Marketers scramble for solutions to seismic digital changes, iOS overhaul high on pitch priority list

The following article was written by Josh McDonnell for Mi3.

Change my pitch up

After a quiet start to the year, the pitching cycle is now in full flow and a new demand is emerging from clients – the urgent need to address the Apple’s iOS 14.5 update.

Apple’s change, which stops companies from lifting and linking data via third-party apps and has a knock on impact on Facebook advertising and attribution, is now being referenced in “a handful” of current pitches in play.

Agency leaders told Mi3 the changes are hitting home – and that marketers are increasingly alive to the twin impact of Apple’s changes and the looming demise of the third-party cookie.

Client demand for solutions has increased since the turn of the year, according to Digitas Chief Data Officer Maurice Riley.

“They’re asking for our response [to pitches] to include approaches to circumvent the Facebook/Apple iOS 14.5 changes because, in one [client’s] case, over 50 per cent of their sales are being done on iOS. This should not be surprising to anyone – Facebook seeds desire,” Riley says.

“It can be argued it creates intent better than any other advertising channel. And I am not talking about consumer desire and intent, I am talking about marketers’ desire and intent to spend much of their digital media budget on the platform.”

Step change

MediaCom Chief Growth Officer Matthew Vogts says agencies should be prepared to see an increasing amount of iOS-related matters raised in pitches over the coming months.

However, he says the issue is still very much in its “early stages”, with marketers posing broad questions around the matter, indicating that there is a still a lot of “testing and learning” that needs to take place.

“Outside of digital specialists, marketers are very clear on where the priorities of the industry are going to lie and it’s clearly heavily weighted in the personalised marketing space, so they need to make a move on it now,” Vogts says.

“Despite this, they’re not drilling down into the nuances of the matter just yet because we are still unclear on what the exact impact will be, so they are looking for more thought leadership and guidance on emerging trends rather than hard solutions.”

Hearts & Sciences Chief Digital Officer Ollie Fifoot says while it’s too early to gauge just how badly targeting and measurement will be affected, “it’s not looking positive”, he admits with industry only fully appreciating the “real value” of precision targeting and measurement now that it is rapidly disappearing.

“The lack of detailed information on how an individual has interacted with a campaign will be felt most acutely on our performance based clients, potentially having a negative impact on CPAs,” per Fifoot.

No silver bullet

Vinne Schifferstein, Managing Director for MediaMonks ANZ thinks the end of tracking is leading brands to seek more tech savvy partners with capabilities that go beyond traditional digital competencies. 

“The solutions can get technical quite quickly and very often touch on capabilities across the organisation outside of the marketing function,” Schifferstein says.

“It really needs data scientists, technologists, media planners, strategists and creatives to come together and design the solution. Not many agencies have all talent across all these areas working as one team.”

Andrew Macdonald, National Head of Paid Search & Social Dentsu, agreed.  

“We’re seeing a high level of interest in the iOS changes from clients – which is understandable given the implications.”

Macdonald said Apple’s shift and Google’s cookie cull are leading brands to seek out agencies “that can provide solutions from a technical, data and analytics and strategic perspective – and we have seen this coming through in some recent RFPs”.

Follow the money

Digitas’ Maurice Riley however, said while tracking may be on the nose, the $227 billion data collection industry continues to grow and is “not going down without a fight”. The real solution, as ever, he suggests, is to “follow the money”.

“When you consider the size of the industry plus the fact consumers still spend upwards of 60 per cent of their time online on the open web, publishers are working overtime to bring solutions to the market,” said Riley.

“They’re still developing other compliant ways to get to unique user profiles that can consist of over thousands of unique data points that are constantly updated.

“This is not just when you’re online, but when you travel, make purchases using most credit and debit cards, or even when you window shop at brick-and-mortar retailers.”  

The solution for Hearts & Science’s Ollie Fifoot lies in measurement and understanding past performance to predict the future, as well as taking “a wider lens” on how each channel’s contribution plays in driving conversions.

He also sees the role of contextual marketing becoming heightened as brands scramble for alternative solutions.

“There is much to be said for exploiting the opportunities around contextual advertising and how creative and messaging combined with the environment can engage audiences and prompt action, irrespective of their previous behaviour,” said Fifoot.

“In an industry obsessed with the new this may not be the popular approach – but we know it can be effective.”

Brands in play

It is understood that the current Pepsi pitch is one of those in market seeking a solution to Apple’s changes.

The brand is believed to have initially kicked off the pitch after the appointment of new CMO Vandita Pandey, who sources claimed was disappointed by the first-party preparedness of the business and its partners.

In 2020, the global business began digitising its marketing and consumer insights strategies. Global CFO Hugh F. Johnston said enhancing internal data and insights capabilities would improve efficiency around promotions and marketing.

Earlier this week, Nine’s Director of Advertising and Tech Products Ben Campbell, pointed to major FMCG brands as those most likely to feel the impacts of the iOS and third-party cookie changes.

IAG is also in market, seeking improvements to its personalised marketing services.

The account, which includes martech, data-driven and direct marketing and CX capabilities, is currently held by CHE Proximity and represent a large some of the insurer’s marketing budget.

CMO Brent Smart has previously been dismissive of the contribution personalised services has made to business growth but told Mi3 the “space is moving very quickly and we want to make sure that we have the best in market solution.”

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