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May, 2021

The Crumb Gambit: How to Win the Post-Cookie Digital Chess Game in 3 Moves

Like it or not, as marketers we are all playing a game of digital chess. The ‘Walled Garden Masters’, who have been playing the game for quite some time, are all gearing themselves up to call check mate on smaller and less established players.

Every move has a purpose. Domination is about being able to anticipate your opponent’s moves. Being aware of the intentions of others is how you gain an advantage and stay ahead of the curve.

If you are concerned about what impact third party cookie deprecation will have on your businesses and profitability, well to some degree you should be. Those playing without a plan are likely to be on the losing side.

This article will cover a range of things you need to keep in mind while formulating your plan, a look at the current state of play and who the winners are likely to be, and finally the five moves it’ll take to be in there with a chance.

Considerations for a Post-Cookie Strategy

As you strategise with your colleagues and agency partners, here are a few things to remember.

  • It’s not all doom and gloom. AdTech, publishers, marketers and strategists are resilient and agile and we always have been. Tech is an enabler, not the driver for business transformation so the industry will pivot, adapt, survive and even thrive on shifting sands.
  • Work with partners who are proactively embracing the value of first-party data to get and stay ahead of the game.
  • Normalise Data Democratisation. That’s the extension of data availability, tools and analytics, so that making better, data-informed decisions can happen right across the business.
  • Put Data Unification on your to do list. Organising data and making it available isn’t enough. What you need are actionable insights from your data. For that you will need to draw from multiple sources of data, even if it is incomplete, unclean and of differing types, and turn it into a set of unified profiles you can trust.
  • Data Governance goes without saying. But we’re saying it. Consumer concerns about trust and privacy are on the rise, and the regulatory environment is changing to suit, so data governance and protection have to be woven into the strategy.

Next-Gen Digital Advertising is Upon us

 At the end of this year, Google Chrome’s third-party cookie tracking will be rendered obsolete and is no longer welcome to join the data party. Since Google currently owns 61% of the desktop browser market share in Australia, it is expected that this change will end the use of third-party cookies creating a whole new era – the next generation of digital advertising. It’s going to come quickly. In marketing and advertising campaign terms, Christmas is just around the corner.

Over-reliance on cookies is something that needed to change, anyway. Let’s not forget that the use of third-party cookies has been plagued by problems such as the need for cross-device and cross-browser deduplication, the impact of ad blockers, the complexity of the addition of IoT devices, new regulation such as GDPR – the list goes on.

The end of cookies in favour for customer privacy is a good compromise. Time to do more with your first-party data.

Let’s take a look at the Leader Board

So, what happens after third-party cookies are no longer invited to the party?

Multi-channel attribution will break

Last click will still work so advertisers will flood Cost-Per-Click channels which ultimately will push costs up. You’re going to need to do your best to avoid CPC inflation. Walled gardens that can track you while logged in will still be able to do some Multi channel attribution, which means the likes of Facebook and Google Display network win.

Publishers who own first party data win

If users are logged in, publishers and advertisers can know more about them. Contextual targeting solutions allow advertisers to place ads before purchase. Publishers that don’t require login won’t know who their readers are and therefore cannot charge extra for those eyeballs. Paywall publishers and those with registered user logins like News and Nine will win with their subscriber data and advanced contextual targeting capabilities.

Impact will extend to DSPs, DMPs and Click-bait sites

Sure, they made it possible to efficiently manage advertising across many networks, but most Demand Side Platforms (DSP) are cookie-based. DSPs have been relying on Data Management Platforms (DMP) for targeting, and they are completely cookie dependant at the moment. Without quality content and a DMP, Click-bait sites won’t be able to monetise their audiences.

Data Co-ops will become a thing

Data overlays are a thing of the past. Offline matching of logged-in users and Customer ID Graphs will be needed to allow us all to buy high value audiences

A Customer Data Platform (CDP) will become your new best friend

CDPs will become mandatory because they help solve data fragmentation issues, allow for data unification and enable the creation of single view customer identities (User Profile Stitching IDs).

Finding Value in your First-Party Data

Advertising is only one piece of the winning strategy. Building customer profiles and aligning your data strategy is important – but it does require expertise, technology and tools to be able to use this data effectively within your organisation.

Having, cleaning, centralising or blending data, whether it’s through a CDP or not, also isn’t enough.

What you need are actionable insights from your data.

For this you’ll need access to a Customer Data Platform (note: you don’t necessarily have to purchase it outright) as well as the skills and the tools to really put it to work. CDPs allow you to integrate the many different data sets you already have, such as:

  • Demographic & Personal Data
  • Behavioural data
  • Engagement Data
  • Mobile App Data
  • Transactional & POS data

Your data can then be deduplicated, validated and augmented with relevant second-party data from organisations with information you need. Next comes ‘User Profile Stitching’ where you take all that information and unify it to create one singular view of the customer.

Once you have unique ID graphs of your customers you can create personas and then start to categorise your customers into segments (eg. Frequent customers, Lapsed customers, Loyal customers etc.). You can then activate more efficient advertising, knowing exactly who your customers are, and even create a better customer experience, overall. Imagine how this data will help you improve website personalisation, email and ad campaigns and even push notifications.

Sound like a lot of data-heavy work? It is, but it’s the way forward. Having a CDP and using more of your available (and potentially previously invisible) first-party data is good. But you also need to be able to trade with that data. Think of it as your new media currency. So, you need to have a plan for monetising and investing data currency for better value returns. Turn to colleagues with data skills and make sure you talk to your buying agency.

The Crumb Gambit

Here’s how to win the post-cookie game of digital chess in three moves.

The Crumb Gambit … or Move 1 … is this: Immediately bring your CDP priorities forward in your business as the unification of this data will be needed to fuel future AI algorithms and machine learning in future

Move 2: Form tighter relationships with publishers that control their own declared log-in, subscription-based first party data as this collaborative co-op data partnership will be needed to build single unified identifiers for highly valuable targeting tactics

Move 3: Data isn’t King, it’s Queen. Queen is considered the most dangerous and versatile piece on the board; it is also one of the most important.

First party data should be queen piece in your marketing strategy.

Take control of your first-party data today by building data democratisation across your entire organisation and invest in the required governance so that your business is prepared for the future and complies with Government regulations once they reach our shores. It is only a matter of time before Australia is governed by a similar GDPR like compliance so whatever you do, be agile – be versatile and embrace change.

Check … mate

We’re obviously fans of The Queen’s Gambit miniseries – if you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it.

We’re also fans of helping our clients with better ways to buy media, using first-party data and an evidence-based approach.

For more on that, check us out or get in touch at

This article was contributed by Ashleigh Toeke, Account Director, Audience Group.