AppsFlyer and MMA surveys find disconnect between how smartphone owners and marketers think of data use and privacy

Marketers Consistently Underestimate Consumers’ Concerns About Data Usage and How They Will Act Given Apple’s New Privacy Updates

SAN FRANCISCO & NEW YORK – March 25, 2021

AppsFlyer, the global attribution leader, and MMA Global, the industry body dedicated to driving modern marketing and shaping the future of marketing, today released, Personal Data, Privacy & Smartphones: The Marketer/Consumer Disconnect, the third report in a series analyzing concerns about data and privacy.  The report compares how marketers think smartphone owners view the upcoming Apple IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) opt-in requirement with how consumers think about privacy and the use of their data in general. 

The study reveals differences between the concerns of consumers and marketers and suggests marketers who are unprepared for the changes likely to come from Apple’s initiative will face significant challenges. The report is a follow up to the marketer survey, Apple, IDFA and iOS14: New Challenges, New Opportunities for Marketers, fielded in September 2020 and a survey of consumers, Personal Data, Privacy & Smartphones: The Cautious Consumer, released in February 2021. 

When you compare the results of the marketer and consumer surveys, marketers underestimate just how concerned consumers are about their data and just how willing they are to act on those concerns. And while consumers are not that aware of Apple’s planned changes, when presented with the opt-in scenario that they will likely see when they open an app, they are both highly favorable to Apple’s privacy move and alarmed at the idea of being “tracked” online. What marketers think will get consumers to allow tracking (ads being less repetitive and increasing the quality of content) are important, but so is simply stating that it helps keep content free.

“While we expected marketers and consumers to have different ideas about Apple’s opt-in scenario, we were surprised by how marketers underestimated consumer concern,” said Brian Quinn, President and General Manager, North America, AppsFlyer. “AppsFlyer and MMA partnered on this series of surveys to better understand both the consumer and marketer perspectives around privacy and to also provide consumer specific insights to marketers in order to open up the conversation on how they communicate with their customers about data usage.”

Key findings:

  • Marketer familiarity with Apple’s IDFA changes has increased since September. Within half a year, awareness has nearly doubled, with the share of Marketers stating that they are familiar with the new privacy protocols increasing from 28% to 48%. Still, more than half  are “not very familiar” with the upcoming changes. 
  • Consumers are less likely to allow tracking than marketers expect them to (47% vs. 29%) and are much more likely to approve of Apple’s decision to allow them to decide whether they will be tracked.

Marketers and Consumers Not Aligned on Whether Online Data Privacy Will Influence Consumer Online Behavior

  1. Consumers: To what extent do such concerns about online data privacy influence your actual behavior online?
  2. Marketers: To your best estimate, to what extent do such concerns about online data privacy  influence consumers’ actual behavior online?
  • Marketers underestimate the degree to which consumer concerns about online privacy influence their online behavior. Sixteen percent of marketers think that such concerns impact consumer behavior, while 44% of consumers say it does. 
  • Marketers expect that making ads less repetitive ads (“frequency capping”) and better content quality are key incentives for consumers to allow tracking. Forty-five percent of consumers say that none of these factors would make them more likely to opt-in to tracking.
  • Marketers overwhelmingly (83%) acknowledge that the industry has done a poor job educating consumers about data usage and the potential consumer value of tracking.

“The disconnect between consumers and marketers that we found in comparing the surveys points to a challenged future ahead for the marketers who need to do a better job of communicating, and yes, even negotiating with consumers about the value of their data,” says Brian Quinn. “Overall industry education of consumers is key, but each and every company needs to be working now on how to address the changes that will come from Apple’s opt-in scenario.”

“Apple’s IDFA announcement marks an important milestone in the journey to build, as an industry, a clearer value exchange with consumers,” said Vassilis Bakopoulos, Senior Vice President and Head of Industry Research, MMA Global. “Through our collaboration with AppsFlyer on this series of studies we have the right insights to help our members and the industry at large better understand and navigate the potential impact of these changes. 


Personal Data, Privacy & Smartphones: The Cautious Consumer, a quantitative study was conducted using a US consumer panel and a total of N=1,500 surveys were completed. Qualifying consumers aged 13+ who own smartphones participated (1,000 iPhone users and need 500 Android users). The consumer survey was fielded in February, 2021.  The first quantitative marketer survey, Apple, IDFA and iOS14: New Challenges, New Opportunities for Marketers was fielded in September 2020 with N=171 surveys completed among marketers, agency executives and media sellers. The second marketer survey, Personal Data, Privacy & Smartphones: The Marketer/Consumer Disconnect, was conducted among the same respondent pool and a total of N=161 surveys were completed in February to March, 2021.

Personal Data, Privacy & Smartphones: The Marketer/Consumer Disconnect is available at:

AppsFlyer and MMA will host a presentation and discussion of the research series on Thursday, April 29th at 2 pm ET/11 am PT. Please register at: 

About the MMA

Comprised of over 800-member companies globally and 15 regional offices, the MMA is the only marketing trade association that brings together the full ecosystem of marketers, martech and media companies working collaboratively to architect the future of marketing, while relentlessly delivering growth today. Led by CMO’s, the MMA helps marketers lead the imperative for marketing change – in ways that enable future breakthroughs while optimizing current activities. The MMA is committed to science and questioning and believes that creating marketing impact is steeped in constructively challenging the status quo encouraging business leaders to aggressively adopt proven, peer-driven and scientific best practices, without compromise. The MMA invests millions of dollars in rigorous research to enable marketers with unassailable truth and actionable tools. By enlightening, empowering and enabling marketers, the MMA shapes future success, while also propelling business growth.

About AppsFlyer

AppsFlyer, the global attribution leader, empowers marketers to grow their business and innovate with a suite of comprehensive measurement and analytics solutions. Built around privacy by design, AppsFlyer takes a customer-centric approach to help 12,000+ brands and 8,000+ technology partners make better business decisions every day.

Ready to start making good choices?