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ITP 2.0 in a nutshell
Apple has released an update to their Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which blocks even more cookie-based tracking than the previous iteration did. Advertisers who are still using traditional gateway tracking are going to be particularly affected. In fact, we estimate that advertisers relying on traditional tracking methods will lose tracking on an average of 9% of sales generated by their partners — and that number will go up for advertisers with a high rate of mobile traffic.
However, advertisers following our best practices for tracking will continue to see no negative impact whatsoever. Since optimal integrations of our Universal Tracking Tag (UTT), white-labeled tracking domains, and our API-based tracking are not hindered by ITP 2.0, any advertisers tracking via those methods will remain unaffected. Please note that UTT integrations must include the ClickID parameter, which is not included by default in all UTT integrations. We recommend checking with your CSM to confirm whether your particular integration will thoroughly protect your tracking from ITP.
We strongly urge all our advertisers to adopt one of these superior tracking technologies in order to continue tracking as many conversions as possible.
Wait, back up. What was ITP 1.0?
Last September, Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which made it harder to use third-party cookies to track Safari users on both iOS and MacOS. In particular, the original ITP added a 24-hour window to cookies in domains it flagged as being able to track cross-domain, after which access to third-party cookies would be blocked. This posed problems for many tracking providers, since a good deal of tracking is done with third-party cookies.
For instance, affiliate tracking has traditionally used redirects to quickly detour users through a “gateway” between the partner site and the intended landing page on the advertiser’s site. As users pass through this gateway, the tracking provider sets a cookie. Since that cookie came from the tracking provider’s domain, rather than the advertiser’s, it’s called a third-party cookie. Obviously, that was bad news for tracking that relied on third-party cookies (we estimated a 2% tracking drop-off for advertisers on our platform who were using legacy tracking methods), but conversions that happened within that 24-hour cookie window were ok.
So, what’s changed with ITP 2.0?
Well, a few things. But the biggest change is the removal of the 24-hour window. Now, Apple will block third-party tracking cookies right off the bat, which means that even a conversion that comes right after the click will no longer be tracked in Safari. So while ITP 1.0 meant a tracking drop-off around 2% for advertisers using traditional gateway tracking, we expect that number to jump up to around 8-9% with ITP 2.0. Yikes. This means that, while those sales will keep coming in, partners will not be paid for a good deal of the value they are generating. As a result, it’s likely that some partners will begin spending less energy promoting advertisers who use legacy gateway tracking, and more energy promoting advertisers who are able to reward all the value they provide.
How to keep your partner program safe
Fortunately, we saw the writing on the gateway tracking wall a long time ago, and we offer three different tracking methods that remain completely unaffected by ITP 2.0. The first is our Universal Tracking Tag (UTT), which is placed on the advertiser’s site and tracks inbound traffic rather than relying on gateways between the partner and the advertiser. We periodically upgrade the UTT’s functionality to keep pace with new developments like ITP 2.0 – and those updates never require any additional integration work on the client’s end. That said, some UTT integrations have not included the optional ClickID parameter; if that is the case for your integration, your CSM can show you how to enable it within minutes.
The second tracking method is our white-labeled tracking domains, which set first-party cookies in the advertiser’s domain — meaning that those third-party cookies non grata never get involved at all. And as a third option, we also provide API-based tracking.
There are a few other components to ITP 2.0, all of which aim to protect users’ privacy online. If you’d like to dig deeper, we recommend going straight to the source for an informative, understandable writeup.
And again, if you are still relying on traditional gateway tracking, we really do suggest you take a moment to talk to your CSM or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about upgrading your tracking technology and future-proofing your partner program.