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April, 2021

Why be a Cookie Monster?

James McDonald and Tom Evans are the co-founders of indie full-service media agency, Audience Group, and advocates for evidence-based advertising.

At Audience Group, we’re no fans of the term “cookie apocalypse”. It’s a bit too dramatic for a change that’s actually a good thing. Over-reliance on cookies is something that needed to change, anyway.

It’s time for marketers, working with their agency partners, to breathe fresh air into their marketing, advertising and media strategies. It’s time to do better with your data.

But you’ve BEEN doing better with data. Haven’t you?

You have! But there’s still a way to go, especially in terms of leveraging business data for marketing purposes.

There was a time, not so long ago, when most organisations didn’t know what data they had, where it all was or how to make use of it. If you feel like your company is still in that category, you’re not alone by any means. But it’s more than likely that your company has done some work to get a handle on its data.

Maybe all of its data is “in one place”, such as a data warehouse or data lake. Hopefully there are archives, back-ups, data protection and all that jazz in place. Maybe you’ve undertaken a machine learning proof of concept project or have implemented AI in various ways in the company. Ideally there are data repositories for marketing use. Hopefully you have access to analytics tools and analytics expertise to help make your data useful.

But let us ask you these questions:

  • Do you have access to all the first party data you should have, to inform the marketing program?
  • Do you know what first party can be used and how it can be used to make your marketing more effective?
  • Do you know what other data you should have?
  • Is there data you wish you had access to but don’t?
  • How well are you analysing the data you have … is it yielding actionable insights?
  • Do you wish you knew how to use your data even better than you already are?

Many, many people would answer yes to that last question. You’ve got your first party data all collected, cleaned and organised. Now you can do something with it, but what?

Third-party cookies have been such a crutch. Now that they’re going away, marketers who need the push will be forced to understand the value of their first-party data, and structure their data in more usable ways. Not only that, but you will need more of the company’s first party data than perhaps you’ve had access to, to-date. You’re going to have to know what to ask for.

For those marketing professionals and their organisations who don’t feel you have a lot of useful data, you’re going to have to figure out how to capture and use the data you could or should be capturing. Or how to find and harness the useful data you don’t realise you have.

What a Cookie Won’t Do

Remember, you’re paying for the information that cookies provide. But cookies most often show a ‘conversion’, which is sometimes quite a soft measure.

For example, if you’re a finance lender, cookies will show you people who enquire about your company’s offering or apply for a loan. But cookies won’t tell you which ones were successful applicants, which ones were higher value loan customers, and who came back for more cash.

First party data can and does – so it links your advertising to your most profitable customers (and prospect profiles) – not just those that ‘convert’.

That first party data can also be spent as a currency, in all media channels. It’s not ‘hidden’ from you in a cookie jar you can’t really open.

A Cookie-Free Reality

Without cookies, ad space should cost less. Bonus! Of course, there will be costs associated with a new cookie-free approach that combines your data with data matching services, third-party data sets and targeting methods to accomplish what the cookies used to accomplish. You’re going to need to ensure you’ve got the technology in place to interrogate and analyse the data, and that you’re working with people who know the right questions to ask to draw insights from it.

The idea is to rely on observations of your data, find new ways to complete data led acquisition tasks, and enrich with other useful data (it’s out there!). If your trusted advisors and media agencies are not helping you to proactively build this change into your data strategy, get them onto it!

So far, we don’t know exactly what the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon are going to offer in lieu of cookies, but why wait to find out? Don’t rely on whatever products publishers and technology behemoths see fit to sell you. It’s actually pretty cool to think of the possibilities better use of first-party data adds to the mix. You could make some interesting discoveries and find new value.

Take control and find more value in your first-party data.

For more on how and why you can do that, register for the AMI Senior Marketers event coming up in Brisbane, Queensland Marketing on Shifting Sand, where Audience Group’s James McDonald will be keynoting and joining a panel discussion on: “Marketing on shifting sand – what you need to know about the new internet landscape from cookie death to bargaining code.”


This article was contributed by James McDonald and Tom Evans, co-founders of Audience Group.