Adtech Giants Face Challenges in the Privacy Era | Single

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According to a new report by measurement company Singular, in the new era of mobile marketing, the dominance of adtech giants is more at stake than ever before.

The Singular ROI 2023 report says we are entering a new privacy-focused era when it comes to ROI on ad spend. Meta and Google are still near the top, but the adtech giants are being challenged by relatively small networks like Moloco, Mistplay and Blind Ferret. The report says that Apple Search Ads is also on the rise.

Moloco is growing and collaborating with Google and Meta on at least one key metric: the best ad networks across industries and geographies. TikTok has added quality to its ever-growing quantity as it has generated a better return on investment for more marketers than ever, with two titans of ad tech, AppLovin and the newly merged Unity + IronSource, rivaling the most extensive ad networks.

Apple now owns the second-largest ad network for iOS mobile user acquisition, according to Singular data.


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To find the best ad networks for mobile marketers, Singular analyzed trillions of ad impressions, over $10 billion in advertiser spend, and billions of mobile app installs, said John Koetsier, the report’s author (and former VBer), in an email to GamesBeat.

On Android, everything works as usual and the Google Ad ID will continue to be available until at least 2024 when the Android Privacy Sandbox is launched. However, for iOS, this report represents the first full year of results in line with Apple’s application tracking transparency requirements, including the use of Apple’s SKAdNetwork for marketing measurement and attribution. Apple changed the world by phasing out the identifier for advertisers (IDFA), putting privacy ahead of targeted advertising.

Apple growth

The best companies in the adtech industry.

Apple Search Ads is not directly comparable to ad networks that use the SKAdNetwork third-party attribution system, as Apple offers the Apple Search Ads Application Programming Interface (API) for its own proprietary network.

But in terms of volume and conversions — which Singular measures across all platforms — Apple Search Ads is now the second-largest iOS ad network for app marketing.

Apple Search Ads is currently the second largest iOS user acquisition network, with a massive shift in ad spending platform in 2022. It increased from 36% in 2021 to 47% in 2022.

After a rough start with new attribution methods, brands that measure marketing with Singular have learned to take advantage of Apple’s privacy-focused SKAd network and increased their iOS spending. iOS ad spend, which fell in 2021, rose from just 36% on iOS in January to 47% in December 2022.

The top ad networks in terms of percentage increase in spend on Singular are Moloco in first place, followed by TikTok for Business, Twitter, Google Ads, Unity Ads, AppLovin, Snapchat, IronSource, Apple Search Ads and Liftoff.

Koetsier noted that retail media is a non-advertising network that creates an ad network to advertise to its customers. For example, Uber has an ad network that targets Uber passengers as they travel. All related data (targeting who the ads are targeted to, what riders do in response to the ads, etc.) is Uber’s own data, as it is Uber’s customers (passengers) who receive and respond to the ads.

“It’s similar to Apple Search Ads where the resulting data is Apple’s own (since all iOS users are Apple customers),” Koetsier said. “This is different from display network advertising, where the advertiser buys ads from the network to place on the publisher’s app or website. Because the ads are placed on a third-party app or website, the data obtained is third-party data that is subject to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy. ATT is primarily focused on sharing data across multiple companies’ apps and websites… not so much for proprietary data.”

Smaller ad networks such as Moloco were quicker to develop privacy solutions. TikTok has combined increasing quality with ever-increasing quantity to become an even more formidable competitor in mobile advertising technology.

Meta and Google continue to be massive and competitive with an installed base and global platforms for which they own both supply and demand: audiences and advertisers. But perhaps this is the first time we’re seeing credible attacking avenues for other players, Koetsier said.

The Rise of Connected Television

Another challenge: the development of connected TV, where advertising is growing by 20% per year: mobile growth is faster than today. And where the mobile market is a mature market with known players and guides, CTV is chaotic and unconsolidated. It’s also where only one of the duopoly really plays: Google with YouTube.

The main battle coming in 2023 will be between Unity + IronSource and AppLovin. Both have all the elements of a modern mobile adtech stack, and both have significant advantages, Singular said.

Version 4 of Apple’s SKAdNetwork has been released but is just beginning to roll out. While early versions of SKAN downgraded mobile advertising due to signal loss, SKAN 3 is better, and SKAN 4 should be a significant improvement, which should boost iOS marketing in 2023, Singular said.

While Android’s Privacy Sandbox is unlikely to impact the market directly until 2024, Android is likely to follow a similar pattern to iOS when Apple introduced app tracking transparency: spending soaring in the transition period as advertisers take advantage of the still available signal and data and decline immediately after the transition as they adapt to new realities. We could see this growth beginning in late 2023.

Surprisingly, Twitter ranked seventh in the number of rankings across various vertical and geographic lists of top partners. The caveat, of course, is that most of the data underlying the Singular ROI Index predates Elon Musk’s takeover of the company and subsequent dismantling of the workforce.

TikTok, perhaps unsurprisingly, is one of the stories with the biggest rise in profitable advertising platforms. The key change this year, however, is that TikTok has added quality to quantity, generating more revenue and app installs at an equivalent cost than in previous years.

“We are moving more and more from the era of deterministic granular data to a more nuanced, aggregated form of marketing measurement that uses many more signals to build a better picture of growth,” Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv said in a statement. “The companies and ad networks that figure out how to make it work will win.”

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