Tenjin: Apple’s 2021 privacy cut revenues for 40% of mobile advertisers

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Mobile measurement firm Tenjin, which works for numerous indie and mid-size mobile game publishers, said its survey showed that 39% of mobile advertisers, or two in five, said Apple’s privacy moves hurt their revenues in 2021.

In a poll of 302 mobile advertisers (mobile game publishers and other app makers) with Growth FullStack, Tenjin found that 75% said that Apple’s changes put the future of their businesses at risk. And 55% said that mobile marketing was more difficult in 2021 than in the previous year.

Last year, Apple modified the opt-in procedures for its Identifier for Advertisers, which mobile game and app companies used to track the effectiveness of ads. By making the opt-in more visible, the bulk of users opted out not to be tracked. As a result, user-acquisition campaigns were no longer easy to do and advertisers could no longer target consumers with precision.

At the time, many big game companies in the U.S. and United Kingdom said early last year that they were not suffering big impacts as Apple prioritized privacy over targeted ads with iOS 14.5 in April 2021. It took time for the impact of the changes to become clear, but eventually companies realized that many users were opting out of being targeted. This was a “seismic change” for mobile advertising, Tenjin said.

Tenjin said 91% of iOS game and app publishers are using Apple’s ad framework.

Roman Garbar, chief marketing officer at Tenjin, said in an interview with GamesBeat that it is hard to predict how growth will proceed in 2022, but he doesn’t expect any dramatic improvement in mobile game and app revenues.

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The launch of iOS 14.5 in April 2021 saw the removal of user-level and device-level data for users who opt out of sharing it and pushed the industry towards Apple’s new SKAdNetwork framework for attribution on iOS. Designed as a more privacy-focused approach to campaign measurement, SKAdnetwork made it extremely challenging for mobile marketers to track real-time performance and campaign delivery.

Almost all (91%) of advertisers were already using apple’s SKAdNetwork data for attribution, although only 58% rated the performance of those campaigns as good or better. And 59% of respondents increased their spend on Android and decreased their spend on iOS, with only 27% shifting budgets in the opposite direction.

The survey, which was done in January, also said 84% expressed concern that Android would implement similar changes in 2022 to those introduced by Apple in 2021. (However, Google has since announced that its Privacy Sandbox would be implemented over time.”

“2021 was a difficult year for mobile marketers,” said Christopher Farm, CEO of Tenjin, in a statement, “The introduction of app tracking transparency on iOS accelerated the trend of budgetary shift from iOS to Android and, while the launch of iOS 15 in September 2021 was better news for advertisers as it gave them direct access to all SKAdNetwork data, it’s clear that they are still getting to grips with how to use it effectively.”

He added: “While almost everyone we spoke to was worried Android would follow Apple’s lead, there are positive signs that, although Google’s Privacy Sandbox has been expanded to mobile, Android will offer some respite by taking a more gradual approach. However, the privacy-first direction of travel is set and, with more work to do to adjust to changes on iOS, marketers must continue to adapt.”

Garbar said he predicts that advertising budgets will continue to shift to Android as it is still easier to target consumers on Google’s platform. Google is working with its partners more and isn’t implementing the changes for a while, Garbar said.

He noted that a number of mobile game companies were obviously fearful about their future because they decided to sell themselves to other companies. Zynga, for instance, is being acquired by Take-Two Interactive for $12.7 billion and Glu Mobile sold itself to Electronic Arts for an enterprise value of $2.4 billion. Garbar acknowledged it is hard to figure out why a company’s revenues dissipate, but he believed IDFA changes get a share of the blame.

The research fieldwork took place with 302 companies with no known affiliation to Tenjin or Growth FullStack between January 17 and January 26 2022, and was conducted by Atomik Research, an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code. The full findings of the research will be published as an industry whitepaper in May 2022.

Tenjin has about 30 people.

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