Last week a family member told me how he recently updated his iPhone software to ensure "no one can track me", as he put it. He joins the reported 68% of U.S.-based iPhone users who have upgraded to the iOS 14.5 software as of June 27th, according to AppsFlyer. This new software improves user controls for privacy while using apps or browsing the web on an iPhone.
This same family member was heard earlier complaining about seeing digital advertisements on his phone because he said "they never seem to be relevant" to him (outside of Facebook/Insta's ads, which he called "creepy"). This made me chuckle a bit, but it also immediately reminded me of that tv commercial from Apple, the one where it shows random people peeking over the shoulder and following a male iPhone user until he activates his new privacy settings. It's such an easy-to-relate-to situation consumers understand.
In my opinion, that commercial is effective at convincing the general public all mobile tracking is "bad". It also had me lamenting the fact that, to my knowledge, our industry has not proactively educated consumers on the value and benefits of these tracking methods and digital advertising in general. Once I explained to my family member the value of that data, what we do and don't have access to, and the trade-off of digital marketing to ensure a free internet, he didn't have an issue with it anymore. Who wants to pay to browse the internet and see non-relevant ads anyway?
He was just one person. There are millions more that we need to have this conversation with. We are losing the PR battle when it comes to digital privacy and advertising. This is not to say we shouldn't be concerned about consumer privacy and data harvesting; quite the opposite. Even as Google unsurprisingly postponed the killing-off of 3rd party tracking cookies in Chrome for a few years, this doesn't mean our industry should retreat or stand pat with regards to innovating new ways to collect/manage/utilize consumer data in a privacy-friendly manner. P&G's Chief Brand Officer Mark Pritchard was right in 2019 when he said "it’s time to invest our brainpower into an ecosystem that builds in quality, civility, transparency, privacy and control from the very start." Our industry must continue to evolve in these areas.
In the meantime, why sit idly by as consumer perceptions around this issue put those of us in this industry in a bad light? Perhaps the 4A's, ANA and even the IAB should get together to develop an effective consumer PR campaign to support our marketers and industry. We need our own Apple commercial.
Maybe I'm wrong. What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinion below.