Cookieless Marketing: Be Part of the Solution

Data has long been the backbone of the digital marketing world. If you aren’t measuring performance in some way or the other, you are throwing your client’s money in a deep dark hole and not proving your worth. 

So, we need to really be paying attention to what regulations like GDPR and CCPA and platform updates like ITP mean for our clients and how they are going to affect the way account directors show the true impact of the marketing campaigns we are running. 

It is easy to think that we’ve just got to leave it to the data scientists and data strategists to worry about that. But that is not true – those who speak to their clients about what to do now will be the ones kept at the decision tables as to how to spend that money in the future. 

The makings of a future-thinking account director

Before I begin, let’s look at a few of the requirements of an Account Director applying for a job at Brainlabs:

  • Proactive and solutions-focused
  • Passion for marketing and/or the digital world
  • Smart and data-driven approach to work

I know this may directly not apply for all agencies, but I strongly believe that these qualities will be even more important for account directors in future.

By getting the conversation going with clients about the necessary steps that are needed to prepare for a cookieless world, account directors can demonstrate that they possess all of the above requirements. 

Now then, there are three main areas of concern that account directors need to discuss with their clients.


We know that purchase journeys typically include more than one platform, and it is already very hard to prove the worth of some channels (e.g. programmatic display). Some have already speculated that the attribution windows are going to a lot shorter:

“Partially, there is a lot of hype & clickbait around “the death of the cookie” but that doesn’t mean the death of identity resolution. It *does* mean shorter attribution windows & some targeting loss on the open web though.” @SPoulton

Does this draw more focus to certain channels, meaning that clients have even less faith in some of the platforms that you have championed for a slice of their budget? Now is the time to look into those platforms that would be harder to justify spend on and ensure that the first-party data will still be able to measure the success of the platform properly. 


Currently, digital marketers benefit from knowing who is seeing our ads regardless of the platform. Even in the simplest of all Paid Search campaigns – it’s not just about the keyword, but also inserting audience layers to ensure that ads are seen by the right people. If the client doesn’t set up their data collection properly in order to get all the correct layers of data from their first-party resource, being able to do that targeting goes away. 

As per Simon Poulson: “[] marketing efficacy is predicated on targeting, so this is a larger concern. Not just targeting itself, but also monitoring and enforcing reach & frequency thresholds as well.”

Many feel that targeting is their top concern. Is it yours?


Another big update that the likes of Google and Facebook have been building towards is more automation in exchange for less control of how your consumers are seeing your ads and against what searches or pieces of content. 

What does that mean in the world of seeing less data, when there are already search queries you can’t see already in the search query reports even if that query gained a conversion? If we look closely at Google ads – we are moving more and more away from being able to control which keywords your ads show for meaning precise targeting will become even more important. 

As Julie Bacchini predicts “Targeting is the greater concern for me as well. Although it sure feels like the major platforms might be gleeful over this in that it could push more into “give us the basics and let our super amazing algorithms figure it out for you” dream…” @NeptuneMoon (https://twitter.com/NeptuneMoon/status/1323677432868671488?s=20)

Act now with first-party data

The time to do something and have these conversations is now! 

Getting all the data that is going to be needed for attribution and targeting to be done properly has always been a monumental task, and with the end of the cookie we are going to see a lot less data to work with if first-party data strategy isn’t being set up properly right now. 

There is going to be a need to find various workarounds to synthesize the data, and that will have an impact on how you are going to be reporting and how the success of your campaigns will be measured. 

And to back up the seriousness of the regulations that have been put in place: lots of crackdowns happened in 2020 and are already beginning in 2021, with large fines being imposed as a punishment for breaking the rules. Some of the companies that have been hit are:

  • H&M who were fined 35 million euros for having & misusing employee demographic information, 
  • British Airways – fined 22 million euros because hackers got a hand on their customer data, which could have been prevented by following the rules set in the GDPR guidelines 
  • Google – fined 57 million euros – neglecting to remove a pair of search result listings under Europe’s “right to be forgotten” rules under the GDPR

Remember: no company is above these regulations. 

Concluding thoughts

It may not be up to your department to make the changes that allow your clients to have clean and compliant data, but you can be part of the solution. 

Point them in the direction of audits they should be running, or even external training courses. Brainlabs just so happens to be running a training on March 18th, led by our Global SVP of Product Mark Syal – find the details of the course here.


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