Facebook’s not-for-drinking IPA and the United Nations of marketing measurement

By John Koetsier May 11, 2022

You might say it’s kind of the best of times and the worst of times in marketing measurement, with apologies to Charles Dickens.

Because knowing who a person is and which device from where is accessing a service is undergoing wholesale change from a marketing point of view in the age of privacy. IDFA is gonzo, GAID is on the way out, and as any web marketer has known for years now, third-party cookies are an endangered species.

Not shockingly, all of that is changing ad targeting, marketing attribution, and campaign optimization. So times are tough, in a way. But in another very real sense, it is apparently the golden age of measurement technology. Why? Because we are seeing a huge amount of innovation in the space.

  • Apple: SKAN
  • Google: Privacy Sandbox (web and Android)
  • Brave (and others): Blockchain solutions
  • IAB: Project Rearc
  • And more … ID5, Unified ID 2.0 from The Trade Desk … and so on

Plus, of course, there’s a solution from Facebook: IPA.

Interoperable Private Attribution from Facebook … err … Meta

But IPA is not the kind of India Pale Ale you can drink in an English bar. Instead, it’s Interoperable Private Attribution, and it is yet another solution to the eternal marketing dilemma: answering that simplest of questions with far-too-complex answers … what’s working?

And, of course, answering that in a privacy-safe way.

If you’ve checked out Privacy Sandbox for Android, you’ll see a few similarities, Singular CTO Eran Friedman says. The Facebook/Meta IPA proposal is based on three general concepts:

  1. Match keys
  2. Event generation with sources and triggers
  3. Aggregate attribution measurement

Match keys coordinate between publisher data and advertiser data, and crucially have to be built into the computing environment: the browser on the web, or the mobile operating system on smartphones and tables.

“If a user does an action and clicks an ad in one app, and then triggers a conversion in the advertiser app, then there will be a matching key to kind of connect the dots. Then the other piece is the events … two types in the IPA … the source events which happen in the publisher [app]: things like an impression, a click things that the user does in the publisher, and then they have trigger events which happen in the advertiser app.”

Eran Friedman

Those are similar, Friedman says, to conversion events in SKAN, and connect to sources via the match keys.

Double the privacy protection?

However, that’s where Facebook adds yet another layer of privacy protection. Welcome to the concept of trusted servers … or at least semi-trusted.

“They defined a concept of ‘trusted servers’ essentially, which are kind of unbiased, third party services that receive these encrypted postbacks with match keys and trigger events. And these are the ones that are able to decrypt the information and then provide very granular data to both ad networks and advertisers would count how many conversions came from the sources and basically power attribution based on these encrypted postbacks.”

Eran Friedman

Where Privacy Sandbox has a single aggregation service for a trusted third-party, Facebook’s system is designed for two “semi-trusted” services, and both are essential. No single third-party can decrypt the postbacks on its own, making it less likely that any single entity could break privacy in the system.

Advertisers themselves and ad networks could get full data with the help of the semi-trusted services, but the semi-trusted services themselves would have only partial visibility of the granular data.

There is a problem, however.

Because Meta/Facebook is who it is and not Apple or Google, it doesn’t own a mobile operating system or a web browser. While IPA has been built in partnership with Mozilla, which owns the Firefox browser, that only accounts for maybe 3.5% of global browser market share. The obvious question is: why would Apple (iOS, Safari) and Google (Android, Chrome) build support for Facebook’s attribution methodology, Interoperable Private Attribution?

Short answer: they probably won’t.

United Nations of marketing measurement

Which is essentially the reason we need a United Nations of marketing measurement: an entity to bring all the methodologies and technologies from all the platforms and stakeholders together.

Given that the odds of this happening are roughly similar to the UN brokering global peace or solving world hunger tomorrow, the implication is clear.

MMPs like Singular are the trusted third parties of marketing measurement and essentially have to provide an abstraction layer over all the multitudinous methodologies from all the battling players in the market. That abstraction layer then gives marketers a single source of truth without them having to know all the individual intricacies in each platform’s chosen attribution solution.

“We always saw ourselves as the ones who have the role to navigate advertisers and the industry through. Our goal is always to see what we have to work with and build the tools and the reporting capabilities, the management capabilities, so that whenever someone wants to use a tool among the vast toolset that they have, it’s seamless for them to try something out, see if it’s insightful for them, see if it’s relevant for them to use.”

Eran Friedman

But the massive diversity — though it offers challenges —- isn’t all bad.

It’s also driving innovation, Friedman says, since Google could see what Apple did, and Facebook can look at both, and all can come up with better versions in the future.

Subscribe to Growth Masterminds

Subscribe to Growth Masterminds on your favorite podcasting platform:

Stay up to date on the latest happenings in digital marketing

Simply send us your email and you’re in! We promise not to spam you.