Alex Monaco

Senior Director, Planning

data and identity

With the cookie depreciation looming, US clients and media partners have been working together to identify ways to navigate the changes that are coming to what has been their tried-and-true way of activating, targeting, and measuring media for years.

Media success will come from a blend of alternatives unique to each client. While the industry has expressed the need for clients to prioritize building first-party databases, there are other additional steps that clients can take to continue seeing success from a media standpoint. Some of these steps include but are not limited to:

1. Partnering with walled gardens

2. Leveraging a hybrid of both non-audience-based targeting solutions and audience-based targeting solutions

3. Re-evaluating media metric benchmarks and relooking at how media is being activated

There are three specific focus areas that each client should start with: Measurement, Media Activation, and Data. We will dive deeper into two of the focus areas: Measurement and Media Activation.

Let’s start with Measurement

Over the recent months, iOS 14.5 went into effect and metrics started to skew on CPMs, eroding audiences and decreasing platform reported revenue. It sparked more conversation about the “how” we measure versus how we reach these audiences; these audiences aren’t going away, but how we track them is changing which is making the change in measurement that much more critical.

To understand how much your brand or client’s measurement will be impacted starts with understanding how long it takes for consumers to convert online. It matters if the brand and product is an impulse purchase like food, beverage, or makeup, or more of a well thought out decision like a car. Impulse products, such as makeup, that are purchased within a 24-hour window, can still drive trackable revenue unlike products with a longer path to purchase. Standard media measurement will still be available like impressions, video views, clicks, and CTR. Metrics like reach and frequency will also be available; however, with less accuracy. Reach will be overstated while frequency will be understated since every person will be considered “new”; capping frequency will not be possible. Therefore, there is a risk that consumers will be reached with the same ad many times over.

One of the main areas of measurement and how we know as media buyers and clients if performance is successful is benchmarking which will need to evolve. There will be cases where “new” data will differ from “old” data and that historical benchmarks will be invalid. For conversions, partners have stated that there will be view through conversions but at what capacity and how, is still to be determined.

Within media activation, there are two pillars: platforms and targeting

When we discuss platforms, we specifically mean partners that we work with to reach our audiences, like Google or Facebook. The first step is to evaluate the impact of these partners on your business by understanding if you are too heavily invested in one platform or another. If yes, this would be a good time to diversify. With Google retiring the cookie, if a client’s media is all within the Google ecosystem, we need to reassess their strategy and approach otherwise brands can and will lose too much. However, if a client uses Google and other partners (like The Trade Desk and Amazon, for programmatic specifically), there will be less impact on media.

Over the next 12-18 months, it will be important to re-evaluate where spend is by partner and if there are ways to diversify the portfolio to understand performance impact and to get ahead of the cookie retirement.

1. Programmatic partners will be impacted the most, while the strongest positioned partners for the cookieless world are those that own their ad inventory and first-party data (i.e., Facebook, Verizon, and Amazon)

2. Social partners (like Facebook) will suffer from a limited attribution window and smaller audience retargeting pools. However, since most social platforms rely on their own data and audience signals, there will be minimal impact

3. Direct display partners will likely be unaffected given that they own their own data (i.e., Conde Nast and Hearst)

4. Paid Search partners will also have minimal to no impact as audiences are not directly targeted but instead are used as optimization tactics

Finally, targeting is classified as how you are reaching these people. This is accomplished by understanding the breakout of your audiences between 1P, 2P, and 3P is key to knowing how much of your targeting strategy will be impacted by the cookie deprecation. While a lot of our partners are still actively developing cookieless audience solutions, we know a few things for certain:

1. Contextual targeting will not be impacted

2. 1P CRM data is a great way to continue targeting your best customers or to prospect new customers

3. Behavioral targeting will be in broader groupings

4. Retargeting audiences will be much more difficult.

5. A broad universal ID is becoming more pertinent (UID, ID5, M1, RampID, etc.)

Let’s expand on this a bit more. Contextual audiences are a great way to drive more general awareness of your brand and products while also leveraging ID based solutions such as M1 and Universal IDs. While Universal IDs are being featured in conversations about replacements to the cookie (in some ways), it is much harder to a universal ID become the standard to activate. It is important to pay close attention to those that are emerging and focus on getting this onto your roadmap.

From a CRM perspective, CRM audiences from a social perspective will be mostly unimpacted; however, one thing to consider is that match rates may be lower due to iOS opt-outs. From a programmatic standpoint, CRM lists will only be targeted to Google O&O through direct upload, which can be a limiting factor for some clients. Clients that use partners such as LiveRamp to help with the CRM upload to partners will not be able to be used within the Google ecosystem and therefore, if LiveRamp is still a necessity (which it is for some clients) then other DSPs will need to be considered. For behavioral targeting, since platforms like Facebook, Google, and Amazon own their data, this will still be available; however, it will likely look different than it currently does. Google is building out FLoCs that will make the groupings for behavioral segments broader, which in turn, help protect the privacy of the user and will provide advertisers less insight into who their consumers are.

Retargeting is an area that will be impacted the most. They will have a larger impact on clients and media buyers. In general, retargeting is one of the main ways brands and media buyers get consumers to convert or buy a product. CRM retargeting will continue to exist, but in a different capacity, likely through people-based identifiers (IDL) through DSPs such as The Trade Desk or direct upload to DSPs such as with Google. For social, Facebook specifically, there is no change to CRM and audiences can continue to be uploaded from partners like LiveRamp. Pixel retargeting however will be non-existent. As mentioned above, browsers like Chrome will deprecate cross-site cookie tracking making every person on every site a “new” person. Currently, partners are trying to find retargeting alternatives (i.e., Google is exploring “Fledge”) however there is no definitive retargeting solution just yet.


Measurement and media activation (including platforms and targeting) are two of the main buckets that will be affected the most and have the biggest impact on the day to day, for both clients and media buyers. There is much to consider as the cookie deprecation comes closer, and we should use the next 12-18+ months to test new ways of activating media to help prep our client to be as successful as possible in the new cookieless world. At dentsu, our unparalleled expertise in search has set our teams up for success as we have never been reliant on cookies; this new world is a large part of our current world.

Dentsu’s definitive guide for global marketers, The Cookieless World, cuts through the ambient noise to help focus on what you should know today and investigate tomorrow to be ready in 2023 when the world becomes cookieless.