7 things you need to know about Privacy Sandbox for Android: ironSource

By John Koetsier March 28, 2022

Privacy Sandbox for Android brings something new to the market, says ironSource: something we haven’t seen before. And that is a level playing field for ad targeting.

One of the key reasons? Watching Apple go first.

“It’s easier being second.”

Yevegy Peres, VP of growth for ironSource

I chatted with Peres about Google’s month-old Privacy Sandbox for Android announcement that is a response, in many ways, to the App Tracking Transparency privacy technology that Apple rolled out in iOS 14.5. We talked about Google Ad ID (GAID) deprecation, Topics API, Fledge for retargeting on Android, and how mobile ad networks and mediation platforms will change in this new targeting, measurement, and attribution reality on the world’s most ubiquitous computing platform. We also chatted about what this changes for marketers.

A few things seem clear even at this early stage:

  1. Privacy Sandbox for Android (PSA) is a much fuller-featured ad technology than Apple’s ATT and SKAdNetwork
  2. PSA will create significantly less disruption to the ad ecosystem than ATT
  3. Marketers will gain platform-level retargeting capabilities, making retargeting a virtually ubiquitous, simple, and seamless activity
  4. PSA is a major upgrade in user privacy on Android
  5. Unlike IDFA, we have 100% clarity on Google’s plan for the GAID (it’s going bye-bye)
  6. SDK Runtime is a very, very good idea
  7. Privacy Sandbox for Android returns much more measurement data than ATT

It certainly is easier being second. 

Google has the huge advantage here of seeing Apple move first in releasing App Tracking Transparency and SKAN. Google had the benefit of evaluating the impact on the market. And Google will also not have missed that an early impact of SKAN was to throw more marketing dollars to the Android side of the mobile world … probably not an achievement they want to emulate in reverse.

The result — also because Google is an ad network where Apple only owns an ad network — is a much more ecosystem-friendly framework with technologies and capabilities for the full range of activities marketers want and need: targeting, retargeting, measurement, attribution, and so on. While, it’s important to add, enabling significantly more privacy for people who own Android phones.

The result, Peres thinks, will be significantly less disruption than ATT.

Built-in retargeting via Fledge

One huge industry-changing positive: built-in retargeting.

“Fledge actually is pretty interesting … retargeting in general is something that has not been fully adopted ever for most marketers, for many reasons. One reason is how complex it is to maintain the processes of defining the audiences and managing this A-to-Z of creating, populating those audiences and also providing those audiences to the marketing channels.”

Yevegy Peres, VP of growth for ironSource

What complexities, specifically?

Audiences need constant updating and then transport from brand or measurement partner servers to ad partners’ servers. Technology like Singular’s solves many of those problems with audiences, but there’s a lot of GAIDs floating around and that, Peres says, provides a risk to app publishers — and users themselves —  in terms of where that data goes and what happens to it.

Ultimately due to complexity or risk, many app publishers never really utilized retargeting to the extent they could have. Now with Fledge, it’s essentially baked into the Android operating system: a default and easy-access methodology to reach out to former or lapsed users or customers and attempt to re-win them.

100% clarity on the future of the GAID

Remember the early days of SKAdNetwork when it wasn’t clear how the market would react or how people would deal with App Tracking Transparency prompts? Some initially thought it might be like cookies, which can see consent rates upwards of 50% depending on how they’re implemented, while others thought almost no one would opt-in.

As it turns out, the real rate is around 20%, though some apps do better. But the point is that there was uncertainty.

That’s not the case with the Google Ad ID. Google is explicitly saying that GAID will be deprecated in about two years. And that means the ecosystem and marketers need to prepare, says Peres.

“Within this proposal, it’s completely out … and two years is not a lot of time. It’s definitely a good time to start thinking and collaborating on how this will become a standard that actually works.”

Yevegy Peres, VP of growth for ironSource

For advertisers, a big part of that is figuring out alternative IDs in their databases for targeting, retargeting, and cohorting.

Level playing field for adtech?

Perhaps the most surprising thing Peres said during our Growth Masterminds podcast chat: saying that Privacy Sandbox for Android gives adtech companies something entirely new: a level playing field.

Specifically, Peres is talking about one of the three most critical components of advertising: targeting. (I personally think targeting, creative, and measurement are the “holy trinity” of successful advertising.)

“[Topics API] provides the ad channels a level playing field on how to approach that user and provide the most relevant ad to that user. And that has not been the case until now.”

Yevegy Peres, VP of growth for ironSource

As it stands now, the more data you have about devices and people, the better targeting you can achieve. The more you know about what apps people have installed, what websites they use, what in-app purchases they’ve made, and what interests they have, the better you can get at matching ads and offers to devices and users.

All of that changes with Topics API, a core component of Privacy Sandbox for Android. See our deep dive right here, but Topics API basically registers topics that people are interested in based on the apps they use. Adtech companies can access those topics and use them as guideposts as they try to find the best audiences for specific ads, apps, and campaigns.

This is hugely significant for a lot of different reasons.

A level playing field means smaller adtech companies might be able to compete better with the titans of adtech. It also means the titans of adtech themselves might be able to compete better with the Googles and Facebooks of the world, at least for off-platform ads. (Ads on Google or Facebook owned platforms will still benefit from the masses of data that only those companies will have about their customers or users.)

Another massive reason?

Topics API potentially calls a ceasefire in the long-running arms race for consumer data that adtech companies were forced to fight in order to get 1% or 3% better than their rivals at matching offers and people. This is the behind-the-scenes forever war in advertising that has resulted in an all-out assault on consumer privacy, and this is precisely why DRPR and CCPA and ATT and now PSA were created.

(We’ll have to see how this all plays out, and I have some suspicions that scale still matters in terms of where you can set topics and read them. However, more on that later.)

Finally, much more data

We’ve already talked about how much more data Privacy Sandbox for Android returns than Apple’s SKAdNetwork.

As Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv recently wrote:

“The ‘event-level reports’ will provide a super granular breakdown of your upper-funnel data (think campaign, sub-campaign, creative, down to the click_id itself), paired with fairly limited conversion values (3 bit conversion values – vs SKAN’s 6 bits).

It does seem, however, that it will be possible to send up to 3 conversion events at separate times that will each be attributed to the view or click. So probably the first conversion event will be used for the install, while the subsequent 2 conversion events will be for meaningful KPIs that can happen later in the user’s lifecycle. That’s huge … and was one of the main features we wanted from SKAdNetwork.”

Gadi Eliashiv, CEO, Singular

That’s three postbacks to one, with maybe a bit less data each but more opportunity to understand the value of an app user over time. 

“But also I think the part that is great is that 30 days is where things cut off,” says Peres. In other words, you have much more time to get a better understanding of the value of the people that your ad campaign has brought in.

And then, of course, there’s the aggregatable data on the campaign level that Google is enabling via an aggregation service. That’s 128 bits, which offers space for a huge amount of data on campaign IDs and creative IDs and device models and installs and revenue.

The upshot: there’s much more data and MMPs like Singular will be able to use it to get marketers clean, insightful, actionable data for marketing tactics and strategy.

Subscribe to Growth Masterminds

We interview the top global experts in mobile marketing and adtech on Growth Masterminds. Subscribe on your favorite platforms for the audio version (and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube as well.)

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.