Brands Reevaluate Measurement Strategies Amid Google’s Cookie Deprecation Delay

Advertisers are taking a more proactive approach given Google’s frequent delays.

Brands are increasingly questioning how a world without cookies will impact their future measurement strategies, despite Google’s recent decision to postpone the industry’s “single source of truth.”

The industry, typically optimistic, initially hoped for a single, neutral heir to replace the cookie empire, which has reigned supreme over digital advertising since its inception more than three decades ago. The optimism, however, is being confronted with reality: brands are now preparing to work with multiple new identity solutions, such as UID 2.0, ID5, RampID, Yahoo Connect, and Privacy Sandbox, alongside an already fragmented measurement and media landscape. 

Google began its cookie purge this past January, starting with 1% of Chrome users, and recently, delayed full deprecation for a third time — now slated for some time in 2025. Regardless of the timeline, the train has left, and advertisers are now realizing that using multiple identity solutions will impact numerous metrics that are used to measure performance. 

How emerging identity solutions “speak” with current measurement methodologies will impact areas such as conversion rate, customer lifetime value, return on ad spend, ad creative performance, media optimization, and segmentation. “Everyone was worried about how we’re going to reach people,” Matt O’Mara, senior VP and executive media director of agency Doe Anderson, tells The Outcome. “Perhaps more than how those people will interact with ads or websites.” 

“It’s going to be complex,” adds O’Mara. “There needs to be a unified way to bring all these different groups together.” 

Navigating the Measurement Maze 

There are more than 200 different measurement companies in the advertising space, generating some $20 billion in revenue. Although there have been calls by the industry to create standardized measurement across channels like retail media networks, streaming TV, social, search, and display, some industry leaders believe there is no one-size-fits-all solution; measuring success varies by client, goals, platforms, and product verticals. This means advertisers must work with dozens of measurement partners across a single campaign. “I don’t know the sheer number [of measurement partners we work with], but it’s certainly multiple,” O’Mara, the Doe Anderson exec, says. “We’ll work directly with one partner to track travel bookings. And then we’ll work with another partner to measure brand lift with survey-based data. It varies, but it’s multiple.” 

Like others, Hui Wang, senior VP of global data intelligence and analytics at Publicis Media, expressed concern with Google’s Privacy Sandbox. “Reporting will be less granular, less real-time, and noise will be introduced,” she says. “Traditional methods of conducting multi-touch attribution and advanced analysis, such as cross-device reach and optimal frequency, will be limited and require workarounds.”

It will also make things like conducting third-party validation for metrics like viewability questionable, says Wang, adding that advertisers will instead increasingly rely on marketing mix modeling (MMM) and probabilistic types of measurement. “Many aspects of measurement capabilities will change,” says Wang. “The industry needs to demand greater transparency in any future modeling approaches.”

Back to Basics

As the industry grapples with these complex challenges, it's becoming increasingly clear that a return to fundamental principles may offer the most effective path forward. 

The loss of cookies gives the industry an opportunity to clear the decks and cut the clutter. No matter the initiative, the ultimate goal of any campaign is always sales. Instead of falling back on probabilistic methodologies, marketers can prioritize data and measurement providers with access to deterministic, consented, first-party purchase data. By using this deterministic purchase data, marketers can better understand which tactics are resulting in actual incremental sales, and fast-track their way to the bottom of the funnel. 

Further, explicit content from consumers enables seamless identity tracking, eliminating the need for alternative identifiers. “The issue with [alternative identifiers] is scale and adoption,” Kolin Kleveno, senior VP of partnerships at Tinuiti, tells The Outcome. “No single identity solution is set to ‘replace’ cookies.”

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