Home Mobile Apple Is Quietly Replacing SKAdNetwork And PCM With A New Ad Attribution Framework

Apple Is Quietly Replacing SKAdNetwork And PCM With A New Ad Attribution Framework

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Hey, Siri. Did Apple announce a “web eraser” feature at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, as expected, which had publishers freaking out because they thought it would be like a built-in ad blocker for Safari?

No.

But Apple did announce a partnership with OpenAI that will incorporate ChatGPT into all of its products that use iOS 18, including Siri.

And with somewhat less fanfare – as in, with no fanfare whatsoever – Apple also released developer documentation for “AdAttributionKit,” the framework that will now house all its privacy-focused ad attribution technology.

(A h/t to Eric Seufert and the folks at Dataseat for surfacing this change.)

Just Kitting

To take a quick step back, Apple offers two main types of ad attribution.

SKAdNetwork is its framework for privacy-preserving app ad attribution, and Private Click Measurement (PCM) does the same, but for the web.

It appears from the documentation that Apple is phasing out those product names and replacing them with App AdAttributionKit and Web AdAttributionKit, which now both fall under the broader AdAttribution Kit umbrella.

(I had a contest going with myself to see how many times I could write “AdAttributionKit” in a single sentence, and I think I won.)

According to the documentation, App AdAttributionKit “builds on the functionality” of SKAdNetwork, while Web AdAttributionKit “builds on the functionality of Private Click Measurement.”

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But, digging in, it doesn’t seem as if much is actually changing in terms of how they work. The only bit that looks new is that Apple plans to introduce long-promised support for reengagement campaigns, which has been on developer wish lists for a while.

Starting with iOS 18, App AdAttributionKit will include reengagement information for clickthrough attribution so advertisers can see when users open their app after downloading it and measure the ROAS of specific campaigns.

New name, better you?

Apple rebranding its attribution tech does make sense.

Terms like “PCM” and “SKAdNetwork” (SKAN for short) are messy and more than a little confusing. (Although, only god knows what the acronyms will be for App AdAttributionKit and Web AdAttributionKit.)

But there could be another reason. As Seufert recently pointed out in a post at Mobile Dev Memo, SKAdNetwork is kind of a failure.

Seufert argues Apple hasn’t been able to generate widespread adoption of SKAdNetwork or fully stop measurement vendors from engaging in fingerprinting using IP addresses. Meanwhile, he writes, SKAdNetwork is an overly complicated tool that does less to preserve privacy than it does to undermine ad effectiveness in the name of privacy.

A rebrand won’t fix that, but maybe it’s evidence that Apple is getting more serious about its foray into ad measurement.

(P.S. It’s worth noting that Apple explicitly states in its new documentation that AdAttributionKit should not be used in conjunction with fingerprinting and that developers aren’t allowed to “derive data from a device for the purpose of uniquely identifying it.”)

(P.P.S. For anyone who wants more information about the ad attribution framework, Apple is publishing a technical session for developers called “Meet AdAttributionKit” on June 11.)

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