How will Apple Email Privacy changes affect GAM?

The data on apple email privacy changes will continue to evolve, as will this article. read below for key factors to consider as an AdServer client of Jeeng.

What is iCloud?

iCloud is the brand name for most online services that are part of the Apple ecosystem. It includes things like an email address ending with an domain, free storage of up to 5gb per user which can be shared amongst various services, access to their Office suite which offers features somewhat similar to Google Docs. 

These services are closely tied to apps that are provided by default to Apple users when they purchase an Apple device. They were initially mostly a conduit to lock in the user to the ecosystem by providing a seamless integration between online services and their devices.

However, in the past few years, Apple has shown more eagerness at providing premium online services and this has been seen in their revenue where the proportion of revenue coming from online services has been steadily increasing.

iCloud has always had a premium tier which effectively only really offered the user more storage for things like photos and backups and has mostly introduced new services like Apple Music or a paid tier to Apple News, but it appears that with iCloud Plus, they are looking at making their base services more appealing.

What is iCloud Plus?

ICloud Plus was announced as a new service that will be offered for free for users who are currently purchasing extra storage and/or have Apple One subscriptions. The new set of features mostly focuses on privacy and security, a big driver in Apple’s marketing message these past few years.

Private Relay

The Private Relay feature was the centerpiece of the announcements made for the service. Effectively, it works like the Warp service that Cloudflare already provides with a few twists.

At a high level, the Private Relay service provides the following benefits:

  • It anonymizes your DNS requests so that not even your provider knows what they are.
  • It acts as a proxy between you and your intended destination in similar fashion to a VPN, although it should be noted that it is much more lightweight than a VPN. This makes it impossible to track the original IP address which the user is on.
    Two levels are provided:
    • Preserve Approximate Location (a coarse location in the vicinity of the user, designed to help services that rely on geolocation)
    • Broader Location (from our testing, mostly datacenter locations with little relation to where the user is)

Hide My Mail

The Hide My Mail is a feature that allows users to use anonymized email addresses that are tied to specific services, The feature works as follows: when signing up for a newsletter, a user will be offered a randomly generated email to sign up for the service. If the user chooses to go ahead with the suggestion, the user will be subscribing with an address unique to the newsletter. All emails will be forwarded to the user’s inbox, but the service providing the newsletter will have no way of tying it to the original email of the user.

Like Private Relay, the Hide My Mail feature expands on services that already exist. When using the Sign in With Apple, Apple already anonymizes the email address of the user.

The email will look similar to this:

iOS privacy hide my mail

Photo credit: Apple

Mail Protection

A few features were announced that were specific to Apple Mail. It was implied that these features were free to all users and tied to the use of Apple Mail (in both iOS and macOS), but I have not seen any concrete evidence of this. For now, we must assume all Apple Mail users will have access to this feature

The announced changes are: 

  • Apple Mail would download images through an image proxy similar to the Google Image Proxy, but more importantly, the images are downloaded on receipt to the iCloud servers rather than when the user opens the email.
  • Apple Mail would modify the user agent string to show as “Mozilla/5.0”, making it impossible to identify the device behind the request.
    Mail privacy protection
    Photo credit: Ryan Jones

Jeeng AdServe Customers

As of right now, there are no technical changes from the customer end that are needed for this upcoming Apple change. There are a few scenarios that may happen which will be listed below. The general market share that this will impact can be between 40 and 60%.

  • Impressions may be triggered even with the user never seeing the ads (100% open rate).
    • Ads may no longer refresh dynamically.
  • Geo-targeting will still be effective but the granularity may not be as fine grained.
  • Any email for Apple Mail will be unable to be device targeted.

For this list, the likely scenarios are in bold. In testing the beta, the observation was that ads were still refreshed. However, this should not be planned to always happen. The other three scenarios were observed. Jeeng is a technology provider for passing requests to GAM and it is important for those customers that are using GAM to manage their inventory to understand what this means.

For Apple traffic, expect 100% open rates and expect advertiser CPMs to be adjusted accordingly. In practice, this means that Jeeng will likely signal Apple Mail traffic distinctly so GAM is able to target this effectively and allow advertisers to value this traffic on its own. This means there will likely be two distinct buckets. Android and others will still have proper open rates which will be in a different bucket and can be managed just as this is done today. Plan to have Apple Mail traffic to be valued differently than in mediums where this privacy protection is not in place.

To understand the relative impact, take the amount of current Apple Mail traffic with the open rate and calculate the difference when it is perceived to be 100% open rate. As a reminder, Apple Mail includes desktop and mobile. This is the likely impact on impressions and what to plan for.

Expect shifts in budgets to happen over the next few months which will probably have somewhat moved to platforms that still have these tracking metrics available. This does not mean that Apple Mail is not valuable, it just means the value is yet to be determined and the market will eventually find the real value once again.