IDs
IDs are important in mobile advertising. Many providers in the mobile industry need some way of establishing who you are, not for pernicious reasons but simply to ascertain which apps you have bought or downloaded, which ads you have already seen so that you don’t get bothered with them again, and so on.
Within mobile advertising specifically, advertisers and publishers also need IDs so that they know whether ads are actually working. They’re the basis of essential metrics such as click volumes and clickthrough rates.
Apple loses UDIDs
Until recently Apple devices used UDID, which stood for Unique Device IDentifier. This was tied to your hardware so, lose or change your hardware, and you lose your ID. There were also security concerns over UDID, with one major leak releasing one million UDIDs into the wild. So, Apple started phasing out UDID a while back.
We said then that there was no need to panic, because of alternatives such as ODIN and OpenID, both of which we support in our iOS SDK.
Apple adopts a smarter ID: IFA
And the topline message remains: no need to panic.With iOS 6, Apple is introducing its new ‘identifierForAdvertising’, already being termed ‘IFA’.
IFA is not tied to your hardware. It lives in the user settings of your phone, so you can reset your data and even opt out of IFA tracking if you like. It’s a much smarter route to identification because it’s better for users and for developers.
… with the GM build of iOS6 released yesterday, our engineers discovered that there is now an opt-out mechanism for the IFA that’s controlled in the user settings. The option is called “Limit Advertising,” and enabling this allows the user to avoid any potential re-targeting or audience-targeted advertising buys. This is a huge step forward for user privacy and we are thrilled that Apple has included it in the platform in this release. Similar to how a browser offers the ability to clear cookies and reject third-party cookies, this makes the IFA a fully privacy compliant mechanism for powering a lot of the sophisticated advertising approaches we see proliferating in desktop.
So, good news for users.
However, IFA replaces UDID for all users who upgrade to iOS 6, including anyone buying the iPhone 5. And that means there will be a transition period where both UDID and IFA are in-market. We like Inside Mobile Apps’s take on IFA from a developer point of view:
IFAs are great news for app developers since they answer many of the privacy issues surrounding UDIDs, while keeping a universal, Apple-provided standard in place. The only issue is that IFAs only come with iOS 6, meaning older devices unable to run iOS 6 and users that don’t upgrade their iOS operating system will still be tracked via UDIDs, meaning the problematic tracking method won’t be phased out for some time to come. Developers should still be cautious.
And this means…
Device identification on Apple devices – which are a hugely important part of the mobile advertising ecosystem – is still not entirely resolved. IFA is still available only in-app, not in the browser, so the conversion tracking wars will continue.
Until the transition has completely happened, conversion tracking will be less elegant and effective than it could be. While this isn’t a huge problem, we would like to see this issue resolved once and for all. People got scared over the UDID security breach, so the less complexity around identification, the better.
Tomorrow we’ll consider another feature of iOS 6 that has implications for mobile advertising: smarter ad formats.