How do we know our marketing is working? This is one of the most important questions clients pose to agency teams. For the past few years, the ubiquity of cookies and third party pixel tags (such as Facebook or Floodlight) have enabled us to look at both click and view data on an individual browser/device basis and model out the contribution of each marketing touchpoint.
Losing third party cookies will make this more challenging.
The short term effect of the elimination of cookies will be attribution models that show less immediate impact of advertising. However, actual business impact will likely not change. This demonstrates the need to anticipate and plan for how your measurement plan will need change in the coming years. It should also encourage us to look for cookie-less solutions which let multi touch attribution providers that have access to log level data in a privacy safe fashion.
What Measurement Capabilities Will be Impacted by Being Cookieless?
Walled gardens are well positioned with their vast amount of login data, whereas agnostic platform partners are having to seek out alternative ID-based solutions. Google’s Topics & Unified ID 2.0 are examples of solutions that are gaining steam. Google’s Topics solution will be interesting for brands utilizing DV360, whereas Unified ID 2.0, championed by The Trade Desk, operates using encrypted email addresses of opted-in users.
The Facebook ecosystem will be heavily disrupted in attribution of conversion-based events. This is largely due to their reliance on mobile ad IDs for measurement. Historically, marketers have leaned heavily into Facebook due to their ability to evaluate strength ROI based on the multiple touch points that go into a final purchase, facilitated by the placement of a tracking pixel on the brand’s website. However, these Facebook pixels are also third party cookies.
What to expect with cookie deprecation on Facebook?
- Slower optimization times
- Potential decline in campaign performance
- Decrease in data transfers
Fortunately, there are potential workarounds.
Cookieless Solutions for Marketers
- Overlay conversion based data from Google Analytics to match onsite conversions from walled gardens using mobile IDs
- Use more analysis to track media metrics back to business goals
- Have conversations and test tactics now to prepare for performance declines
Recommended Measurement Partners for the Cookieless Future
Unified ID 2.0 (UID2) is a standardization system for identifying consumers across the open web which creates a privacy safe way to allow for opt-in based marketing. This solution was initiated by the demand side platform, The Trade Desk. Since then, they have committed to making UID2 fully open source bringing in multiple partners to make this interoperable. Of course, UID2 faces limits by being fully outside the Google ecosystem. Without YouTube or Google Search, the UID system will still have significant holes on the initial awareness and last touch end of digital marketing.
In addition to the partners integrating with UID2, other independent advanced measurement partners such as DISQO, Upwave & Lucid are taking steps to ensure they’re prepared & compliant. For Brand Lift, DISQO services will not be impacted by cookie loss, as they utilize a cookieless solution for measurement. DISQO is also CCPA and GDPR compliant, as all panelists have opted into their panel. Additionally there will be no impact for Upwave studies as they have an existing privacy-safe Household Level Intercept methodology. Lucid is also well prepared for a cookieless world as their surveys are double opt in by consumers, and they are currently CCPA/GDPR compliant
What Steps Should Marketers Take to Prepare for Measurement in a Cookieless Future?
Plan early & anticipate impacts to your measurement/attribution system. We encourage everyone to have conversations with clients to set expectations ahead of time. We’ve outlined a quarterly look at the impact across audiences, e-comm/attribution as well as media mix and creative.
Expand implementation timelines. Relying on first party data more and needing to run that first party data through an identity solution and then back into a web environment will add time to campaign and ad ops setups. While match rates should improve, campaigns will be moderately more cumbersome to set up, especially with new workflows. Teams and clients should build in extra cushion.
Create new third party dependencies. This is not a new risk in the ad operations system, but an ever present risk. Instead of incentivizing partnership with data providers that create third party cookies, new setups will increasingly prioritize identity resolution systems, such as LiveRamp or Neustar. Fortunately, these companies benefit from interoperability and scale. The most important thing brands can do to reduce dependencies is to understand how your audiences and targets are built in each platform and know what’s different depending on the partner. Always ask what’s inside the box or model.