ITP2 Wrecks Attribution And Makes Marketing (Even) Worse

Ian Lurie

Intelligent Tracking Prevention. ITP2. It’s a nightmare for us marketers. Everyone’s talking about how it trashes audience targeting.

If you want a primer on ITP2, read this AdAge piece.

What sends a chill down my spine, though, is what ITP2 will do to attribution and by extension marketing, which is bad for everyone—not just marketers. Hear me out.

Intelligent Tracking Prevention and other “security” efforts wreck referrer tracking: We can no longer accurately track traffic source. Organic search, social, paid media traffic gets lumped in with “direct.” We did an audit, and found at least 18% of client traffic is misattributed “dark” traffic:

Dark Traffic As Percentage Of Direct Traffic
Dark Traffic As Percentage Of Direct Traffic

Dark Traffic As Percentage Of Direct Traffic

Amazing research & dashboard by Michael Wiegand aka smartest analytics person ever aka @mwiegand. Here’s the Google Data Studio version.

We assumed dark traffic if a direct visit landed on a page with a URL longer than about 15 characters. We could be wrong. Forty-seven million people might be typing</br > into their address bar. They could be bookmarking

I know I do.

That was sarcasm. The reality is that our attribution data is getting munged at scale. Attribution is a pivotal marketing argument. Break it, and you break everything.

ITP2 isn’t helping privacy. It’s about as useful as Not Provided. The real risks to our privacy are phishing scams, ISPs, cell providers, credit card companies, that time someone dumped 20 million personal records off the back of a truck, and that guy who just walked by and scanned your iPhone’s portable hotspot. Not efforts to track which color socks I just bought.

What ITP2 does is make marketing even worse. You thought spam plagued us before? Now you’ll have a million panicked marketers stuffing inboxes and SERPs, trying to exceed goals by another 18%. The new Nigerian top brass will be some marketer pleading “ME ME ME ME OH ME PLEASE GODS ME OTHERWISE MY CHILDREN WILL STARVE!!!!”

All ITP2 does is set us back to the 1990s. You heard it here first.

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  1. Perhaps ITP2 is inconvenient for us marketers, but that’s why we have a job – we’re paid to navigate the field we find ourselves in. Our entire purpose boils down to selling things, and if we can’t do that without knowing every last tiny customer detail, perhaps we need to approach things from a wider perspective!

    1. Hi Gil,

      I completely agree. However, ITP2 will impact our ability to do marketing, and we need to set expectations with clients. I also believe ITP2 creates a false sense of security by doing very little for privacy. It makes good headlines, but that’s it. Thanks!

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