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The Ratings Game: Here are the companies that Apple’s ad changes are hurting, and the ones that can withstand the pain

The latest batch of internet earnings helped reveal the winners and losers from Apple Inc.’s privacy-related changes to its mobile operating system.

Since Apple

first introduced new settings several months back that would give consumers the ability to opt out of third-party tracking that marketers use to help target ads, social-media companies have been bracing for the impact of these changes. Now that more iPhone users have opted out of tracking, it’s becoming increasingly clear which social-media companies are best prepared to withstand the changing landscape, with Alphabet Inc.


among the likely winners and Snap Inc.

among the expected losers.

Opinion: Apple’s ‘ad-mageddon’ is affecting Snap, Facebook, Google and Twitter differently

Alphabet shares were up 5.8% in Wednesday afternoon trading and on track for their best single-day performance since Feb. 3, after the company reported better-than-expected financial results that showed resilience in the face of Apple’s changes. The company acknowledged a “modest” impact to its YouTube business as a result of the changes, but Alphabet’s business otherwise seems to be holding up strongly.

The company delivered “by far the strongest overall results within digital advertising in 3Q in our view, with search coming out as the clear beneficiary from Apple’s ATT [app-tracking transparency], and the least exposed to mobile tracking and measurement issues,” Wedbush analyst Ygal Arounian wrote. “Google has been ahead of the curve in terms of privacy and we see search as well-positioned to lead there.”

Full earnings coverage: Google earnings top estimates as online ad sales remain resilient

Stifel’s Scott Devitt also emphasized that Alphabet’s search business looks well suited to capitalize on the new environment since search advertising is “intent-based,” even though he still expects some negative impacts to YouTube.

“Over time, we expect privacy changes that have limited the effectiveness of social-based advertising will cause a greater share of advertiser budgets to accrue to Google’s core advertising products,” Devitt wrote.

Twitter Inc.

posted earnings alongside Alphabet, but its 9.9% stock selloff Wednesday reflects a more complicated story than just the aftermath of Apple’s privacy changes. The changes largely impact direct-response advertising, to which Twitter is less exposed, and the company benefited in the recent quarter from its emphasis on brand advertising, in part due to the Olympics.

But Twitter has challenges of its own. Not only is the company struggling to grow users in the U.S., but it’s also still trying to grow its direct-response ad exposure. That means it could face similar issues to its peers once its ad mix shifts.

Full earnings coverage: Twitter adds users, sees revenue rise as it avoids being bogged down by Apple change

“Despite a limited impact from iOS, we believe as DR becomes a bigger part of ad revenues, Twitter would need to develop workaround solutions due to the variability of iOS reporting,” wrote Mizuho analyst James Lee.

Other social-media companies have discussed the need to develop better measurement capabilities that help advertisers understand the effectiveness of their spending. The differing responses to Snap’s and Facebook’s reports show that investors favor companies that have invested more heavily in these tools.

Snap’s measurement offerings seem less developed than Facebook Inc.’s

at the moment, one reason why its shares logged a record 27% decline Friday after the company’s own earnings report. That Snap shares are down a further 5.9% Wednesday in the wake of more recent reports from Alphabet and Twitter suggests that investors still view the company as a relative loser in the changing ad landscape.

Facebook shares were near flat Wednesday following the results from its peers after they recorded a 3.9% drop Tuesday in the aftermath of the company’s own results. Though it’s evident that Apple’s privacy changes are affecting Facebook, analysts have cheered the company’s positioning relative to Snap, since Facebook looks to be farther along with its measurement offerings and has a “fortress balance sheet” that should allow for further investments in this area.

Full earnings coverage: Facebook earnings top $9 billion, but Apple change puts sales in the hot seat

Pinterest Inc.

has yet to report third-quarter results, but its shares were still off 4.5% Wednesday, suggesting investors are pessimistic about the company’s positioning relative to its peers given the changes at Apple as well as supply constraints that could impact advertising spending.

The company’s “small advertiser base and heavy e-commerce exposure present a tactical risk in this macro environment,” Morgan Stanley’s Brian Nowak wrote last week. PayPal Holdings Inc.

reportedly held talks about acquiring Pinterest, but the payments giant announced Monday that it wasn’t currently pursuing a deal.

Pinterest is due to post results Thursday, Nov. 4.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, analysts expect that Apple will be a key beneficiary of the new environment as marketers could feel an incentive to shift more spending over to the company’s own advertising business. Apple’s advertising business seems to be an increasing driver of iPhone app downloads that come from clicking on advertisements, wrote MoffettNathanson’s Michael Nathanson.

Read: This could be Apple’s next $20 billion business

“In other words, the loss of signal caused by Apple’s new operating system appears to have shifted performance-based mobile gaming and app download marketers to Apple,” he wrote.

Another possible winner is his view is Inc.
given commentary from Facebook around measurement and targeting challenges for smaller companies.

“Logically, that loss of e-commerce signal should benefit Amazon, which has the best closed-loop data that connects the top-of-funnel brand advertising to bottom-of-funnel purchase checkout,” he wrote. “As such, we assume that e-commerce performance dollars will flow into Amazon given their nearly perfect signal quality.”

Amazon earnings preview: With hundreds of thousands of job openings, labor will be in focus

Apple shares are near flat Wednesday, while Amazon’s stock is up 1.4%. Both companies are scheduled to post quarterly results Thursday afternoon.

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