How to survive the cookieless future

After years of being over-reliant on existing platforms, we need to get back to basics, says Oliver Vaughan, Global Head of Digital Marketing, Tug

Vaughan believes that agencies have let traditional skills wither due to the ease of simply plugging into what Google and Facebook can do for a brand. Now, as they face having to take a more proactive approach to performance marketing, speaking to PMW he offers a three-step plan to prepare for the future...

1. Invest in planning 

According to Vaughan, agencies have run down their planning departments because of over-reliance on platforms such as Google and Facebook, which have made life too easy. Some agencies and advertisers are in for a shock at what is coming, and some may opt simply to stick with walled-garden because it is perceived to be secure.

“Google and Facebook are not going to not tell you their performance. There will be something in place, but advertisers will miss the competitive advantage of looking elsewhere,” he says, “such as exploring other channels, platforms, and different targeting options.”

Vaughan says it’s time to get back to basics: “Over the past 10 years people have become lazy with planning and not invested in it. They go where the cookie tells them, but they haven’t really been working for the last five years anyway.”

He advises focusing on planning, building up the necessary tools and skill sets.

“Now is the time to start tests," he asserts, "and start putting 5-10% of budget into other channels and examining what it could deliver.”

2. Get creative

The cookieless future should witness a rebirth of creativity, Vaughan claims.

“It’s argued that with cookies going, third-party personalisation may reduce, but it will exist in another, probably better form, based on first-party date, geolocation or channel. Even if you’re not doing the creative yourself, make sure you are involved.”

When doing planning looking at first-party data, he believes it’s important to consider what creative works, what channels you are on and what creative would work best there and for a particular audience.

“People have become lazy with creative too – now it will become more important again,” he says. “With more diverse channels, creative has to be more multifaceted as well. A podcast is completely different to Facebook, and connected TV. There needs to be more of a thought-out process.”

3. Measurement and modelling

There should be renewed focus on modelling, measurement and first party analysis, says Vaughan: “There’s no alternative because things like multi-touch attribution aren’t going to exist in the way they do now.”

Walled gardens will have measurement in place but the jury is out on how good it will be. “We know that Floc and Fledge won’t work in Europe due to GDPR, which has been found out quite late,” he says. “There have also been problems with opting in in the US and they have had problems with big companies giving data to make those Flocs.”

He says Tug is aiming to invest in tools that will help its teams prove the value of new approaches as the web becomes more fragmented. As well as top level measures such as brand reach, it wants to be able to measure granularity.

“Perhaps we can create a tool where, when a connected TV campaign goes live we can see if there is an increase in brand searches over time,” he says. “We want to give our team more time to work with tech teams to make sure measurement and modelling is still happening.”

As the web becomes more fragmented and advertisers look to diversify, he asserts they will have to use different types of modelling. 

Vaughan stresses the need to knit together these three areas of focus – all feed into each other and collaboration between the areas will ultimately help agencies and advertisers ride out the coming storm.