The Big Story: TikTok’s Missing Attribution

The Big Story podcast

The newest billion-strong social platform, TikTok, is taking on the OG walled gardens.

But its ad platform still can’t match Meta or Google. For one, TikTok under-attributes conversions compared to the other platforms, mainly because its tracking abilities are so nascent (although adding third-party cookies to its pixel should help).

On the flip side, although TikTok is no stranger to political interference – remember when it nearly had to sell itself over its Chinese ownership? – it‘s under far less scrutiny than its peers, especially Meta.

TikTok, therefore, can offer more interest-based targeting than Meta, which is especially helpful to brands that have long relied on this type of targeting to reach their consumers. Plus, TikTok allows hashtag targeting, which Instagram doesn’t. And, a bit like the buy now, pay later companies that are so popular with Gen Z right now, TikTok offers agencies credit to run campaigns and lets them pay after the fact.

But while TikTok still has some gaps that frustrate ad buyers, its addictive allure, especially to Gen Zers, and its massive scale make AdExchanger Senior Editor James Hercher bullish.

“I feel like I’ve been making the bear case for TikTok, but my actual feeling would be the bull case,” Hercher says. “If you are not there, you are crazy not to be there. They have so much attention. It’s not just teenagers; they are a scaled, cross-generation platform.”

Location data and Roe v. Wade

Meanwhile, (yet another) new privacy concern cropped up when Vice’s Motherboard discovered it was able to buy location data from location data seller SafeGraph showing who visited Planned Parenthood facilities, how long they stayed there and the locations they visited both before and after.

In light of the news that Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned, use of this data to prosecute people who have abortions or aid people is moving closer from hypothetical to actual.

We discuss if self-regulation or external laws are the best way to ensure location data isn’t misused, as well as other ways location data has been used in criminal cases.

“The industry’s track record is … being reactive to these kinds of things and waiting for the problem to blow up in their faces,” says Associate Editor Anthony Vargas.

So, instead of waiting for a Vice journalist to buy data about Planned Parenthood centers, then trying to deal with the fallout, ad tech companies should do their best to see around corners and anticipate how data could be misused – before it’s misused.

“It would be wise for the industry to think twice about how they’re trafficking in this data,” Vargas says.

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