Future-proofing measurement. Marketing opportunities

Future-proofing measurement. Marketing opportunities

How to prepare for Cookie Deprecation, opportunities for marketers

On April 23rd, Google announced they were delaying cookie deprecation on Chrome until 2025. Though no exact deadline has yet been announced, this is no great surprise and is good news for marketers everywhere, as there is now more time to prepare for an inevitable cookieless future.

Make no mistake—this is the time to prepare. To ensure advertisers are ready when cookies do deprecate, we’re launching a content series called ‘How to prepare for cookie deprecation.’ This first installment explores the opportunities this monumental change will bring for advertisers everywhere.

Context: The countdown to cookie deprecation (despite the delays).

The trend for consumer privacy started in 2018 with GDPR. Next came Google’s 2020 announcement that third-party cookies would be obsolete by 2022 (initially delayed until 2024 and now 2025). 

In 2021, Apple introduced App Tracking Transparency (ATT) and SKAN. Now, 2024 is here, and as promised by Google, cookie deprecation is underway. As of Q1 2024, 1% of Chrome users have already become cookieless, and Google was pushing for 100% deprecation by the end of the year.

Despite the delay in cookie deprecation, we still expect 2025 to be a pivotal year for cookieless measurement. Cookie deprecation, or the ‘cookieless world,’ is usually used as a catch-all term for identifier deprecation. Google has also announced that the Google Advertising Identifier (GAID) will be deprecated at some point, meaning mobile and app marketers must rely on Google Privacy Sandbox for measurement, attribution, personalization, and segmentation. 

With this in mind, it is still essential that digital marketers begin to prepare for managing and measuring their campaigns while they have data available rather than delay until signal loss has occurred.

“There is no escape from the fact more changes are on the way for growth marketers. Transformations such as cookie deprecation will, at some point, mean a host of data signals that marketers have relied on to manage and measure the impact of marketing campaigns will no longer be available. However, this is an opportunity for all marketers to improve how they measure media, as the reliance on attribution has always been something of a false economy. Advertisers that add more advanced measurement approaches can improve media optimization, drive increased brand growth, and future-proof their measurement stack.”

Dane Buchanan, Chief Data & Analytics Officer at M&C Saatchi Performance

Potential Opportunities brought by cookie deprecation

  1. A new world of measurement is ahead.

“There are ways to understand and measure the impact of media and prove its ROAS, even when a cookie-free world is a new reality. However, all measurement approaches require time, effort, and thought to be prepared effectively. So you must start preparing now; this is your opportunity to future-proof measurement.”

Dane Buchanan

There is no panacea for media measurement. Instead, effective measurement requires a combination of the following methods, which together make up a recommended ‘measurement trifecta’:

  • Attribution – still required for ‘in channel’ optimization.
  • Incrementality Testing – identifies campaign impact.
  • Media Mix Modeling – enables strategic decision-making and planning, such as which channels to up weight and when.

Embracing this ‘measurement trifecta’ allows advertisers to make informed tactical and strategic decisions and gain deeper insights into their media performance.

The benefits of having a measurement trifecta approach for advertisers include:

  • Understanding the true, incremental impact of media campaigns
  • Enabling refinement and optimization of media mix for both short and long-term impact
  • Understanding the impact of both offline and online media through one unified measurement approach
  • Optimizing and predicting the impact of your media campaigns before they go live

“With all three solutions in place, marketers can optimize their within-channel tactics alongside their strategic cross-channel budgeting decisions.” Dane Buchanan.

2. Google Privacy Sandbox will become embedded.

Cutting out cookies/identifiers will significantly change the ‘traditional’ structure of advertising. Rather than relying on cookies and GAID, advertisers can access Google Privacy Sandbox for measurement and attribution, personalization, and segmentation. 

Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to create technologies that protect people’s privacy online and provide advertisers and developers with the tools to target and measure advertising effectively. Current cross-site and cross-app tracking mechanisms, which use third-party cookies and Google Advertising ID (GAID), will be replaced with a suite of privacy-preserving APIs. Privacy Sandbox aims to develop effective solutions that do not require device-level identifiers and limit user-level tracking across different developers’ apps. Given the collaborative development of Google Privacy Initiatives, all areas discussed are subject to change over the coming years.

How to prepare for Privacy Sandbox:

  • Stay up to date with the latest GooglePrivacy Sandbox changes here.
  • Work with your media agency & a trusted Media Measurement Partner (MMP) to understand the implications of any changes and new developments to the Privacy Sandbox. Staying on top of developments is essential, and your media agency should be able to provide all the help needed.
  • Collaborate with ad-tech partners for a smooth transition to the Privacy Sandbox.
  • Have your development team participate in Developer Preview or Beta programs to the Privacy Sandbox.
  • Highlight the importance of adapting to your organization’s new Google Privacy Sandbox landscape to ensure stakeholders know about the upcoming changes.

“Google Privacy Sandbox allows advertisers to rebuild trust with consumers by prioritizing their privacy. The tools being developed will enable advertisers to deliver personalized experiences responsibly and effectively measure campaign performance without the need for user-level identification”.

Dane Buchanan

3. Technology will change and evolve.

Publishers such as Meta, Apple, Roku, etc., have their own wealth of first-party data and inbuilt conversion attribution solutions (e.g., conversion APIs, lift testing functions, etc.). Advertisers should experiment with different publishers and channels to test performance.

For example, CTV and programmatic audio may be interesting channels for reaching new or incremental audiences to enable growth or retargeting lapsed users to prevent churn. 

Therefore, having a structured testing plan and budget will become even more important as developing a measurement framework built on Attribution, Incrementality Testing, and Media Mix Models to measure performance effectively will become inevitable. 

The MMP’s ‘traditional’ role is already moving beyond last-click attribution to new and exciting products such as Data Clean Rooms, Media Mix Modeling, Creative Analytics tools, and more.

Web analytics will also become an added value to the measurement framework, as tools like GA4 contain a wealth of information about how users interact with a website (or multiple domains via cross-domain tracking), an app, or both.

“The cookieless future challenges us to innovate and adapt; by leveraging new tools and approaches, we can maintain user privacy while still providing the depth of insight digital marketers rely on. Structured testing and robust measurement frameworks will be essential to navigating these changes successfully.” Dane Buchanan.

4. First-party, digital-first companies are in pole position.

Having access to plenty of first-party customer data will put those who have been at the forefront of digital growth in a strong position over the competition. Digital-first companies already have a huge amount of customer data available and, therefore, a better understanding of customer needs, wants, behavior, lifetime value (LTV), etc. This will enable tactics such as personalization, targeting, and retargeting within their owned properties and help them better understand their user journeys.

Advertisers with a history of first-party data will be at a significant advantage, especially those with a deep understanding of customer behavior and needs. Advertisers may adopt subscription models if they have not done so already to develop their first-party data collection and mining methods, as first-party data are essential for a complete measurement framework.

“Don’t assume just because you have a lot of data that you have a lot of answers. It is essential that brands curate and purposefully collect their data. We’ve had an abundance of data signals for the last ten years and seen many bad data practices emerge. So ensure you have conducted a full data/ tech audit and have a unified customer view with actionable data points.” Dane Buchanan.

5. Contextual targeting will see a renaissance. 

Because contextual targeting delivers advertising based on the context of content a consumer is interested in, advertisers can deliver relevant ads without relying on cookies. Advertisers can test advertising strategies that do not rely on a specific browsing history or data webpage content while there is time to do so. 

Approaches such as keyword targeting, real-time bidding, and ad placement will enable brands to run relevant and privacy-compliant campaigns. Of course, the level of personalization available is limited, and advertisers must be aware of brand safety issues. Despite this, contextual advertising is a useful tactic for advertisers to test.

“Contextual targeting is where advertising began, and it feels like media has come full circle. Traditional advertising across linear TV, Radio, and Print has never had cookies. Context has always been key. So while we may not see a return to the mad-men era, we should look to more traditional media planning best practices to help guide us as cookies disappear.” Dane Buchanan.

In Summary

As cookie deprecation approaches (even with the delays), advertisers will have opportunities. Thanks to the delay in the cookie deprecation timeline, advertisers can utilize this additional time to future-proof their fundamental structures, such as implementing a measurement framework based on the trifecta of Attribution, Incrementality, and Media Mix Models. Advertisers should act now to capitalize on this advantage of more time.

This could mean significant business strategies must change to realize these opportunities. Evaluating and future-proofing measurement should be a priority and may require investment. Advertisers with a thorough knowledge of their customers who are prepared to build comprehensive testing into their plans and have budgeted these changes already have a clear head start.

Further Reading:

How to Measure Digital Marketing Without Cookies 

The Growth Marketer’s Measurement Health Check

Why Media Mix Models are the answer to unlocking measurement in a privacy-centric world 

App Trends for Growth, Chapter #1: Cookie Deprecation is here

App Trends for Growth, Chapter #2: All About AI, the advantages and challenges for marketers

App Trends for Growth. Chapter #3: Capitalizing on the growing significance of Apple

Do you have any questions about cookie deprecation, or do you want to hear how we can help your brand grow?