The average user may not have noticed some changes to Apple’s UDID, but with iOS 5 the company has closed off a valuable source of information for independent mobile ad networks. “A lot of people are scrambling to find alternatives,” says Giancarlo Maniaci, the CEO of TapIt. “The UDID allowed people to track what apps a user had installed and give our clients a sense of how well their campaigns were working. Now Apple is the only one who can offer that.”
On the location-based advertising side there were similar complaints. Eli Portnoy, who runs the ThinkNear—a service that helps merchants optimize their flow of customers by serving up location based mobile ads and deals—took note of it on his blog: ““So let me get this straight: mobile publishers on iOS are not allowed to pull location to serve more targeted ads. However, Apple owned iAds is allowed to pull location just to serve ads targeted to a customers location regardless of what the publisher says. To add salt to injury, this feature is turned on by default and buried in the menu system not under ‘Location Services,’ but under ‘System Services,’” Mr. Portnoy wrote. “The FTC really needs to crack down on Apple’s anti-competitive practices.”
It’s Apple’s prerogative to decide what user data from apps on their platform gets shared with third parties. “It’s always been a tug of war in terms of Apple passing any type of user data to ad networks,” said Devin Radford, a senior manager at Amobee. “The data on a user’s location is very valuable, because the whole point of mobile is to deliver these highly targeted ads.”
Location, says Tom Limongello, VP of Marketing at Crisp, is a value-added service in mobile advertising: “It’s fair for ad networks to bitch, but they can’t argue with Apple for wanting a competitive advantage.”
Already some advertisers are considering a switch away from Apple. “If we can’t get at the most valuable inventory on iOS, then we’ll be moving more into Android and mobile web,” TapIt’s Mr. Maniaci concluded.