Understanding ITP: Q&A with Matthew Pepper, Sub2

Tyre Tracks

Whilst Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) is not a new phenomenon – having been used on Apple’s Safari browser in its current iteration since late-2018 – it is likely to be one of the most significant talking points in the ad industry through the remainder of 2019. This is because Google are contemplating using the measure, which limits third-party cookies to prevent the capture of cross-site browsing data, thus removing retargeting abilities on their Chrome browser.

If Google does go all-in on ITP, instead using an alternative ID system as a compromise to avoid regulatory backlash, its potential impact on the industry, as well as alternative approaches to targeting users, is poorly understood. Moreover, the effect it has already had on the industry through its implementation on Safari is perhaps even less understood. ExchangeWire speaks with Matthew Pepper (pictured below), MD at Sub2 to gauge how ITP has affected advertising in Safari, and how marketers can prepare for a similar rollout on Chrome.

ExchangeWire: Do marketers truly understand the impact ITP is having on campaign performance? How has it affected performance, measurement, and targeting?

Matthew Pepper: I think the awareness of the impact is actually quite low, given the scale of the issue. CPAs are still generally acceptable, but year-on-year retargeting volume is down and in general a lot of budget has moved away from Safari. This mostly impacts display, but there is also an impact on paid social, for tracking and targeting, and also paid search mostly from a tracking perspective.

Matthew Pepper

Matthew Pepper, MD, Sub2

What KPIs do marketers need to be measuring to get the full picture? Are they targeting by browser and analysing browser data? How can partners help them?

Year-on-year retargeting analysis by browser is a good first step. In general, comparing year-on-year stats for every channel in analytics would be recommended to get a picture of what is happening.

Partners should help by being more open and attacking the issue head on. Too many partners are taking a reactive view to talking to clients about the issues.

The industry has been relatively indifferent about Safari ITP, to a degree, reasoning that it isn’t the dominant browser. Is it being played down too much? What’s the reality with how Safari performs versus Chrome?

ITP only impacts 15-20% of browsers; but actually for retailers and other advertisers that have high-end products, that can account for 40-50% of online sales, which is clearly going to have a huge impact for some. Retailers and DTC brands often have a particularly high exposure to Mac-based safari users.

Out of sight out of mind seems to be the preferred approach of too many partners, be they tech or service based. This approach is hurting digital marketing as a whole. Many retailers are having a tricky time and a lot of them don’t realise that at least some of the gap is a simple tracking and targeting challenge, rather than a fundamental loss of orders.

With ITP, is there a workaround for marketers still to leverage the value of targeting their audience on Safari?

There are potential workarounds, using other forms of ID or even IP address is an option. We would advise caution here though because changing one ID for another is not good practice if there isn’t underlying consent.

A better approach, where consent is less defined, is to use other variables to try and target your user base. At Sub2, we have built a sophisticated modelling platform that allows us to use other not personally identifiable variables to reach your target audience. Targeting is a little less precise by design but, as the media is less expensive, ROI can actually be superior than using cookie targeting. This approach is allowing our clients who were very reliant on cookie targeting in Safari and Firefox to continue to reach their prospects and customers in an efficient manner.

With ITP coming to Chrome being a near certainty, what do marketers need to consider and how can they prepare?

We think it’s a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ this comes to Chrome. Much of the detail of the implementation is obviously not known at this point. However, in general, we would recommend advertisers look to work with partners, be they technology, data, or service providers who are looking to address this issue rather than hide from it. Even if cookie targeting died completely in June this year, there are still good, compliant ways of targeting and tracking users. The underlying value of the media does not change, just how you access and measure it. Forearmed is forewarned; and with proper preparation we believe this can be good for marketers and the industry as a whole as it can rebuild valuable consumer trust.