What marketers need to know about Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention.

What is ITP?

ITP, Intelligent Tracking Prevention, is an anti-tracking feature added to Apple’s Safari in 2017. Apple intended to prevent companies from tracking and monitoring people’s browsing behavior across sites they don’t own by placing third-party cookies. In the series of updates that followed, Apple has been restricting the workarounds. The biggest players affected by ITP are Google and Facebook, but it also affects measurement companies’ ability to determine media channel performance. Marketers have long since depended on cookie data to track people across sites and on a single site to measure the impact of online advertising. ITP thus has implications for marketing attribution.

What are the latest updates?

There are certain workarounds. On behalf of their measurement partner, sites can drop a first-party cookie to people’s browser that acts like a third-party cookie. This workaround allows measurement partners to track browsing behavior and attribute business value to ads. With the introduction of ITP 2.2, Safari deletes these first-party cookies after 24 hours. Another workaround is to track people without relying on cookies to store IDs and other information, using local storage instead. ITP 2.3 restricts this. If a person doesn’t revisit a website within seven days, Safari deletes all website data from their browser.

What does this mean for marketing measurement and attribution?

As long as a person visits the website more than once a week, the implications of ITP 2.3 for measurement and attribution via local storage are minor. Non-cookie based storage of IDs offers a longer window of tracking than cookie-based storage; 7 days versus 24 hours.

ITP 2.2 does pose a bit of a challenge for marketers. The whole reason marketers are moving away from last-click attribution models towards multi-touch attribution (MTA) is to measure the impact of marketing efforts that take place across the entire customer journey. These journeys tend to be longer than 24 hours. Under ITP 2.2, we expect to see a drop in business value attributed to display advertising due to missing information.

What can we do?

So marketing attribution has become more difficult for certain customer journeys on Safari. Other browsers such as Chrome are unaffected and we can still attribute ads accurately. As long as we know the distribution between Chrome and Safari, or other browsers, we can calculate the total attribution to channels such as display. The distribution between the browsers can be determined by holdout tests or pre-ITP data.

ITP has implications for marketing attribution and how we track people across the web. Accurate attribution to media channels, including search and display is still possible using technological workarounds, historical data and holdout tests.

Holistic measurement

Moreover, we never use MTA in isolation. Cookie tracking alone doesn’t provide enough information to make good decisions regarding omnichannel media investments. We bring MTA and marketing mix modelling (MMM) together in our unified measurement approach. This ensures we don’t rely solely on cookie data, but can incorporate individual data from other sources, such as CRM databases in compliance with privacy regulations.

As the cookie landscape changes, we find new data to account for the data we lose. We can incorporate this data thanks to our innovative modelling techniques. Our continuous focus in improving our models ensures we’ll be ready if the industry pulls the plug on cookie tracking.