No News Is Good News for Marketers at Apple’s WWDC 2022
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2022 brought news of numerous useful—hello, customizable iPhone lock screen and better iPad multitasking!—features that will be rolling out across hundreds of millions of devices this Fall, but—for marketers—the most important thing was what the company didn’t announce.
Anticipation and expectations build in the weeks leading into the WWDC, with the rumor mill often working itself into a frenzy by a few days before the early June keynote announcements. Those expectations generally range from roughly accurate predictions about new features and services to wild claims about products that Apple is certainly working on, but isn’t anywhere near ready to unveil (we’ve been waiting years for a glimpse of an Apple Car, after all).
That form held this year, with many expecting that WWDC 2022 would deliver the first glimpse at Apple’s sure-to-be-coming Mixed Reality headset and accompanying “Reality OS.” But, while many of this year’s announcements are laying the foundation for that device, Apple didn’t announce the glasses or operating system at WWDC.
But for brands and marketers, that wasn’t WWDC 2022’s most important “missing” announcement. Rather, the most important thing Apple didn’t announce this year was any major new privacy or data initiatives that change the fundamental ways marketers do their jobs.
Apple has increasingly defined its brand as centered on user privacy over the last 5-6 years. It’s supported that position by rolling out major new privacy initiatives at every WWDC since at least 2018. Each WWDC has brought with it new privacy features that make it harder for marketers to access Apple’s hundreds of millions of users.
In recent years, WWDC has upended marketer’s jobs by introducing user-centric privacy features like:
- Third-party cookie blocking in Safari
- Email tracking pixel blocking in Apple Mail
- Hide My Email, a “burner” email system that obscures user email addresses and other personal data
- App Tracking Transparency, which blocks sharing data collected from apps with third parties without explicit user permission
- The VPN-like iCloud Private Relay that prevents user identification and fingerprinting.
With those and other, related announcements, Apple has been attacking the data and services that marketers rely on to compile the huge customer and prospect data sets used for all kinds of modern advertising, marketing, and personalization.
Not this year. WWDC 2022 brought no major new announcements that will further choke off marketers’ access to customer data.
But that doesn’t mean marketers should breathe any easier. Apple is still committed to user privacy, as demonstrated by its most recent TV ads depicting a humorous—but not entirely farcical—auction of user data. New privacy—and marketer-hostile—features could arrive at any time—at WWDC 2023 or before.
So, marketers shouldn’t allow themselves to become complacent—if that’s even possible with the ripple effects of previous Apple announcements yet to subside. Marketers and brands must continue to focus on building their first-party data sets. They should continue with moves away from intrusive and unnecessary tracking, and assess their data-sharing practices with a critical, customer-centric eye.
Marketers and brands may not be able to anticipate Apple’s next industry-disrupting privacy move, but they can be sure that there will be another sooner or later—and if they’ve tightened their practices in ways that privilege both privacy and the customer, they can minimize its inevitable impact.