TikTok is racing to evolve its advertising business ahead of Apple’s new privacy controls, which are expected to drop in a matter of weeks when the iPhone maker issues its next iOS 14 software update.
Apple's new rules will essentially make it more difficult for apps and advertisers to track consumers across the web, deliver targeted and retargeted ads, find new customers and measure ad performance. Naturally, brands are concerned about what it means for their businesses and their ability to conduct meaningful online ad campaigns.
In response to the changes, TikTok is beefing up its internal consumer-tracking powers and developing new tools. Advertisers say that the Chinese-owned social video app has been testing new methods of gathering data, including building a more powerful pixel for marketers. Pixels are digital codes that marketers put on their websites and apps to record consumer activity, such as when a user clicks on a product image or makes a purchase. Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok all have pixels that take data collected on a marketer’s website and turn it into personalized advertising on the social media platforms.
“[TikTok has] a beta test out right now that allows their pixel to be a little bit more dynamic and do some advanced matching,” says Danisha Lomax, VP and group director of paid social at Digitas. “Matching” is the process of taking data from a pixel and applying it to retarget a consumer on an app like TikTok. Matching is successful when a brand has an email address or other identifier that can be linked to a signed-in user on another app.
Pixels will still be mostly operational under Apple’s upcoming privacy changes, because they collect “first-party” data—that is, data picked up directly by the brand—and consumers theoretically consent to its use when they click on a privacy notice on a website or app. However, what will change is the number of consumers eligible for matching with personalized ads, because that depends on whether the consumer consents to such ads on apps like TikTok, Snapchat or Facebook.
Last week, TikTok started giving advertisers and consumers more guidance about how advertising will change. TikTok said it would auto-enroll users into personalized ads based on their activity while they are on the app. But TikTok users will still have the option to prohibit advertisers from targeting them on the app based on data collected from TikTok.
The users that opt-out of data gleaned off-site will make even an enhanced pixel less powerful.