Bridging the gap in marketing spend allocation and audience targeting

Solving the post-cookie world is much easier than everyone is making out to be; if you have the right approach, tools and partners. Here’s why Google removing cookie support removes a longstanding false idol of attribution…

By Matt Hertig, CEO and Co-Founder of ChannelMix

Hoping and praying didn’t work. The cookiepocalypse is upon the advertising industry and too few advertisers – and their agencies – are ready for the future. By now, you likely know that Google has begun eliminating cookies from Chrome on 1% of traffic, which will inevitably turn into 100% by the end of the year. 

Out goes cookies, in comes Google’s Protected Audience, clean rooms, and other new terms and technologies advertisers must be up to speed on. It’s enough to make an advertiser panic about how they’ll ever survive in the new world.  

The good news is two fold: one, Google removing cookie support removes a longstanding false idol of attribution. It should have never been the source of truth, but inertia kept in place. Second, solving the post-cookie world is much easier than everyone is making out to be; if you have the right approach, tools and partners. 

For years, agencies have depended on third-party cookies to determine “attribution” as a justification for spend. If performing properly, they allocate their clients’ money to various partners and platforms, which drives clicks and some demand and, ultimately, sales. 

In some respects, the major foundational points won’t change. Advertisers still need a budget and need to know where to best spend it and which audiences they should be focused on. But our contention is the previous tools didn’t do a great job of answering those questions correctly. 

When trying to assign credit to the channel that drove that sale, it’s often guess work. Even worse, many sales are attributed to multiple channels, artificially inflating up the “value” of the spend.  

Building your marketing this way creates flawed incentives and produces incorrect insights. For example, if a recent campaign brought 100 people to your website and you converted 10 out of them, the focal point is historically on which platforms brought those converters. While that’s critical, it’s equally important to understand where the other 90 came from and whether there was a last-mile issue converting them, versus assuming they weren’t valuable because they didn’t convert. 

So how do we measure marketing now that cookies are dying? Free from those devices, we can now create that accurate picture that will better serve advertisers. We need to move away from attribution first, which cookies encouraged, to actual measurement, based on trustworthy zero party and first party data. Instead of trying to justify spend, the entire ecosystem should focus on how we collectively drive business impact. 

The reality is marketers have access to this first- and zero-party data, it’s just that most have minimized it or have it somewhere not easily accessed. So the first step of reinvigorating a sound measurement methodology is to align all online and offline cookieless data on a single platform that serves as the source of truth. It’s incredibly likely that your organization already has this data. By changing to a platform that produces a full suite of reporting and media mix modeling, an organization will not only have this data front and center, but be able to use it to make incredibly important spending and segmentation decisions.

Second is aligning around the right measurement approach. It’s quite simple: what is the cost to reach and convert the amount of customers you need. We can now disperse with unhelpful and borderline misleading metrics like media conversions, which basically means a pixel fired and is trying to take credit for an action that somebody did, so an organization can determine what Thanks their “return on ad spend” was, so see if it was quote-unquote successful. Now, with first-party data, advertisers can now focus instead on what matters: how much demand is being generated and how it’s leading to potential sales.

Third, and finally, we use the above two steps to more accurately and consistently target audiences within walled gardens through AI and machine learning. As more advertisers recommit to the walled gardens of the world, they will be disappointed to find out just how different each platform constructs audience groups. They’ll parse out budgets to their digital teams and agencies and align on who to target, but then it gets difficult to coordinate among many different platforms.  

While advertisers and or their agencies have a good idea of their broader marketable audience, they need the right tools to understand where those audiences can be reached in each walled garden to maximize their spend.  

I get it – change is hard. And many in the ecosystem have expressed extreme pessimism about the future of advertising in a cookieless world. But it can be a blessing in disguise. If you follow the steps above, you will experience the best 180° in marketing. Instead of looking at sales to determine what channels worked well, you can enter in your sales targets and know within a near certainty how to achieve those sales by advertising in the right channels with the right audiences with more efficiency than ever before. And then you’ll finally feel comfortable saying good riddance to cookies.