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Apple's move to reduce data tracking has been a blow for some small businesses


iPhone users may have seen an alert they get when opening an app for the first time - ask app not to track. It's a reassuring idea for those who don't want what they click and search to be tracked, traced across other platforms. When Apple rolled out that privacy tool called App Tracking Transparency last spring, it throttled a major stream of data used by the mobile ad industry. Facebook's parent company, Meta, took a big hit, but the Financial Times said that smaller businesses are also feeling the effect. Kelly Deen is vice president of marketing for Kencko. They sell smoothie packets online, and she joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

KELLY DEEN: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Has this been bad for your business?

DEEN: Well, it certainly has brought a whole new host of challenges, that's for sure. Like a lot of companies in our situation - you know, getting starting out, still considered startups - it's been a pretty exciting time, you know, pre this privacy change, to be able to get off the ground in a relatively easy manner by, you know, finding customers, especially, as you mentioned, through apps like Facebook and being able to do pretty efficient advertising there. And where we've seen changes, is - you know, is...

SIMON: You've been able to direct your advertising to people who have expressed what you're convinced is some interest that might make them receptive to your smoothie packets.

DEEN: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, the changes now is that basically that advertising works a lot, you know, less than it did before. It's less efficient. It costs us more.

SIMON: Of course, we want to disclose that Apple is among NPR's financial supporters, and Facebook's parent company, Meta, pays NPR to license NPR content. I understand it might make business tougher for you, but aren't a lot of people maybe justifiably concerned about their privacy?

DEEN: Oh, no question about it. And I don't think any business, you know, Kencko included, disagrees in any way, shape or form with the direction and, you know, the movement of people having more control over their data and privacy. There's no question about that. It just means, as a marketer, which is what I - my day job, outside of being, you know, a consumer that definitely cares deeply about my data and my privacy - just means as a marketer, we have to go about it different ways and look for new ways to efficiently find, you know, customers and switch up our playbook a little bit, looking for those channels, doing lots of testing - lots of test and learn - to figure out a mix that can be more effective for us. And that's exactly what we've been doing, really, you know, since the tide started to turn last year.

SIMON: May I ask, how many platforms do you have to buy ads on? Can you tell us?

DEEN: Oh, goodness. Right now, you know, we're probably spread out across five or six at any given time. And then we - I kind of go with the 80-20 rule. You know, we spend about 80% of our budget on things we know that are working and working well and 20% on testing new things, and we're always testing new things. So if you took the test pieces out of it, it's probably about five or six.

SIMON: I don't think I've ever seen an ad for your product.

DEEN: Well, we'll have to make sure that we find you somehow, some way, one of these days. Without that tracking, I guess I can't go and hunt you down.

SIMON: That's Kencko's vice president for marketing, Kelly Deen. Thank you so much for being with us.

DEEN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.