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Digital campaign effectiveness at risk due to agency silos

by Jonny Whitehead

May 17, 2023

Finding a cookie replacement that is modeled on existing cookies and their associated ‘performance’ metrics is like switching from a regular Big Mac Meal to a meat-free version. It might be ethically superior, but it’s still not good for you.

Last month Google Ads released the results of test whereby they compared campaigns that used cookie-less targeting techniques (including their own Topics API) to those based on 3rd party cookies.

The outcome of the test was disappointing, not because the CTR and conversion rate of the cookie less activity was lower than the campaign using cookies, but because these metrics were being focused on in the first place.

Digital attribution is misleading

In their recent book ‘How Not to Plan’ Les Binet & Sarah Carter shine a light on digital attribution and reaffirm something that pretty much everyone who works in digital advertising should already know – cookie-based digital attribution methods are largely flawed and often misleading.

There are as many analogies for last click attribution as there are media planners, my favourite being: “If Guinness followed last click attribution, they would spend their entire marketing budget on t-shirts for bar staff”.

Cookie based solutions have for a long time given a partial view of audiences (based solely on touchpoints where cookies exist), inflated reports of incrementality (claimed responsibility for outcomes rather than impacting behavior) and propped up some heinous examples of malpractice (cookie-bombing, ad fraud, etc).

A common ‘predictive optimization’ approach for digital performance marketing specialists has been to:

1. Begin by placing a pixel on an advertiser’s site.

2. Measure how many conversion actions take place each month and analyze common ad touchpoints in the run up to those conversions.

3. Place ads at those touchpoints, along the conversion path.

4. Benchmark themselves against the % of total monthly conversions they are being attributed to, with the aim of getting as close to 100% as possible.

Clearly this has no relation to increasing campaign effectiveness. Especially when these ads are often not seen by a human.

Uplift studies provide a cost effective route forward

An increase in signal loss has even led previously staunch exponents of cookie-based attribution model like Meta to begin putting forward their own alternative uplift measurement options. At the same time, the programmatic development of cookie-less channels like CTV and OOH has added to the list of reasons for planners and buyers to look for new measurement approaches or embrace old ones.

At Skyrise, we advocate a geo-based uplift framework that uses real (first party or similar) data, includes as many media channels as possible, and incorporates channel mix tests to help understand the aggregate impact of channels working in unison.

The problem for many agencies is that they are not set up to take a holistic, patient approach that encompasses all channels.

Planners carve up budget and each channel buying team vies for their share. They ‘test’ channel suppliers against each other on a month-by-month basis. In lieu of any real data on which to base decisions, they make rapid ones based off flawed interim stats such as engagement rates and cookie-based conversions. The same misleading KPIs that Google is basing it’s product testing on.

Agencies that take an integrated approach are better able align planning, channel execution and measurement so they can focus on what’s important rather than things that are easiest to count.

Having an integrated structure means that agency teams avoid the squabble between siloed buying units that each have their own set of KPIs and self-interests. It also affords a closer relationship between the planners and buyers so that studies which require cross-channel communication in their set up are more easily executed and campaign evaluation can be aligned.

In following this path with our agency partners, we at Skyrise have found that utilizing powerful geographic and contextual data to understand audiences while focusing on impactful ad formats, high reach and quality environments is what drives outcomes.

Surely that should be a surprise to no one.


marketing effectiveness