It has almost been a year since Apple released its seismic privacy tool that sent the advertising industry – and Facebook’s shares – spiraling. For more than a decade, digital media platforms and marketers have become accustomed to a data free-for-all where users’ personal information is bought, sold, and reshared without batting an eyelid. But not for much longer.

With the dawn of Apple’s intelligent tracking prevention tool (ITP) and Google sunsetting its cookie, Asia Pacific marketers are facing a profound shift in the consumer-brand relationship. Consumers are demanding visible seals guaranteeing that brands are not tracking them and their trust in media, entertainment, and technology companies is at an all-time low. Does that mean, as the EU’s top privacy regulator has demanded, the end of targeted advertising? Probably not, but it at least needs a rethink.

A tight spot

This year, advertising is set to hit $235 billion in the Asia Pacific, with smartphones and e-commerce rapidly taking the centre stage. Both these mediums come fraught with data and privacy pitfalls, from location tracking to the cyber risks of holding personally identifiable information.

The consequences of falling into these pitfalls are perilous. Not only do brands risk breaking privacy laws – including China’s new personal data legislation and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – they also risk losing a customer’s loyalty. Indeed, a recent report suggested that 80 percent of customers may renounce a brand if their data is used for targeted marketing without their knowledge or consent.

For consumers, Apple’s ITP and Google’s cookie cull are therefore a welcome step in eradicating intrusive browser tracking and hyper-personalized advertising.

However, for marketers, it’s a lose-lose situation. After all, a marketer’s job is to deliver targeted, effective campaigns with tangible results that are underpinned by accurate, granular data. Losing this could negatively affect their strategies, efforts, and investments while hampering attribution and measurement of real-time campaigns.

Without browser tracking tools, marketers will struggle to see which channels, creative material, and messaging contributed to each conversion. If visibility is diminished, how can marketers know where to invest and optimize?

In addition, the absence of tracking identifiers has made it easier for ad fraudsters to pose as real human traffic. The APAC region stands to lose $56 billion to ad fraud this year alone. Given APAC’s mass adoption of smartphones and e-commerce, it has already become more difficult for advertisers to tell how invalid traffic is impacting their performance. If brands cannot access the necessary data to detect fraudulent activity, campaign attribution and optimization become a costly problem.

The road ahead

As rocky as it may be, the road ahead comes with several tools marketers can use to track their campaigns and demonstrate their dedication to data privacy.

When unable to tie engagements to conversion, marketers can develop new methods to measure incremental uplift. Measuring uplift will help marketers understand the contributions of each channel and campaign. It will also set the expectation of when to see results following increased investment in a specific channel.

On top of this, marketers can consider testing optimization tools that set trackers with the server to get better visibility. It is also worthwhile to test new solutions alongside existing attribution methods before the cookie’s departure next year.

Resolving issues around ad fraud is trickier without tracking data, but not impossible. Fraud detection technologies built on artificial intelligence and machine learning can help reduce ad fraud by $10 billion this year. AI is particularly effective at detecting suspicious behavior and can also analyze the data generated from advertising activities with the aim of minimizing financial losses.

It should be every marketer’s prerogative to build a customer experience based on transparency and trust. Rather than mourn the demise of Apple tracking and the cookie, the industry should instead relish the opportunity to differentiate their brands around their commitment to data privacy. The road ahead may be paved with regulatory compliance and new consumer expectations, but its destination will be a golden opportunity to rebuild years of broken trust.

Mat Ratty is Chief Executive Officer of Adveritas, whose TrafficGuard platform detects, mitigates and reports on digital ad fraud.

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