4 Trends To Disrupt The Digital World In 2023, From TikTok Censorship To Mobile Mania

As part of The Drum’s Data and Privacy Deep DiveInMobi’s Abhay Singhal examines some of the biggest disruptors facing the digital ecosystem in the coming year.

At this point, we can see 2023 on the horizon, and while many industry executives are trying to drive end-of-year revenue, many more are solidifying how they will enter the new year.

The backdrop to 2023 forecasting, planning and budgeting, of course, is a digital ecosystem undergoing mass disruption. But four digital trends in particular are likely to rock the marketing and advertising world next year.

1. Apple will eat up more of the pie

It has become apparent that the industry is finally deciphering the full impact of Apple’s ongoing consumer privacy measures. Both AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework and SKAdNetwork (SKAN) 4.0, which was just released, have the potential to create an advertising monopoly.

Appsumer’s benchmark report suggests that Apple’s search ad business has profited from its own privacy measures, giving Apple the momentum it needs ahead of the rumored launch of its own demand-side platform.

The privacy restrictions that were put in place over a year ago, designed for consumer welfare and value exchange, will likely do more to help big tech consolidate control.

2. Increased polling of TikTok

Free markets will be seriously tested in the coming year. Like Facebook, TikTok occupies a similar space in the collective consumer mind. It’s fun, interactive and it prioritizes people-first connections. The potential of a video ‘going viral’ attracts users every day. But under the surface and behind the algorithms lie huge concerns over misinformation, privacy and content and user suppression.

In terms of suppression, more users are raising red flags over which topics, keywords, phrases and user profiles face censorship. Across the platform, it has become good practice among in-the-know creators to add disclaimers and skip over or reshape certain keywords or phrases that may trigger the app’s censors and cause creators or videos to go under review or be removed from the ‘For You’ page entirely.

TikTok also has been accused of collecting, leveraging and selling location data and in-app clicks via the company’s trackers. According to one recent report, TikTok trackers have been adopted by many major publishers and content providers, collecting IP addresses, unique ID numbers, logged clicks, typed input and search data. As these stories unfold, we are likely to see increased government, regulatory and public scrutiny of the platform in the coming year.

3. New identity and addressability developments

In the coming year, identity and addressability will continue to be hot topics. Some of the changes we’ll see are natural outcomes within the adtech ecosystem based on external factors, such as a recessionary economy, Apple’s privacy frameworks for iOS and Google’s imminent deprecation of third-party cookies, among others.

Based on current trajectories, I have a handful of predictions for what’s to come in 2023. For one, it is likely Google will once again delay cookie deprecation. The industry has dragged its feet on the cookieless future and the general response to Google’s Privacy Sandbox has been tepid. It is highly possible that Google will further delay cookie deprecation to 2025 to allow for revenue continuity. At this rate, Privacy Sandbox for Android, which receives more positive reception and less friction, may be implemented in the market ahead of third-party cookie deprecation in Chrome – despite being announced years later.

Another trend in addressability and identity is the uptick in seller-defined audiences (SDAs). The pendulum is swinging yet again to publishers with greater adoption of SDAs, which is largely due to the anticipated disappearance of device IDs and buy-side audiences losing scale as signals go away.

As a result, we’ll begin to see a more unified publisher SDA sour. However, more independent SDA-focused companies that don’t have their own software development kit distribution will face serious – potentially existential – risks.

4. Mobile gets a makeover

The mobile ecosystem is experiencing a wave of disruption. Amid widespread signal loss, first-party will finally become king for mobile. We are likely to see even more data monopolies in the app world as the open web becomes significantly more gated in 2023, with companies trying to replicate first-party data whenever they can. There will be more requirements to log in and more apps will offer user incentives and rewards, which means we might see greater adoption of in-app advertising.

At the same time, a new wave of surfaces will evolve the consumer mobile experience. Smartphones are just beginning to be truly smart. We’re at the inevitable crossroads with technology and user behavior aligning and mobile devices are the first destination at our fingertips.

However, the process of being informed and entertained has become more daunting. The discovery journey takes far too many clicks and experiences are often lackluster. There is going to be a battle for mobile screens as consumers are given the technology and creative means to control their own screen experience.

What I call the ‘surface economy’ will obviate wasted screen time and we will see the current search or download app process evolve to have more pre-loaded opt-in phone experiences designed to make it fast and easy to access the speedy scroll and rich volume of content we’ve all come to expect from the internet. Apple kicked off this trend with iOS 16 and we will soon see the lock screen as the first touchpoint for consumers on mobile.

At the end of the day, increased respect for consumer privacy has been warranted and right in order to advance innovation and further enrich our mobile lives. It is on all of us to develop responsible technologies that positively impact people, businesses and societies around the world.

Abhay Singhal is a co-founder of InMobi and the CEO at InMobi Ads. For more on how the world of data-driven advertising and marketing is evolving, check out our latest Deep Dive.

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