Categories: Publisher News

Apple upsets ad industry with cookie blocking

Six leading ad industry groups have published an open letter to Apple urging them to reconsider their cookie blocking plans.

Apple will soon release a version of it’s Safari browser that blocks first party cookies under the guise of “Intelligent Tracking Prevention”, purging the data held after 24 hrs. Whilst this should help limit  the feeling of being “ad stalked” for items you recently purchased, it will also cause serious disruption for advertisers  trying to track what business their advertising generates. Many publishers are concerned that this lack of transparency could harm campaign spend.

The six trade associations – 4A’s, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Data & Marketing Association and Network Advertising Initiative – argue that the update will hurt the user experience by making it harder for marketers to show consumers ads relevant to them.

One major concern  is that Apple’s “tracking prevention” is not based on clear rules.  Apple themselves decide which Cookies will be blocked based on how their systems interpret what cookies used of and what users prefer.  The system also offers the end user no control over how this is implemented.

Blocking (or purging) cookies is not harmful to all advertising. Retargeters and many conversion tracking systems are likely to be affected. The “big players” with their own engaged audiences won’t be though.  Google, Facebook, Amazon and of course Apple themselves can still accurately track a users history of interaction with the for far longer than the 24 hour cut off.

Google have already responded to help advertiser working with AdWords, but moving conversion tracking to be handled by analytics. This means that advertisers using auto-tagging will continue to see conversion data without having to make changes to either their website or campaigns.

You can view the letter signed by the six major trade associations below.

September 14, 2017

An Open Letter from the Digital Advertising Community

The undersigned organizations are leading trade associations for the digital advertising and marketing industries, collectively representing thousands of companies that responsibly participate in and shape today’s digital landscape for the millions of consumers they serve.

We are deeply concerned about the Safari 11 browser update that Apple plans to release, as it overrides and replaces existing user-controlled cookie preferences with Apple’s own set of opaque and arbitrary standards for cookie handling.

Safari’s new “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” would change the rules by which cookies are set and recognized by browsers. In addition to blocking all third-party cookies (i.e. those set by a domain other than the one being visited), as the current version of Safari does, this new functionality would create a set of haphazard rules over the use of first-party cookies (i.e. those set by a domain the user has chosen to visit) that block their functionality or purge them from users’ browsers without notice or choice.

The infrastructure of the modern Internet depends on consistent and generally applicable standards for cookies, so digital companies can innovate to build content, services, and advertising that are personalized for users and remember their visits. Apple’s Safari move breaks those standards and replaces them with an amorphous set of shifting rules that will hurt the user experience and sabotage the economic model for the Internet.

Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice. As organizations devoted to innovation and growth in the consumer economy, we will actively oppose any actions like this by companies that harm consumers by distorting the digital advertising ecosystem and undermining its operations.

We strongly encourage Apple to rethink its plan to impose its own cookie standards and risk disrupting the valuable digital advertising ecosystem that funds much of today’s digital content and services.


American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s)
American Advertising Federation (AAF)
Association of National Advertisers (ANA)
Data & Marketing Association (DMA)
Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)
Network Advertising Initiative (NAI)

Mat Bennett :