“Death of the Open Rate”? Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Pardot

By Lucy Mazalon

Apple bought in Mail Privacy Protection on September 20th, 2021. Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is a setting available in Apple Mail that will open every email, obscuring (hiding) any real opens by your prospects and subscribers. In other words, this prevents Pardot from accurately reporting email open rates.

Is this the first you’ve heard about the change, and need to catch up? Don’t worry – here are the steps you should take for your Pardot.

What is Mail Privacy Protection?

Litmus called MPP the “death of the open rate”. Read their in-depth guide for more background on MPP from the Litmus engineering team (I prefer not to ‘reinvent the wheel’).

Mail Privacy Protection Availability

  • Available now on mobile (Mail app on iOS 15) and iPad (iPadOS 15)
  • Available later in 2021 on desktop (macOS Monterey)

Note: MPP takes effect according to the application. That’s any emails opened in the Apple Mail apps, but not all emails opened on Apple devices. For example, I could open an email from my work email on my MacBook using the Apple Mail app, and my open would be obscured (/hidden) because it’s an Apple application; on the other hand, opening an email using my Gmail app on my iPhone would record the open as normal because it’s a Google application (despite being on an Apple device).

Time for some good news? It’s not enabled by default.

However, a prompt appears to users when they update, which will increase uptake.

How Mail Privacy Protection Works

  • Email opens are recorded using pixels, tiny images that are embedded in the email’s HTML code. Mail Privacy Protection obscures a prospect’s email open by automatically opening every email, which will cause the tracking pixels to signal an email open to you.
  • The email content is then downloaded by a proxy IP address (one that stands in on your behalf, instead of using your IP address). As your geographic location is tied to your IP, your exact geolocation can’t be tracked either.

Apple Mail Users Estimates

So, how big is the issue? Litmus analyzed 12 billion+ email opens and reported on the popularity of each email client.

Apple iPhone (iOS Mail), Apple Mail (macOS Mail), and Apple iPad (iPadOS Mail) combined, made up almost half (46%) of all email opens in 2020. By August 2021, the number had grown (to 49.8%). Apple’s apps are gaining in popularity.

To state the obvious – the % of your prospects using Apple Mail apps will depend on your industry, business type, location, among other factors.

The pace at which Apple’s previous updates were taken up by its users, you should expect a significant number of Apple Mail users to do so.

Source: Litmus, 2020 State of Email Engagement report.

Mail Privacy Protection isn’t just going to affect marketing automation. Other platforms rely on email opens to fuel the automation engine, such as sales enablement platforms. You should raise this red flag around your organization to save other teams from sending unsolicited, confusing messaging.

Actions for Pardot

1. Segment your database

We know that 50% of users are Apple Mail users, on average. As I said, this will vary according to a number of factors. Now, let’s find out about your prospect database.

The first point to make is that you’ll use list email reports to discover which email clients prospects are using. This makes sense – where prospects open emails could vary day-to-day, which is why you won’t find this information on the prospect record itself.

Look at your list email overview report.

  • How many do you send? Are emails going out frequently enough to build an accurate picture?
  • Do you send emails to specific segments of your prospect database, eg. “Manufacturing customer update”, or “C-Level invitation”. I can imagine that those marketers running account-based marketing (ABM) programs are in the best position, dealing with intentionally segmented data.
  • Do list emails cover a sizeable % of your prospects? (or only a % that you use list emails to communicate with?)


2. Estimate your Apple Mail prospects

You know your marketing segmentation best, so I can’t give you the right answers. If you can’t hone in segment-by-segment, then take a large list email (eg. a permission pass, or event invite) so you can get a rough indication.

In the Pardot Lightning App, navigate to: Pardot Reports → List Emails → ‘Email Clients’ sub-tab.

There you will find a pie chart that breaks down which email clients/devices prospects used for receiving that email:

Taken from: Pardot Email Reporting: Key Metrics and Where to Find Them [Infographic]

3. Review ’email open’ triggers

There’s a reason I opened with “death of the open rate” as it is no longer an accurate action to ‘listen’ for, and trigger further automation. Take Engagement Studio, for example. Sending prospects down a specific path when they open an email is a popular tactic but is it time to look at alternatives that push us to become more ambitious as marketers?

    • Trigger upon click: “email click” is another tried-and-tested indication for prospect intent. If you are lacking in content, then clicks could be a short-term switch. BUT look out for “weird clicks in Pardot email reports” which could become another challenge to overcome. Weird clicks are caused by a number of things – increasingly common are spam filter bots scanning email content before it hits the recipient’s inbox, opening every link to check they are safe.
  • Trigger upon download/form submission (or other, more modern technologies)
  • If you have a high proportion of Apple Mail prospects, then consider reducing the “email open” activity in your baseline scoring model to zero. This will prevent Apple Mail prospects’ scores from inflating beyond other prospects’.

4. Who cares about open rate?

Email open has been mocked as a ‘vanity metric’, as opening an email is so easy to do, can it really signal a prospect is interested? Yet it’s so convenient, so easy to capture. Time to gather your team and other stakeholders and ask:

  • Who cares about email opens? Is it everyone in your team, or management that aren’t as close to the data?
  • Are email opens used in reports that are viewed by multiple people? Remember, it’s not only your Pardot list email/Engagement Studio reports, but also campaign, Engagement History, reports in Salesforce or B2B Marketing Analytics – as it’s available on the Salesforce platform, this metric could have weaseled its way into more reports and dashboards.

If only the “Where is this used” button could extend its functionality to standard fields/Pardot fields! This button displays everywhere the field is used – including reports and dashboards – so that you don’t need to trawl through each one. Untilthattimecomes(and if you have some understanding of the Salesforce Dependency API), then check out Happy, a free open-source tool.


You may have guessed by now that there is no straightforward, easy answer for how to untangle your Pardot out from ’email opens’. Take this as a positive change ‘when push comes to shove’ to focus on more impactful, focused marketing. Managing changes may be tricky with your team, which is why I recommend investigating the scope of the issue – what proportion of prospects are impacted, which automations are potentially redundant – before raising the subject.

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.

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