Apple’s New Privacy Ad is Humorously Brilliant (and Pokes Facebook Too)

Anupam Chugh

The one-minute commercial hits the bullseye in showcasing how advertisers track users across apps

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Screen grab from video

Despite setting a record number of iPhone 12 sales in the previous year, Apple is under the gun lately.

It’s less to do with their product lineups (which still looks very promising) and more about the backlash they’ve faced as a tech giant monopoly.

The iPhone maker is currently tangled between an anti-trust lawsuit and data privacy with critics accusing them of promoting subscription services.

For one, Apple has been facing the heat from Facebook over the new iOS 14 opt-in ad tracking feature. Despite Apple’s best attempts to delay the privacy feature for a year, Facebook hasn’t stop itself from calling user privacy a pretentious move by Apple through full-page newspaper commercials.

The Cupertino tech giant also finds itself in the midst of a fallout with Epic Games — with the battle now moving into the court after Apple banned Fortnite for violating App Store policies.

The video game company had then released a parody commercial of Apple’s iconic 1984 ad to garner support.

Say what you may about Apple’s App Store monopoly, but their decision to move forward with iOS 14 opt-in ad tracking despite Facebook’s pushback was applause-worthy.

However, to see the iPhone maker stay rather mum after the App Tracking Transparency update rolled out last month was a little strange.

It was surprising on many fronts especially since Apple has a proven history of crafting the best commercials that bring attention to their brand.

But finally, the wait is over! Apple just shared a one-minute video commercial and it’s an eye-opener for those doubting the gravitas of the iOS 14 privacy feature.

Before we dig into what’s all the fuss about and how Apple succeeds in delivering the message, do take a look at the ad.

What’s the Fuss about Personalised Ads and Tracking?

Since Apple announced the App Tracking Transparency feature, Facebook and the entire mobile advertisement industry have been rattled.

It’s worth knowing that Facebook has built an Audience Network to help advertisers run targeted campaigns on individual users.

To put it straight, developers integrate the Facebook Ad SDK in their apps, and it helps Facebook collect first-party data and show personalized ads to the users in its newsfeed. In return, developers and advertisers are able to reach a certain segment of users, optimize clicks and pay Facebook a premium charge.

Not so surprisingly, with the iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency framework in action, most users would now look to opt-out of tracking. This not only reduces the effectiveness of the ads and diminishes Facebook’s revenue but also threatens to end their advertising network as companies would now look for other means of marketing.

As Facebook stands at a risk of losing billions of dollars in revenue due to the privacy feature and hence has been persuading users through app notices to enable ad-tracking.

Worse, they went further by depicting personalized ads as the means of showing relevant content, enriching the user experience, and helping support small businesses by keeping services like Instagram free of cost.

Not just Facebook, plenty of other apps such as Bumble also rolled out prompts requesting users to keep app-tracking on. Ironically, dating apps were supposed to find potential matches. It’s another story, that they’ve actually been matching user information with advertisers.

Even though Facebook’s move was disingenuous, they sort of succeeded in gaslighting the non-tech-savvy users that tracking for personalized ads is for their own good.

Apple’s new ‘Tracked’ commercial perfectly depicts the real truth behind app tracking

With the number of PR stunts Facebook has launched, Apple has finally shared a video commercial that visually depicts how app tracking actually works. And guess what? It’s brilliant and would tickle everyone’s funny bone (except Facebook of course).

The ad starts off with a regular guy buying his morning cup of coffee. Seems like he overslept and is in a hurry to get onto his day’s routine. In the next scene, the barista owner follows the protagonist into a taxi and seemingly knows more details than ever shared.

As the day goes on, the protagonist is followed by an increasing number of people who aren’t shy of peeking into his bank balance or giving him an itch cream before he realizes it.

Overwhelmed with a crowd of people stalking him, the protagonist sits down on a couch, takes out his iPhone, and with just a single popup click “Ask App Not To Track” snaps out everyone.

With the crowd analogous to advertisers and a catchy background tune that has phrases like “Can I interfere in your crisis”, Apple humorously illustrates how app tracking would look like in a real world setting.

Neither the barista guy nor the bank manager asked for the protagonist's consent before getting into his cab or sharing the sensitive data.

The powerful ad certainly strikes the chord with us as the protagonist is relatable. Much like an average smartphone user, he’s completely unaware of the data that gets collected.

Closing Thoughts: “Tracked” might be Apple’s best commercial in years

If we look through archives, Apple has had some memorable commercials — be it the iconic “Think Different” or “Get a Mac” campaign which introduced us to that famous PC guy. I think the iPad Air Commercial Pencil Ad was easily the best Apple commercial ever made.

The new “Tracked” commercial might seem like just another feather in the cap. However, it could well go down as the best Apple commercial in years. And there are a couple of reasons:

  • It doesn’t directly call out competitors, stays away from facts, and has a powerful story at its core.
  • It succeeds in explaining a very complex online tracking system to the layman, doesn’t shy away from poking Facebook (“Why don’t you mind your own business?”), and makes a compelling case for buying an iPhone.

Personalized ads aren’t bad and could be relevant in many cases. But it becomes a privacy nightmare when data is secretly collected for re-targeting users just to feed their dopamines and sell clicks.

Unlike Facebook, advertisements aren’t a core part of Apple’s business. However, the iPhone maker certainly knows how to sell compelling ads.

This article was originally published on The Big Tech.

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