Mitigating visibility loss in the wake of privacy changes

If you didn’t catch last week’s detailed review of the impact of privacy changes on our digital landscape, you can catch the full digest here.
This week, I offer the antidote to that to that grim pill of truth I asked you to swallow.
I’ll preface by saying this world is changing rapidly. I wrote an article back in 2021 titled “What the FLOC Io-SO so confused!?” Bringing light to what Google had then titled its solution to get around cookie tracking for targeting, only to be sharply and swiftly shot down by the EU (our apparent leaders in all things privacy, including being the first to stand ground on regulating AI). FLOC as a solution was short lived. We now have another solution for Google from an activation front and a different one from an attribution front, but we’re yet to see solutions the whole world can get behind yet. 
The crackdown on cookies is much the same as dividing nations and further fragmenting currencies.
Each “country” aka large, digital content platform, becomes a farm for its own data to harvest attributes that are useful to target and gain granular insights into behaviours. 
Equally, paired with the threat of removing the technology lifeblood (cookies) they are powered by, they “flocked” to new solutions (pardon the pun).
The result for us has left us with some knowns and still many unknowns, but underneath it all a visceral truth that this world will be fragmented now and only continue to be so.
As a result, the technology investment required to design, configure and maintain the right solutions that are fit for your industry and marketing purpose, only increases too.
Today I’ll offer a few solutions as I see them today. The plan as we know it always has the potential to change overnight but for now, those who can’t afford not to put actions in place to mitigate the cookie fallout should look to make these moves, yesterday. 
1) Update to server-side API
If your organisation is on its own privacy journey there’s a good chance you already have a lot of your server side tracking implemented. But for those who wish to adopt the language so you can walk into your tech teams to “check”, this is why it’s important.
There are effectively two ways tracking codes can fire. From the client side and the server side.
The client side sends the code from the JavaScript on your site, via your browser, to the company or platform you’re sending the data to. Think pixels. Although they’re on “your”site, it’s Meta’s who owns the code and gives it to you to fire off within the browser. This will fire “client side”.
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Server side tracking however intermediates the steps. You still use Meta’s code but fire it within your own environment first, sending the tags to your own server so you can standardise the code, perform calculations, strip user information and then be in total control of sending the data you want to the platforms you want.
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Although client side tracking had its pros, mostly due to the simplicity of the set up and level of real-time granularity that can be offered, ad blockers and privacy restrictions make this option increasingly of lower value today.
To mitigate the cookie fallout and reduced visibility, platforms have constructed mechanisms to pipe events via the server back into platforms. This occurs through server side API’s.
Google Enhanced Conversions, Facebook CAPI, Google Enhanced Measurement Protocol, Amazon Advertising API, Twitter and TikTok Ads API are all available to name a few.
If you’ve been subscribed to this newsletter for a while, you’ll have heard me talk about walled-garden attribution a lot and this is the reason. With less granularity and real-time insights existing in our cross-channel analytics platforms (I.e. Google, Adobe Analytics etc.) the best place to view campaign, targeting, placement and creative detail will be the walled-gardens via server side API conversions sent back for matching. 
2) Diversify your attribution solutions
With “patchy” at best data samples now sitting across a variety of digital platforms comes a need to diversify how we track and attribute value to our efforts.
Touch attribution models and digital analytics is far from dead but it isn’t what it used to be and it will only continue to be challenged as new privacy controls are put in place to protect user tracking. 
Keep using it, update to server side tracking (measurement protocols), connect platforms directly via an API where you can to get around stripped URL parameters (for example, connect your Google Ads and Search Console directly to your Google Analytics account via the native connector).
Beyond the traditional digital analytics platforms, I recommend two other supplementary attribution solutions.
  1. Walled-garden attribution: This means, sending events (server side) directly back to the platforms you use for media and even your CRM or MA platform to allow the platforms to do the matching on your behalf. You will report out of the platforms you push comms out from.
  2. Marketing/Media Mix Modeling: This means, using a regression model to statistically determine the incremental effects of channel spend on your dependent variable (sales, engagement, subscriptions etc.)

The challenge with the first (walled-garden) is of course, duplication across platforms. For this reason, it’s good to use a combination of MTA and MMM to solve omnichannel decisions (like the reallocation of spend across the mix) and walled-gardens for within channel optimisation. What it does solve for is granular visibility into campaign performance including bidding type, placement, creative, ad targeting and more.

The second (MMM) requires a bit of effort to procure data and a skilled analyst. More on all things MMM here on the blog, covered in Newsletter 19
Regardless, gone are the days of putting all our measurement eggs in one basket. There is a need to get our tracking set up with rigour (see server side tracking) and look to multiple solutions to solve different pieces of our measurement puzzle. Remember, there are fit-for-purpose solutions for different questions – and everything is sampled.
3) Create your own media identity hub
If you read Newsletter 18 a few weeks back, you may have caught my mention that “I wish all media platforms could just get behind a single solution”, but alas with the easiest universal solution of cookies on its deathbed, naturally every platform with advertising as it’s lifeblood raced to create or join a solution. The result is a very fragmented identity landscape in AdTech – for both audience activation and conversion event matching.
Now for your traditional analytics platforms, this won’t matter much. However as we covered above, reduced visibility in one place (your analytics platform), comes a need to diversify your view of attribution. That means adopting multiple solutions.
Matching two sets of data across two independent platforms is like finding the perfect lock and key combinations. When you’re looking to make your walled-gardens as data-rich as possible, there is a need to meet their server-side API requirements. Platforms want you to send the highest number of quality data attributes as they request them so they can “match” the highest number possible on their side of the wall.
Here’s where the fun starts. At the most simple layer, most solutions will take a hashed customer identifier (email address, phone number and even names) but platforms have adopted their “ID” solutions to establish a means to share data attributes across a broader range of partners.
Take Unified ID 2.0 (led by The Trade Desk). If you’re not across how media identifiers work, I particularly love Jeff Green, Founder and CEO of The Trade Desk, and his video explanation of how Unified ID 2.0 works “in human terms”.
So here’s one cool thing you can do. The Trade Desk and others continue (of course) to accept hashed personal identifiers as all of the walled-gardens do (Meta, Google, TikTok, Twitter etc.). When you “match” with some of these solutions, some platforms will allow you to pass back anyone who has an ID into your own platform for storage. This will unlock the potential for improved encrypted use across the number of growing platforms that continue to adopt those identifiers (such as UID2.0).
If you have your own Customer Data Platform (CDP) in place, storing matched identifiers across the number of different solutions (Google PAIR is another one) will give you the best chance of matching back in platforms, for attribution but also for activation. 

Hi I'm Kate! I'm relentlessly curious about the attribution and origin of things. Especially as it relates to being a corporate girly balancing ambition and a life filled with joy.

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