Throughout my Product Management career I’ve largely been focused on two related areas; 1) helping mobile businesses grow their reach and revenue through various forms of advertising and monetization. 2) finding opportunities to deliver the best mobile user experience to increase discovery and commerce outcomes. 

When I joined AdMob, the problem we were fundamentally trying to solve was discovery; how can we help consumers find a mobile site or service at a time when wireless carriers were essentially the gatekeepers to all content.  Many of the early employees came from media publishing or ecommerce startups. We realized the best way to help consumers discover the rapidly growing world of mobile content and for mobile content owners to grow their business was to advertise on other mobile sites. Ads became a (paid) navigational model outside of the core “WAP homepage” offered by mobile service providers. 

A Brief History of Mobile Commerce Growth

With the launch of the iPhone 3G and first Apple appstore in 2008, almost the exact same environment was created in the App ecosystem. Advertising Mobile apps on other apps became the most effective means for consumer discovery and business growth for developers.

Over the course of the next decade, there was rapid growth in all dimensions of mobile applications. Mobile gaming and user acquisition become multi billion dollar industries around the world. App based commerce went from being side projects to becoming a must have component of all omnichannel retailers. And of course Covid accelerated these secular trends making app based commerce a core and essential part of many people’s lives.

In parallel with the growth in the mobile ecosystem, and arguably one of the leading enablers, the advertising technology ecosystem became increasingly effective at collecting and using all forms of data to both target and measure the efficacy of advertising. Literally in many cases every time an ad was served there were 100s of data signals shared with multiple potential buyers to bid against each other to buy the opportunity to show an ad to that consumer. The amount of data collected and processed became so large that many of the early commercial uses of large scale Machine Learning and AI models were developed to help improve the performance of mobile advertising campaigns.

Privacy’s Impact on Advertising

As this growth in mobile commerce and advertising capability has increased there has been a growing emphasis on safeguarding and regulating the privacy elements of mobile devices, both across mobile web and applications. This makes perfect sense, as consumers became more dependent on their mobile devices for all aspects of their personal life, the scope and breadth of information stored increased drastically. 

Beginning with Apple’s first IPT release 1.0 in 2017, an updated ITP 2.0 in 2018, Europe’s efforts to regulate the collection and use of data through GDPR also in  2018, and Apple’s industry shifting introduction of ATT announced in June 2020 were all efforts to address potential bad actors in the industry and establish guidelines of best practices across the industry. Google has also adjusted their privacy and data controls culminating with the the expected removal of 3P cookies later this year. 

While consumers have largely been the beneficiary of these changes, both in terms of more control of their own data and less personally identifiable information (PII) shared across unknown ad tech platforms, the media and content publishers have arguably been the most affected. Both in terms of the effort required to adapt to each new policy shift as well as the overall impact to the revenue derived from advertising. Data suggests that Apple's privacy changes have led to a 40% reduction in average mobile advertiser ROI. If marketers intend to navigate the changing landscape of privacy regulations, they need to future-proof their approach.

The New Advertising Standard for Commerce-Based Models

At Button we’ve been singularly focused on the improvement of mobile commerce since the company was founded nearly 10 years ago. Like the overall industry, Button has navigated many changes during that time and remains focused on helping both consumers and businesses improve their outcomes.

While I can’t predict the future, and honestly I have a hard time looking beyond 9 months in most scenarios to the chagrin of Mike Jaconi, Button’s founder and CEO, I think these trends will not only continue but bring about valuable opportunities for the media publishers who choose to lean in and adapt early to privacy forward solutions and begin to take more direct involvement in generating revenue from commerce.

As the industry continues to look at viable alternatives to both programmatic and direct sold advertising, commerce based models like affiliate and retail media’s potential role stand out as  compelling areas of exploration for many in the media and content publishing space. There’s both a strong, native intent signal, as well as a strong privacy element baked directly into the ecosystem. In many aspects, the same “intent+privacy” that exists in many forms of search and retail media ad solutions is inherent with affiliate marketing.

A Future-Proof Partnership Solution 

Admittedly, there are still challenges and performance based outcomes require an adjustment to some businesses, but as we partner with both retailers, publishers, and creators to test different versions of optimization and use AI to make the best decisions across millions of possible scenarios, we’re seeing the marketplace thrive with unprecedented growth.  Is it because Button’s offering is being better sold or marketed - perhaps - but my belief is that it’s because we’ve been building a solution for a future internet we’ve wanted to see - and it just so happens that “that internet” may be arriving.  

More to come soon on where our product investments are being made - but if you’re interested in diversifying away from programmatic dependence, bolstering your commerce acumen and technical footprint, and increasing the yield of your properties - we’re proud to share that now “publishers, now there’s a button for that”.  Get in touch with us today.