MEASURING PERFORMANCE IN A WORLD WITHOUT COOKIES
Published on January 28, 2021
Measuring the effectiveness of a campaign has always been the holy grail of digital advertising. Naturally, advertisers want to understand where and how to spend advertising dollars for maximum effect. However, the customer journey has become trickier than ever to measure. People oscillate between multiple devices before buying a single item which can lead to a disjointed view of consumer behaviour. Even on a single device, different browsers yield different paths to purchase.
Cookies have historically been a way for digital marketers to better understand ad performance, optimise audience targeting, and track conversions. However, the impending termination of support for third-party cookies on Google Chrome — the world’s largest internet browser in terms of market share — means that many of the metrics that marketers use today to measure their digital media performance will soon become obsolete. Against a broadening backdrop of data protection frameworks and with issues in transparency and data ethics becoming a growing concern, advertisers need to be strategic today in preparing for measurement in 2022 and beyond.
The Role of Analytics and Measurement
In an increasingly data-centric marketing ecosystem, strategies and decisions are no longer guided by hypothesis and past experience. Instead, they are now determined by metrics, analytics, and big data. From website traffic to social media engagement and email interactions, collecting, aggregating, and interpreting customer data provides insights into what’s working, what can be improved, as well as the return on your methods of choice. In any case, whether it’s to educate consumers, boost “top of mind” recall, or build brand equity, collecting accurate data is key.
When tracking advertising performance, it is important to define what success looks like to ensure that measurement and metrics are aligned with the campaign’s objectives. For marketing analytics to be truly useful, they must be tracked, watched, and measured over time. When it comes to optimising advertising performance, analytics over a single period of time may lose relevance, but having multiple views over numerous time frames with longer durations can provide more accurate insights into trends and behaviour.
However, with the rise of ad blockers and tracking protection mechanisms in browsers, cookie rejection has made it almost impossible to connect the multiple interactions a user has on their journey to becoming a full-fledged customer.
The Fundamental Flaw of Cookies
Since the early days of digital advertising, cookies have long been a staple for marketers when it comes to identifying visitors, tracking consumer behaviour, and measuring campaigns. Unfortunately, with the ongoing evolution of the internet, programmatic retargeting and personalised ads that rely on third-party cookie data have become increasingly flawed. According to a report from Flashtalking, advertisers saw 32 percent of devices reject cookies while 64 percent of all cookies were rejected on average last year. A single user who rejects cookies can appear as multiple unique users, leading to significant inaccuracies in reach and frequency metrics — this in turn causes cookie-based metrics to often overstate reach and understate frequency, resulting in the misallocation of ad spend.
The rise in digital media channels has also led cookie tracking challenges within the digital marketing ecosystem, changing the way in which advertisers are able to look at performance metrics. With consumers now owning multiple connected devices, cross-device tracking is an essential capability. However, this has become increasingly challenging due to different platforms using different sets of identifiers and the rise of the walled gardens. Cookies are unable to distinguish individuals from shared devices like computers and tablets, or measure consumers on connected TV and other OTT platforms. This results in huge blind spots when it comes to determining successful conversions when tracking media measurement.
Moving to a Cookie-less Future
In many ways, the retirement of the cookie has come in response to consumer demands for greater clarity and transparency. Internet users are now more aware of their rights in regard to personal data, and marketers will need to find new, less invasive methods to assess the effectiveness of their digital campaigns. This, on top of the slew of data privacy regulations enacted around the world, has prompted many brands and marketers to build up their first-party data collection capabilities and explore alternative strategies in order to facilitate tracking and measurement.
A key opportunity in this space is identity resolution which allows advertisers to collect data across a variety of user touchpoints and channels. This ensures that efficacy and measurement become much more reliable, provided it is done in a privacy-safe and ethical manner. At Aqilliz, we’ve partnered with leading identity management firm BritePool to integrate BritePool ID within our proprietary tech stack — the result is a privacy-compliant solution that employs the use of blockchain and privacy-enhancing mechanisms such as federated learning and differential privacy to fill the gaps in cookie-based measurement.
When it comes to tracking and reconciling published ad campaigns, smart contracts can also play a role in standardising campaign metrics and automating measurement, to ensure that only impressions that have been verified according to the encoded parameters are being paid for. This ensures that stakeholders are only paying for ads that have been served on platforms that are viewable, brand-safe, and fraud-free.
Amid the whirlwind of the industry’s response to the demise of the cookie, it has become clear that this fundamental change will be a good thing for everyone involved. This change gives the digital advertising industry the opportunity to re-think the way it collects data and find sustainable options to accurately measure ad performance, while putting privacy first.