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How to thrive, not just survive, when the cookie finally crumbles

By Phil Acton, Country manager, UK



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August 25, 2022 | 6 min read

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Winning the Women’s Euro 2022, plus some very sunny weather, may well be the main joys to take from a summer of business uncertainty in the UK. Peppered firstly with the Financial Stability Report warnings in early July that the UK and global economic outlook had ‘deteriorated materially’, followed by the near-collapse of the UK government as we knew it, we then heard the Bank of England telling lenders to ‘brace for the economic storm’ to follow.

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Marketers need to be aware of the extent to which technology already exists to enable them to drive awareness and performance

The continued effects of the pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine which shows no signs of abating and a ‘historic inflation surge’ are all combining to create uncertainty in agency-land. The latest IPA Bellwether report was, as The Drum itself observed, a ‘tale of two halves’, with marketing budgets growing in Q2 of this year, yet the next four years looking tricky with ‘predictions of cuts to account for stalling consumer spend’. It led the IPA itself to run an ad in the FT advising brands of the perils of cutting budgets when the economy tightens.

Events (where budgets are up 22.2%) and PR (+3.7%) performed well in the Bellwether report, but we must remember they were among the first against the wall when the pandemic hit, so growing strongly from a historic low shouldn’t be too surprising. The main question from our perspective at Adform was the extent to which online advertising and so-called ‘published brands’ fell so steeply in terms of their anticipated spend.

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Since the rise of transparent programmatic campaigns as an alternative to previously opaque agency buying and selling, the automation and streamlining of advertising, media and even creative has met with resistance. Businesses were loath to change the structures and systems that had always sort of worked before, despite not offering much clarity for clients on why or how. However, it’s hard to know what to do (more of) when you don’t know exactly what’s working and why.

At Adform, we believe in a transparent approach and we’ve always been proud to enable clients to see precisely what we do. Going even further, we’ve regularly invited independent third parties to test and benchmark our technology. We recently commissioned PwC to work with OMD Norway and Renault to develop and run a real-world campaign using our own ID Fusion technology. As part of its testing and review, PwC also verified data from previous campaigns and Adform case studies.

The results were clear – a 669% increase in reach and 161% uplift in performance through first-party IDs and ID Fusion, which should raise the spirits of marketers planning strategically ahead for a privacy-centric world. Funneling ad traffic through our ID Fusion first-party ID solution drove a significant 669% increase in the addressable audience, as well as 161% increase in click-through rates, resulting in higher viewability and superior eCPM, and ultimately lowering CPC by 65%. This test campaign succeeded in reaching incremental users that could not be engaged using previous targeting methods, in non-cookie environments such as Safari, Firefox, as well as a growing number of Chrome users. These results, by any measure, can only be described as outstanding.

And in this economy, results matter. Marketers need to be aware of the extent to which the technology already exists to enable them to drive awareness and performance, even through uncertain economic times.

The danger for marketers is that, when money is tight, budgets typically constrict into the segments that have the clearest and easiest ROI. Search and social may seem like the easy options, yet they run only in walled gardens, where the big tech giants won’t give CMOs enough data/insight to truly justify their investment. As Google pushes back the deprecation of the third-party cookie yet again, until H2 2024, it’s important that marketers take the opportunity to explore all the options out there, to help them navigate the next few uncertain years armed with better insights.

Choosing the right technology and the right partners for brand campaigns is therefore going to prove increasingly mission-critical.

Yet the very fact of so much budget being spent on the seemingly known knowns like Google and Facebook means that many brands overlook the core issue. Programmatic may have arrived late to the party, but changed the entire way the ad game is played. As we hit tough times and the board demands significant ROI, a slideshow of keyword CTR might appease them for a while, but it won’t grow your business.

It should be the new default for marketers to remain master of your own data and spend. Addressable audiences aren’t that hard to find and keep, if you know where to look for them. As we collectively work through the predicted recession, managing the demise of the cookie will be a significant area for brands and agencies to not just survive, but thrive.

Industry Insights Online Advertising Digital Marketing

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