With cookies in limbo, can data clean rooms save measurement from itself?

With cookies in limbo, can data clean rooms save measurement from itself?
Devon DeBlasio
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Here we go again. Google last month announced yet another delay in its plan to deprecate the third-party cookie. To give the industry more time to adjust, it’s now aiming to “begin phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome in the second half of 2024.”

Is it just me, or does it feel like those Google announcements are penned by Colin Robinson, the energy vampire in What We Do in the Shadows? There’s no question that replacing cookies across the entire digital ecosystem is an “ambitious undertaking,” to use the company’s own words, but the on-again, off-again notifications are sure sapping the energy out of boardrooms everywhere.

This new delay has industry observers worried that media buyers and sellers might lose the sense of urgency that’s guided their post-cookie efforts over the last couple of years, and some are even growing skeptical of Google’s ultimate intentions. But as I pointed out in a recent post, the current state of limbo over the fate of the cookie is the perfect opportunity for marketing organizations to invest in first-party data collaboration. And one of the areas where data collaboration is going to be particularly critical is in measurement.

Measurement challenges in a post-pandemic world

There was a time, not too long ago, when most marketers had a favorite channel and stuck to that channel for all their campaigns. Brands advertised their products exclusively on TV, radio, print, or direct mail. Even online today, there are brands that advertise on TikTok and TikTok only.

But most top brands now understand that consumers bounce from channel to channel, and they need to maximize their chances to make an impression, establish a connection, and nurture what they hope to be a long-lasting relationship with their customers. The Covid-19 pandemic broke the orthodoxies of customer loyalty and retention, as Deloitte put it in a recent report, and competition for consumer attention is now as fierce as it’s ever been. Omnichannel marketing has become a business imperative.

But measurement yardsticks on individual channels are famously incompatible with one another. How do you compare ad impressions on a Facebook feed and a Google search? On YouTube and on linear TV? Even for Google, a tech giant with virtually unlimited data science resources, deduplicating YouTube TV and YouTube CTV audiences is far from trivial. Omnichannel marketing is great, but you need cross-channel measurement to prove its worth, and cross-channel measurement requires data collaboration between partners.

Measurement challenges in a privacy world

The whole cookie deprecation discussion isn’t happening in a vacuum. Even the most ardent Google defenders would concede that we wouldn’t be talking about cookies today if it were not for increased pressure from data privacy regulators around the world—from GDPR in Europe to CCPA, CPRA, and now ADPPA in the US. Data privacy is the root cause of all the changes we’re currently witnessing in the advertising ecosystem.

Where else can we see its impact? In Apple’s release of iOS 14.5 last year, for example. At the turn of a key, mobile ad IDs essentially vanished from the mobile in-app ecosystem—wiping considerable value from many social media companies’ ad sales in the process. On the browser end, Safari and Firefox have had third-party cookies turned off for a while now, and they account for nearly half of all internet browsers in key advertising markets around the world (like the US, UK and Japan). And on CTV, one of today’s fastest-growing new media channels, the use of device IDs and IP addresses is increasingly coming under fire.

Who here thinks tech companies and privacy regulators are going to suddenly go back on their commitment to eradicate intrusive, behind-the-scenes third-party identifiers from our lives? To say nothing of the fact that embracing privacy regulations is the right thing to do for any company interested in having an open and transparent relationship with its customers. 

Cookie deprecation delay or not, the future already belongs to fully-consented first-party data. And in a world where every party in the advertising equation collects its own data, collaboration is the only hope for reliable measurement.

Data clean rooms to the rescue

Thankfully, data clean rooms have emerged at exactly the right time. Using a data clean room, brands and media owners can connect their first-party data assets—securely and without compromising anyone’s privacy—to examine consumer behavior more closely, develop cross-channel metrics that make sense to them, and measure (and optimize) even their most sophisticated marketing campaigns.

They also offer a way for business partners to explore new synergies and address previously unsolvable blind posts, like access to detailed sales insights for a CPG company, or social media activity inside a walled-garden. In a data clean room, the data itself tells the story, not some complex model using unethical (and increasingly illegal) tracking techniques that only ever worked on a few channels, and imperfectly at that.

But not all data clean rooms are created equal. You need a solution that helps you:

  • Build trust with your measurement partners: There should be no doubt about ownership, access control, and commitment to the security of each partner’s customer data.
  • Analyze data from multiple parties simultaneously: In today’s omnichannel environment, you need to have the power to run any analysis across unlimited internal and external datasets, no matter their size, format or location.
  • Quickly translate insights into action: It’s not enough to get answers, you want them when there’s still time to influence your in-flight campaigns. Not three months down the road.
  • Safeguard customer data with end-to-end privacy protections: Because customers don’t want their personal data leaked, exposed, or misused, and marketers can’t afford to play loose with their customers’ trust. 

That’s not all. In 2022, advertising is not something brands and media companies do in the shadows anymore. At InfoSum, we want you to find a post-cookie measurement solution that can bring full transparency to the relationships you have with your partners and help you meet all your marketing ambitions, now and into the future.

So as you’re embarking on your due diligence, here are 10 questions to ask your data clean room solution. We hope you’ll find them useful, and please let us know how we can help along the way.

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