This adds a new chapter to the discussion around how advertisers can target iPhone users.
Global technology giant Apple’s recent campaign – against “apps tracking you without your consent”, and for user privacy – has reached its crescendo. A 68-second ad, released last week, is leading Apple’s supposed victory march. The ad comes after the release of iOS 14.5 update and the eagerly awaited App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature.
With English punk band Delta 5’s ‘Mind Your Own Business’ playing in the background, we see a man, named Felix, heading to a cab he’d booked after grabbing a cup of coffee from a cafe. But, in a surprising move, the cafe’s barista follows him, jumps into the cab, and reveals Felix’s name and date of birth to the driver.
As Felix reaches his destination, the barista, the driver and a motorcyclist, who was tagging the cab on the way, follow the poor guy to what seems like a bank. And then, more people follow Felix… You get the drift.
The brainchild of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, a creative agency that only services Apple, this ad puts a human face to the apps that follow you daily, with or without your consent. The apps then use the data they’ve collected on you to target you with precise ads and, perhaps, influence your behaviour.
Ever wondered why you see shoe ads on most websites after you have searched for a pair on an e-commerce site? Well, here’s your answer.
Back to the ad. A crowd of people (apps) have followed an exhausted Felix back to his home. He whips out his iPhone only to see a pop-up. It wants him to choose if a certain app can track his data and then sell it to other companies. Felix chooses no. So, all the apps go away one after the other, except one.
The message is clear – you, the user, gets to decide which apps can track you and which ones can’t. It is what the ATT is all about. As per Flurry Analytics, from Verizon Media, 96 per cent of iPhone users don’t want apps to track them.
“The ad depicts the dilemma a consumer faces and effectively dramatises the fact that every one of his moves is being watched – bringing it out so starkly,” remarks Lloyd Mathias, a business strategist and an angel investor.
“Users are getting increasingly sensitive to data privacy, and in this ad, Apple calls out the issue and establishes that it is walking on a higher ground on privacy.”
Sambit Mohanty, head of creative, South, McCann Worldgroup, says, “Apple has brilliantly dramatised a truth about life on social media – that apps constantly track you, snooping into your personal life and poking their nose where they don’t belong.”
“A hitherto invisible act confined to your mobile has been made visible in this real-world dramatisation – by showing complete strangers pursuing one man – and that’s what makes it delightful. The music, as always, is on point and only enhances the appeal of this ad.”
Says Rajdeepak Das, Leo Burnett’s chief creative, on what makes this ad tick, “Apple knows how to humanise technology, product, communication... there is a DNA of simplicity and design at the centre of it to explain things. All the Apple commercials put humans at the centre, very few brands do it.”
This, however, isn’t Apple’s first ad on user privacy. Last month (April), the iPhone maker released a spot. It illustrates how the ATT feature works and how the apps collect your data, such as age, date of birth, location, browsing history, etc., to create a digital profile that’s used as a sniper’s scope to target you with precise ads.
TBWA\Media Arts Lab was created in 2006 after advertising agency TBWA realised the need for a team dedicated to just the Apple brand. The team is also behind the ‘Get a Mac’ campaign.
Before Media Arts Lab, it was TBWA that, for decades, created some of Apple’s most iconic spots. There’s the iconic ‘1984’ commercial that helped Apple launch its first Macintosh personal computer, and then there’s the ‘Think Different’ campaign.
Ironically, Epic Games, a video game maker, recreated ‘1984’, Apple’s ad on how its upcoming Macintosh would save the world from ‘Big Brother’ and conformity after the tech giant kicked the company’s wildly popular ‘Fortnite’ game from its app store on issues over revenue cuts. Only this time, Apple was the big bad wolf, the Empire while Epic and Fortnite, the resistance.
While several users are pleased with the ATT, there are others, including social media giant Facebook, who are not too impressed with this feature. Facebook has, in fact, created a website that details the worries of small businesses about how the new iPhone feature will end up harming their efforts to efficiently target their customers. The social media giant has even released full front-page ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times about the same.
Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of ads and business products, said in a December 2020 blog post, “We’ve heard from many of you, small businesses in particular, that you are concerned about how Apple’s changes will impact your ability to effectively reach customers and grow — let alone survive in a pandemic.”
He went on to mention how Apple’s move would hit Facebook as well. “There will be an impact to Facebook’s diversified ads business, but it will be much less than what will befall small businesses…”
An ally emerges
While Facebook battles Apple over users’ choice of whether apps should track them, Alphabet Inc’s Google, another technology giant, has made a move towards user privacy.
In January this year, it announced that it will begin to end support for third-party cookies on the Chrome browser. Then, in March, it revealed that it won’t build alternatives to the cookies.
These third-party cookies help the advertisers and websites track your behaviour on the web. This then helps them (the advertisers) to target you with precise ads. Instead, Google has announced FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts. It allows tracking of like-minded groups, and not an individual.
Ultimately, it is user privacy that is at stake here because these tech companies wield enough power to change, or influence your online behaviour.