IAB Declares War on Apple

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Marco Island, FL -- IAB CEO David Cohen went on a major offensive against Apple's privacy moves calling them the "poison apple" and "the enemy within" during his opening keynote of the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. Since the release of its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) initiative in 2021, which requires apps to request permission to track consumers for behavioral and ad targeting, conversion rates across the major digital advertising players such as Google, Snap and Meta -- in addition to second and third tier sites -- have fallen dramatically since its implementation, increasing conversion costs. According to a 2022 report in the Financial Times, the ATT initiative has resulted in a loss of $9.85B in revenue to Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube since its release.

From the perspective of the IAB this is not only resulting in a barrier to scalable ad targeting and attribution, but also causing a severe economic challenge for entrepreneurs and small businesses -- driving up marketing acquisition costs past what is affordable for these companies to grow or even survive.

During his forceful and fiery diatribe Mr. Cohen, a long-time digital advertising pioneer and advertising agency veteran, called on the digital ecosystem from publisher to buyer to ad tech to martech to unify under the IAB umbrella to combat this and other negative perceptions that have led to "extremists on both sides of the aisle." At one point, Cohen referenced as an example the proposed 2022 Senate bill sponsored by the unlikeliest of colleagues, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) of Minnesota and Sen. Ted Cruz (R), around online privacy and antitrust that Cohen claims would have killed the entire industry.

While Cohen discussed outsiders that were harming the digital ecosystem, he also acknowledged that there were bad players in the industry that also presented a real threat in causing legislators and lobbyists to adopt the extreme narrative.

Cohen doubled down on Apple, calling out their hypocrisy in publicly decrying signal gathering and ad targeting, but privately pushing it to agencies and marketers when "it's on their network," he said.

"Apple represents the cynicism and hypocrisy that defines the extremist view," he declared.

Apple is not a member of the IAB and Cohen, who has invited them several times to join and engage in conversation, extended an invitation to them again.

Given that the impact of ATT has been felt and been a topic of conversation in quarterly earnings calls for several companies over the past year, MediaVillage asked Cohen why this message is just being delivered now at the IAB Conference. Cohen emphatically responded that several conversations have been held behind closed doors over the past year, but given Apple's lack of response, "the situation has now become an existential threat."

In addition to his comments about Apple, Cohen outlined an additional three main takeaways that included:

  1. Extremists are winning the battle for hearts and minds in Washington D.C. and beyond. We cannot let that happen.
  2. We must all be in this together. If we can't fix the rotting at our core, we won't survive.
  3. Digital remains the greatest opportunity for society and our role in it. It is the great equalizer, the great democratizer.

It's important to recognize that there are several other players, many of which are IAB members, who have been in the crossfire of privacy and data issues over the past year. These companies did not receive the harsh call-out that Apple did. At the same time, those issues have not been as quantifiably detrimental to the entire digital media ecosystem and economy at large that Apple's policy change has proven to be.

Whether Apple will view this very vocal challenge as a reason to rejoin the conversation or simply ignore and continue business as usual is yet to be seen, but the IAB has clearly thrown down the gauntlet.

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