Apple has never been against advertising -- it's against invasive data collection

Posted:
in AAPL Investors
There's the perception that Apple as a company has a hard-line stance against advertising, and complaints have sprung up that its ad ventures are hypocritical. However, the truth is more complicated than that.

Apple privacy
Apple privacy


The Cupertino tech giant has gone toe-to-toe with companies like Facebook in the past over invasive advertising platforms. At the same time, Apple has been growing its own small advertising business.

Those two goals are not at odds with each other. More than that, Apple's own advertising endeavors aren't a signal that the company is going to become more like Meta or Google going forward.

Apple isn't against ads -- it's for privacy

It's easy to think of Apple as a company sternly in opposition to modern advertising, as evidenced by its apparent campaigns against the primary revenue drivers of companies like Facebook.

However, that isn't the truth at all. Apple isn't against advertising. Instead, it has debuted features aimed at preventing a very specific type of advertising model: ads based on invasive data collection. It's the kind of revenue model that Meta, formerly known as Facebook, was built on.

Apple's App Tracking Transparency -- which Facebook loudly campaigned against -- allows customers to ask apps not to track them across other websites and services. It doesn't block data harvesting outright, it only puts the power back in the hands of consumers.

Apple isn't against advertising, it's against invasive tracking to target ads.
Apple isn't against advertising, it's against invasive tracking to target ads.


This is objectively a good thing for online privacy. Even if a user has no problem handing out mountains of data to Meta, Google, or another company, there are reasons to be suspicious of invasive advertising.

Meta's own history with data storage and collection is shaky. The company has been hit for sharing data without user consent.

Facebook has also violated laws related to getting permission from users before harvesting certain types of data, such as biometric information.

Apple's own ads business

Apple is slowly growing its own first-party advertising business while also increasing the privacy for its users. It's important to remember that those two goals are not in opposition to each other.

The iPhone maker has long been in the advertising market, even if its own offerings have been small. You might think of Apple advertising as a program executed from the mind of Tim Cook, but you'd be wrong. Steve Jobs himself launched the iAd platform in 2010 with the stated goal of taking 50% of the mobile ad market.

That endeavor largely failed, and Apple's current first-party ad placement business is still in its nascent stages. But it's growing.

The company current allows developers to place ads in search results on the App Store. Soon, it'll allow for other ads throughout its app marketplace -- and elsewhere across its platforms.

Apple Search Ads are an example of a first-party paid ad placement.
Apple Search Ads are an example of a first-party paid ad placement.


At first glance, Apple might seem hypocritical for tamping down on the ads business of Meta while growing its own. Apple's ads business is built differently, however.

Apple doesn't track users and it doesn't use highly targeted advertising metrics. That means the ads that are shown to you in the App Store aren't based on sensitive information like your religion, policies, or health data. There's also no comprehensive profile of you on Apple's platforms.

Although this ad strategy may seem like it's good for consumers and bad for businesses wanting to advertise, Apple has released data suggesting that privacy-preserving ad tech results in the same performance as highly targeted ads.

So, again, Apple isn't against advertising. It just prefers user privacy while still hosting ads.

First-party ads

As a massive technology company, Apple understands the advertising business from both a first- and third-party perspective. Apple places ads from other companies on its platforms, but it also runs its own advertising campaigns.

Apple's own ads have been exceptionally well-executed, from its famous iPod commercials to more recent award-winning ad spots. Over the years, Apple's ads have changed in tone to focus more on hardware. However, they've always been consistent.

Apple has used its own ads and commercials to highlight privacy features.
Apple has used its own ads and commercials to highlight privacy features.


There are also, of course, the "Privacy. That's iPhone" ads. You could see an ad for a product meant to cut down on targeted advertising as an oxymoron, but it illustrates that Apple isn't against advertising -- it's only against highly targeted ads based on invasive data collection.

The point of this is that Apple understands advertising from an advertiser's perspective. It's a for-profit company that wants to sell products, so Apple isn't and will never be against advertising.

Apple has made some missteps in its first-party advertising, to be sure. Earlier in 2022, for example, it appeared to experiment with placing first-party ads for its original podcasts in Apple Music -- a platform clearly touted as ad-free.

However, no company is going to be perfect. That's especially true given the scope and breadth of the products and services that Apple makes. The important part is that, even though it's a trillion-dollar tech giant, it hasn't (perhaps, hasn't yet) succumbed to the temptation to harvest and sell truckloads of data about its users to whoever will pay for it.

Privacy should be a choice

Companies like Meta will argue that its products are democratic and free because of their extensive data collection practices, and that Apple's own products are only "for the rich." Despite the obvious wrongness of the latter statement which is more intended to generate an emotional response than be an actual argument, there's more to it than even that.

It's true that harvesting mountains of data on users and then using that data to target advertising is lucrative. It's also true that this revenue model allows for subsidized use of social media platforms and services.

However, a balance must be struck. Making your platform accessible to a wide range of people is an admirable goal, but that shouldn't -- and must not -- come at the cost of the fundamental human right to privacy.

Facebook is notorious for its invasive tracking.
Facebook is notorious for its invasive tracking.


This is especially true because access to mountains of consumer data can be dangerous. Highly targeted ads and expertly tuned algorithms can fuel a range of issues, including the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

Apple has long understood this. Its pro-privacy stance -- rare among tech giants -- stretches back to the era of Steve Jobs.

Apple's own advertising model isn't perfect, but it's closer to a balance between advertiser needs and consumer right than most. And if consumers want better, they must vote loudly with both their voices and their dollars.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,442member
    If they want to dump adverts all over their apps they need to significantly reduce their profit margins on the hardware. It’s a fucking joke that they plan to push ads on people that buy the most expensive phones/computers/wearables/everything else in the market.
    rrabuelijahgclemynxxyzzy-xxxmuthuk_vanalingammattinozgrandact73
  • Reply 2 of 19
    Apple is for maximizing shareholder wealth just like every other publicly traded company.
    clemynxwatto_cobraxyzzy-xxx
  • Reply 3 of 19
    M68000M68000 Posts: 576member
    saarek said:
    If they want to dump adverts all over their apps they need to significantly reduce their profit margins on the hardware. It’s a fucking joke that they plan to push ads on people that buy the most expensive phones/computers/wearables/everything else in the market.
    Yeah but I think Apple is considered a premium brand…so their stuff will cost more.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 19
    JP234JP234 Posts: 1,455member
    The term "first party advertising" is a canard, meant to reassure that what they see is from a company paying Apple to sell its products or services, not Apple allowing clickbait advertisers like you see on Facebook, Amazon, Google and all "free" news sites. However, Apple makes no claim that they can prevent those "first party advertisers" from mining your data and selling that info to less scrupulous entities. It's exemplifies the implicit warning in the classic Arabian metaphorical "Camel's nose in the tent" tale, where the permitting of a small, seemingly innocuous act will open the door for larger, clearly undesirable actions.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,725member
    I always have to laugh when people rage against advertising. If nobody advertised their goods how would you know what your options were, and as a producer of goods how would you let people know? Remember that branding is pretty much just advertising. In your face invasive advertising is terrible, I agree, and I understand that that is what people hate, but I just hate blanket statements devoid of nuance. As for Apple, I am paying top dollar for their products and service so they owe me the pleasure of no unsightly inappropriate ads. 
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 19
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 1,906member
    No one ever said Apple was against advertising. That is ridiculous. Apple creates some of the slickest ads out there. What people have an issue with is privacy. invasion and having their data. used as a sold product. 

    BBut it doesn't end there. People also REALLY don't want Apple to trash the apps store, music store, and maps with ads. WHERE the ads are matters as well. On TV? An Apple centric Web page? Fine. Using the Maps app? Heck no. 

    People like Apple because they are difference and provide a nice clean useful experience. Not because they are like everyone else. 
    edited August 2022 elijahgclemynxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 19
    foljsfoljs Posts: 389member
    paxman said:
    I always have to laugh when people rage against advertising.
    Well, I also have to laugh by the boy-scout naivety of this comment
    If nobody advertised their goods how would you know what your options were [?]
    By professional and amateur reviews, trade outlets, trade shows, online/offline listings, word of mouth, by visiting a shop or an online store, by checking manufacturer websites, and dozens of other ways. The main differen e would be that we wouldn't be bombarded with BS ads, we wouldn't be conditioned to buy BS we don't need, we wouldn't have business that rely on advertising to oversell their products due to "brand name", we wouldn't have services were "we are the product", and we would enjoy better privacy, and we'd even pay less as we wouldn't have to bear the advertising costs on top of the construction and profit margin...
    clemynxmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 8 of 19
    foljsfoljs Posts: 389member
    Well, Apple might never have been "against advertising" but most of us Apple users have always been - not just about better privacy but also seeing less or no ads. That should go along with paying a premium for a premium product. A cheapo company can nickel and dime their customers all they want, a premium brand shouldn't. These articles look like paid "damage control" and preparing the sucker buyers for the eventual landing of even more BS advertising on Apple platforms...
    clemynxmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 19
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,552member
    Nobody likes ads. 

    I wish Apple would make a web version of Apple Maps and finance it with ads. But we don’t want ads on our Apple devices. 

    All of this is caused by only one thing, the absurd pursuit of continuous growth : Apple makes gigantic amounts of money but to please investors they always have to make more, so the next step is ads. And after that, what will it be? We already see how Google is automutilating itself with YT becoming almost unusable and their search engine working worse and worse. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 19
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,552member
    paxman said:
    I always have to laugh when people rage against advertising. If nobody advertised their goods how would you know what your options were, and as a producer of goods how would you let people know? Remember that branding is pretty much just advertising. In your face invasive advertising is terrible, I agree, and I understand that that is what people hate, but I just hate blanket statements devoid of nuance. As for Apple, I am paying top dollar for their products and service so they owe me the pleasure of no unsightly inappropriate ads. 
    As Foljs said, this is so naive. 
    You think you have more choice with ads when the opposite is true. One brand makes an ad, people buy that brand more just because they have seen it in TV and the BS ad somehow speaks to their emotions, and they don’t buy other brands. Other brands start doing ads and that leads to a polarization of sales with less varied products. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 206member
    paxman said:
    I always have to laugh when people rage against advertising. If nobody advertised their goods how would you know what your options were, and as a producer of goods how would you let people know? Remember that branding is pretty much just advertising. In your face invasive advertising is terrible, I agree, and I understand that that is what people hate, but I just hate blanket statements devoid of nuance. As for Apple, I am paying top dollar for their products and service so they owe me the pleasure of no unsightly inappropriate ads. 

    Ironically, your statements do just what you criticize, making blanket assertions lacking in nuance.

    1) Obnoxious ads are just that, obnoxious, not necessarily invasive, at least to those who choose not to run any sort of ad blocker.

    2) What many object to, and the topic of the piece, is invasive data collection, and other techniques used to target ads.  Don't conflate the nature of an ad, or how it's presented, with how it's aimed.  They are two different things.

    The Facebooks of the world, and the online ad industry would have you believe that it's perfectly fine to follow you around, peeking over your shoulder and taking note of where you go and what you browse, in order to target you with specific ads, or to help infer what you're more likely to be interested in or buy.  One famous example of that, and the potential unintended consequences of such practices is the example of the parents who were served baby goods ad by Target because it concluded that their daughter was pregnant, unbeknownst to them.

    In real life, would you consent to someone following you around, store to store, place to place, and observing your every move to help them decide what ads to show you?

    Probably not, and most would consider it to be creepy.  Why, then, do most people not object to the practice when it's done online?

    And online, it's much easier to compile, and cross reference that data to build a more comprehensive dossier and profile, tied specifically to you.

    Apple also serves ads, and collects data, but it is at least trying to recognize that there are certain lines that it won't cross, and the data that is collected won't be tied to specific persons, at least to the degree that others do it.
    edited August 2022 watto_cobraradarthekatchasm
  • Reply 12 of 19
    Unfortunately, today's Apple is in favour of whatever guarantees growth. With Steve Jobs it was the product and there were principles, now it's not a company for customers but for Warren Buffet.
    edited August 2022
  • Reply 13 of 19
    JP234JP234 Posts: 1,455member
    xyzzy-xxx said:
    Unfortunately, today's Apple is in favour of whatever guarantees growth. With Steve Jobs it was the product and there were principles, now it's not a company for customers but for Warren Buffet.
    I don't even know where to begin with the unfortunate errors here. But I'll try.
    Today's Apple is one of the best stewards of corporate responsibility to the people who use their products and services, as well as people the world over. It would, for instance, increase profit margins if Apple were to use more disposable plastic packaging, instead of cleverly designed cardboard and paper packaging. For more fact-based information on this, just follow this link: https://www.apple.com/environment/

    Then there's the claim that Steve Jobs was only interested in product and principles.  Steve Jobs was not a principled man. He was a great man, driven by success, power and revenge, but he was not a good man. His goal in designing the most "insanely great" products was merely the means to achieve those ends.

    Then we come to the statement that Apple is only for Warren Buffett. I'm an Apple owner (shareholder), and an Apple user, just like literally millions of other people all over the world. Who owns Apple? We, the people. And virtually all of our lives are enriched not only by the benefits of ownership, but by the limitless possibilities we can explore and the wonderful things we can create, using...Apple goods and services!
    edited August 2022
  • Reply 14 of 19
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,779member
    saarek said:
    If they want to dump adverts all over their apps they need to significantly reduce their profit margins on the hardware. It’s a fucking joke that they plan to push ads on people that buy the most expensive phones/computers/wearables/everything else in the market.
    Apple products are among the *cheapest* on the market if “value/productivity/reliability/support for dollar spent” is factored into the price, which it always ought to be —so I’d very much argue your point as ludicrous.
    sireofseth
  • Reply 15 of 19
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,442member
    chasm said:
    saarek said:
    If they want to dump adverts all over their apps they need to significantly reduce their profit margins on the hardware. It’s a fucking joke that they plan to push ads on people that buy the most expensive phones/computers/wearables/everything else in the market.
    Apple products are among the *cheapest* on the market if “value/productivity/reliability/support for dollar spent” is factored into the price, which it always ought to be —so I’d very much argue your point as ludicrous.
    Well, my iPhone XS Max has recently developed the green line of death and my sisters 2019 MacBook Pro has just gone in for its 3rd keyboard replacement, so I guess I’m not feeling too good about the reliability angle at the moment.

    For a device with 40%+ margins it damn well had better be well made and productive!
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 19
    Author asserts that Apple is against highly targeted ads … this is probably a naive / incorrect reading of the state of affairs.

    If Apple can devise methods that enable highly-targeted ads via on-device processing that is respectful of users’ privacy, Apple will absolutely do it. Why wouldn’t they? They’d get to have their privacy-advocate status cake and eat it, too.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 19
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,084member
    Apple is for maximizing shareholder wealth just like every other publicly traded company.
    Then brand value is the most valuable asset the company holds and trashing it by placing ads in odd locations is bad for shareholder value. 

    If shareholder value = revenue at any cost then there is no shareholder value. 
  • Reply 18 of 19
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,649member
    Author asserts that Apple is against highly targeted ads … this is probably a naive / incorrect reading of the state of affairs.

    If Apple can devise methods that enable highly-targeted ads via on-device processing that is respectful of users’ privacy, Apple will absolutely do it. Why wouldn’t they? They’d get to have their privacy-advocate status cake and eat it, too.
    That's essentially what another poster had said a few months ago:  Apple is trying to convince us it's OK to scan our private devices as it's "for our own good" and/or anything Apple needs to collect relative to it is generally anonymized unless it was deemed potentially illegal in whatever country the iPhone operates in.
    edited August 2022 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 19
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,748member
    Apple devices cost more than other brands but I gladly pay that for the premium experience. Among other things that means privacy and no ads. If I’m going to get bombarded with ads, why shouldn’t I just go with google? 
    muthuk_vanalingam
Sign In or Register to comment.