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The last bite of the cookie: Preparing for holiday 2024

By Jason Hartley | Head of search, shopping & social

PMG

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November 1, 2023 | 7 min read

This might be advertisers’ last cookie-fueled holiday season. PMG’s Jason Hartley is here with advice on starting the transition now, to make sure that reach, performance, and measurement don’t suffer next year.

A plate of festive cookies

Is 2023 advertising's last Cookie Christmas? / Brooke Lark via Unsplash

Consumers and brands have pushed the holiday shopping season earlier every year, and planning has also moved accordingly. The late summer is now the time to finalize your approach and create contingency plans for your contingency plans.

But with Google’s imminent deprecation of third-party cookies in 2024, planning for the next holiday should start even earlier: now.

In addition to executing this year’s holiday campaigns, it’s worth recognizing that this last holiday season with cookies is an opportunity to gain valuable insights and test new tactics that will drive performance for the future cookieless world. With proper planning, brands can meet this year’s objective and have a head start for 2024 and beyond.

This approach should result in competitive advantage. Insider Intelligence reports that 82% of marketers continued to invest in cookie-based tactics and increased total spending on advertising cookies this year. Despite this continued reliance on tactics that won’t be viable long term, numerous cookieless solutions are already available. I see several opportunities to build a durable approach across audience reach, performance, and measurement.

Audience reach

As cookies are phased out, it will require more thoughtful approaches to drive unique reach and continued messaging. Approaches include:

  • Leveraging first-party data: It’s time to develop human-centric first-party data strategies, and upload customer data to media platforms using privacy-first audience solutions.

  • Retargeting: Use your last holiday with cookies to leverage retargeting insights to help inform post-cookie first-party audience segmentation.

  • Consolidation: Consolidate your buys and use messaging and format diversity to reduce ad fatigue across platforms.

Performance

Many digital buying platforms, including Google and Meta, rely on third-party cookies to fuel buying decisions within their advertising platforms. Signal loss from the depreciation of third-party cookies will lead to less efficient buying decisions from legacy bidding models and platforms as more users opt out of tracking.

In an already competitive marketplace, the need to test into cookieless alternatives is now; you may never have the same measurement again. Test modeled content-based programmatic buying; try bidding methods that are not reliant on MTA models; and lean into curated inventory lists of high-quality publishers and video channels.

Meanwhile, explore contextual and keyword targeting across social, search, and display programs; AI is a game-changer in this space. And augment your creative – explore dynamic creative partners that augment creative delivery without the need for signals from third-party cookies.

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Measurement

Measuring the effectiveness of e-commerce performance will lose signals traditionally tracked by third-party cookies in 2024. This will impact reporting and decision-making for media allocations, and with fewer than two-thirds of marketing professionals worldwide having confidence in their measurement across channels, it’s imperative to have a robust measurement strategy for 2023 and beyond.

The best approach is to anticipate ambiguity regarding media measurement in 2024. Adopt a multi-pronged approach to measurement to help inform buying decisions during the holiday shopping season. When used together as a ‘system of truth,’ the following three components are the recipe for a durable measurement strategy in a post-cookie world:

  • Media mix modeling: Advanced statistical models that use regression techniques to discern the impact of marketing investment on business KPIs.

  • Experimentation: Test and control approaches to isolate the impact of the change in marketing investment, holding all other factors equal.

  • Attribution: Real-time tracking or models assigning credit for user-level actions or conversions to marketing touchpoints.

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. It’s ultimately up to brand leaders to identify the most important areas to test and learn in Q4 2023 to help enable long-term success. Whatever approach works for your brand, winning holiday 2024 starts with holiday 2023. It’s the last bite of the cookie, so make the most of it.

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PMG

PMG is a global independent digital company that seeks to inspire people and brands that anything is possible. Driven by shared success, PMG uses strategy, creative, media, and insights, as well as its proprietary marketing intelligence platform Alli, to deliver Digital Made for Humans™. Our team is made up of over 900 employees globally, and our work for brands like Apple, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Dave & Buster's, Experian, Kohler, Nike, Sephora, and Shake Shack runs across 85+ countries and has received top industry recognition from Cannes Lions to Adweek Media Plan of the Year. Ranked by Deloitte, Inc., Entrepreneur, and Adweek as one of the fastest-growing companies in the nation, PMG has grown because of its commitment to continuous improvement, business integrity, cultivating dynamic relationships, and putting people first. Named 9X Ad Age's Best Places to Work, 5X Best Places for Working Parents, Fortune's Best Workplaces for Women and 2X Fast Company's Best Workplaces for Innovators, PMG has also been named to Ad Age's Agency A-List, Adweek's Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year and 2X MediaPost's Independent Agency of the Year.

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