Mobile Marketing Trends and Predictions That Will Shape 2023: MMP Edition

MMPs Trends and Predictions for 2023

Mobile advertising is more dynamic than ever, making it challenging to anticipate how it will evolve over the next several months, let alone over the next year.

There are many black boxes and uncertainties in the industry, driven by the privacy revolutions of Apple and Google, that fundamentally change how mobile marketing functions. We gathered the industry trendsetters and bright minds in one place to discuss what will shape the coming year. 

In this article, thought leaders from all major MMPs, including AppsFlyer, Branch, Kochava, Singular, and Tenjin share their perspective on how GAID deprecation will impact marketers’ buying activities, the SKAdNetwork 4.0 release, and what the future of measurement holds.  

Grab a comfortable seat and let's begin!

headshots of leaders AppsFlyer, branch, Kochava

headshots of leaders AppsFlyer, branch, Kochava, Singular, TenjinQuestion 1: What does the future of measurement hold? 

AppsFlyer: The future of measurement consists of multiple approaches to attribution. Even prior to iOS 14, AppsFlyer invested in attribution methods that are not last-click only. In the new ecosystem where OS-enabled identifiers are deprecated, there are a few major forces that are driving successful measurement:

  1. MMP aggregate-based attribution 
  2. MMP non-last-click attribution models (such as MMM and incrementality measurement)
  3. OS-based, last-click, deterministic attribution solutions (SKAN / Privacy Sandbox)

The challenge for the near future is to be able to get the most out of each method while still having a source of truth to rely on; marketers cannot confidently make decisions without a) deduplicating users attributed twice, and b) getting access to accurate marketing performance metrics.

- Roy Yanai, Director of Product, AppsFlyer

Branch: Measurement and user privacy have become inseparable, and I expect that the shift away from universal unique identifiers (IDFA, GAID, third-party cookies) will continue. This leads to more aggregated, privacy-first attribution frameworks like SKAdNetwork, and proprietary, model-based reporting from major walled garden networks. It also means more focus on in-house data science, as brands figure out how to leverage their first-party data.

We no longer live in a world where user-level measurement data from every channel can be combined together for a useful, top-level view. Instead, we'll start to see more awareness of the separation between 'in-channel measurement' techniques and 'holistic measurement' solutions. The former are great for tactical uses (like 'how much do I pay my ad network this week?'), but new innovation around the latter — for example, next-generation MMM — is what will bring back the cross-channel diagnostic view that marketers need for strategic decision-making.

- Alex Bauer, Head of Product & Market Strategy, Branch

Kochava: Well the mobile measurement partner (MMP) certainly isn’t going away. Marketers need one now more than ever before to help them wade through the multiple layers of campaign measurement & attribution that exist in the current digital ad ecosystem. We sit in a unique position, where we get to empower marketers to discern a clear perspective of their omni-channel performance across deterministic vs. probabilistic, real-time vs. delayed, and modeled vs. observed attribution methodologies. Depending on the partners you’re running with, the device platforms your app is on, and potential government regulations by geo region, brands and marketers need help navigating the measurement options available to them. 

Additionally, as data granularity continues to decline and the real-time feedback that has long fed the programmatic RTB process no doubt has an expiration date, we’re also working more closely with our clients on media mix modeling (MMM) and incrementality. We have some exciting developments to share in this realm as we kick off 2023, so stay tuned.

- Mark Kellogg, Sr. Product Manager, Kochava

Singular: We've lost the IDFA. We're losing the GAID. It's time to shift to what I call Hybrid Measurement, which uses dozens of available signals and multiple measurement methodologies simultaneously to still deliver usable, actionable, and predictive growth insights.

- Gadi Eliashiv, CEO & Cofounder, Singular

Tenjin: I am pretty positive about the measurement future. When ATT was introduced, everyone was pointing out that no one needs MMPs with such low ATT opt-in rates. Moreover, there is no gated wall garden to use the SKAdNetwork, so everyone can just take mobile advertising measurement in-house—at least that was the argument for iOS. With the release of SKAdNetwork 4.0, the tables have turned. 

Both the complexity and the level of insight that advertisers can get from SKAdNetwork 4.0 data have increased drastically. Ordinary app developers don’t have the time or resources to figure it out. Therefore, the traditional demand for MMPs as platforms that will “figure everything out” is back.

- Roman Garbar, Marketing Director, Tenjin

How will GAID deprecation impact marketers’ buying activities on mobile? Are the marketers ready? What are your predictions? Will it be as big as Apple’s privacy changes? 

AppsFlyer: We expect GAID deprecation to have a significant impact on the market and on how mobile marketers operate within it. While Google Privacy Sandbox is still evolving, we do predict that it will become an industry standard for measurement on Android. We anticipate a very high adoption rate from all industry stakeholders: Advertisers, MMPs, ad networks and publishers. 

At first glance, Google Privacy Sandbox may look similar to SKAdNetwork, however, in reality they are not comparable. At its core, Google Privacy Sandbox is attempting to provide the industry with three main solutions to mitigate the loss of GAID:

  1. Attribution API - attribution capabilities and reporting after the deprecation of GAID
  2. FLEDGE - a privacy-centric audience management solution
  3. Topics - a tool that helps ad networks find users based on cross app interests. 

- Roy Yanai, Director of Product, AppsFlyer

Branch: In theory, it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that the effect of GAID deprecation on Android could be a rerun of what just happened over the past few years with IDFA on iOS. But in practice, I hope it will be less disruptive for two reasons: 1) the transition timeline is longer, and 2) the functionality in development with Privacy Sandbox is far more sophisticated than SKAdNetwork.

As an ecosystem, we're not there yet though. Many marketers are still taking a 'wait and see if Google is serious' approach, which means there may still be a mad scramble for adoption at the end.

Said another way, GAID deprecation means we're all going to be swapping the engine of the car while driving it down the highway (marketers will have to learn to make buying decisions with less data), but this time there is a certified mechanic along to help…so long as we agree to get started before it's too late.

- Alex Bauer, Head of Product & Market Strategy, Branch

Kochava: 2024 isn’t that far away. That being said, I’m really excited to see how Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox beta program evolves throughout 2023. The fire drill of the last couple of years with Apple’s changes has certainly stress-tested the best of us, but I don’t think this will be an Apple deja vu moment for the industry. Firstly, Google Referrer matching will continue to provide deterministic feedback for Play driven installs. Secondly, the fact that Google is taking such a different path and openly collaborating with the industry at large is very promising. The concepts already incorporated into Privacy Sandbox are a great start and address many of the core marketing functions that have long been facilitated by the GAID, and yet in a privacy-first fashion. I think that will enable marketers to continue spending confidently across Android marketing channels, but also continue expanding into OTT & CTV, with one of Android’s future considerations and open questions being cross-device measurement use cases. We live in a world of connected devices so a truly future-proof solution needs to have cross-device & cross-platform support.

- Mark Kellogg, Sr. Product Manager, Kochava

Singular: GAID deprecation will have a similar impact to the widespread loss of the IDFA when ATT happened. The major difference is there is not another major mobile platform to flee to the way we saw some iOS spend shift to Android in 2021. So marketers -- and adtech partners -- have no choice but to get good at Privacy Sandbox for Android, and that is going to take some ramp-up time.

The interesting question is: will the market be good enough at SKAN 4 (or 5?) when Privacy Sandbox for Android is fully implemented in 2024 that the reverse might happen, and spend might flood back to iOS? It's somewhat unlikely, because Privacy Sandbox is significantly more capable in some areas than SKAdNetwork, but it's a possibility.

- Gadi Eliashiv, CEO & Cofounder, Singular

Tenjin: Google is handling the switch to the privacy-first world completely different when compared with Apple. Marketers are not ready, and that’s fine because there is no finalized solution to prepare for. Google takes it slow. ‘At least two years’ until existing solutions (GAID) are going to be sunsetted” was written in the original press release from February 2022. Moreover, they are actively taking feedback for the initial design of their framework.

Let’s also not forget that a majority of Google's revenue is coming from advertising, so I am sure they will do their best to come up with a high-performing privacy-first solution for advertisers.

There is still plenty of time to enjoy the benefits of GAIDs, and the impact of the change will not be as drastic as the one from Apple. 

- Roman Garbar, Marketing Director, Tenjin

Question 3: Were there surprises in the SKAdNetwork 4.0 release for you? Do you expect any other impactful changes from Apple ATT? AppsFlyer: The release of SKAN 4.0 in late October didn’t present many surprises; for the most part, it aligned with the WWDC announcement from June and the documentation reflected what we expected it to.

The only surprise to us—an update that wasn’t announced as part of WWDC—was the significant, intentional delays added between the time a postback is locked in and when it is sent to the attributed ad network. The growing delays in postback delivery time make it increasingly difficult for advertisers to estimate install times; without this metric, it’s much harder for marketers to evaluate campaign performance (including tying performance to cost, which is reported by ad networks on click time).

We’re pleased that Apple continues to evolve SKAdNetwork; it’s in everyone’s best interest. We couldn’t have known a year ago that SKAdNetwork 4.0 would be so vastly different from every other previous version. We hope (and anticipate) that Apple will continue to release additional enhancements to SKAN.

- Roy Yanai, Director of Product, AppsFlyer

Branch: The only real surprise was that SKAdNetwork 4.0 arrived so suddenly in the end, without even a hint of advance warning that the release would be coming. The few changes from the initial spec, as announced at WWDC last June, were all pretty minor.

My expectation is that Apple will keep leaning into their privacy positioning — at this point, privacy is so deeply connected to their brand identity that there's no other logical option. The next big ATT-related change will come when Apple finally starts enforcing the ban against workarounds like fingerprinting, which for some reason they're still holding back on. When this happens, one popular theory is it could come in the form of a technical solution (for example, a wider rollout of iCloud Private Relay, to cover in-app traffic in addition to websites) rather than just policy enforcement. Fortunately, the enhancements in SKAdNetwork 4.0 mean now is a great time to make the transition. 

- Alex Bauer, Head of Product & Market Strategy, Branch

Kochava: I think the whole industry was surprised by Apple’s October 24th release of SKAdNetwork 4.0 with iOS 16.1. Many thought it would be later in Q4 - even early 2023. Apple, of course, dropped lots of new details in their documentation, but also some unexpected surprise features, namely the Lock Window and “tier 3” of crowd anonymity. The ability for advertisers to end a conversion window early and kick-off the postback delay timers before Apple’s predefined conversion windows close is a gift for sure. We’re going to work with our clients to help them understand the best application of this functionality. For some verticals it will make sense to leverage this, but not for all. Additionally, we’re excited to see how SKAdNetwork for Web Ads helps fill a measurement void that Apple left with v2 and v3 of SKAdNetwork. SKAdNetwork v4.0 is objectively an improvement and I think marketers will get more insights than before with multi-tiered crowd anonymity and the notion of hierarchical IDs. The adoption timeline of v4 by the ecosystem will be interesting to observe.

- Mark Kellogg, Sr. Product Manager, Kochava

Singular: Generally we were happy to see more capability. 

But one surprise, perhaps, is the level of complexity that SKAN 4 represents. There's crowd anonymity to battle, two different kinds of postbacks, varying levels of postback payload, varying timeframes for conversion value setting, and even varying passages of time for postback timers between the different postback types. That, all combined with the extra conversion payload you can achieve with scale, makes navigating SKAN 4 significantly challenging for marketers and ad networks.
Of course, we're excited about all the extra data and we're already seeing what's going to be possible with it: our SKAN 4-compatible SDK is already available. Our job now, more than ever, is to simplify all this complexity for marketers so they can do what they do best, and we can do what we do best.

- Gadi Eliashiv, CEO & Cofounder, Singular

Tenjin: The “lockWindow” concept was a nice surprise for me because I don’t believe it was originally mentioned in the WWDC22 presentation. Thanks to the “lockWindow” developers don’t need to wait until the end of the whole measurement cycle (which can take up to 35 days ) and can instead request to send the postback ASAP. Still, it’s not going to be in real time because a random timer is going to be applied (24–144 hours). As I’ve mentioned above, it can get very complicated with SKAdNetwork. 

I don’t expect any impactful changes from Apple next year, but I am excited to see how ad networks are going to adopt SKAdNetwork 4.0 features. This is going to be the next big step that will define the future of measurement on mobile. 

- Roman Garbar, Marketing Director, Tenjin

Bottom Line

User data privacy is going to be a central topic for the upcoming year because of the increased value of 1st party data. Although GAID deprecation will make all the players of the mobile advertising industry work harder, the industry already has some experience with Apple’s privacy changes. In this sense, GAID deprecation won’t be a bolt out of the blue, but still will require adjustments to technology and eat up a lot of resources. 

Keep an eye on our Insights page so as not to miss the second part of this article series. We have interviewed experts from major ad exchanges who share their thoughts on the top mobile marketing trends for 2023, their predictions on the app verticals that will gain momentum next year, as well as their take on the hottest topic of 2022 - mergers and acquisitions (M&As)

Topics: Marketplace Insights