An Opportunity to Rebuild the Foundations of Our Ecosystem: Measurement After Cookies

In association with Nano Interactive

Ahead of ATS London 2022, Niall Moody, managing director at Nano Interactive, outlines the challenges the deprecation of third-party cookies poses to measurement, and why the shift away from identity-based targeting will require new metrics for measuring attention. 

Although Google did backtrack on its original deadline for the deprecation of third-party cookies, the final demise of these often-contentious pieces of code is fast approaching. In its most recent announcements on the subject, Google has said that by the end of 2023 it will have fully joined the likes of Apple and Mozilla in no longer allowing users’ activities to be tracked via third-party cookies.

As an industry, we’ve been grappling with what the end of third-party cookies means for how we plan, deliver, and measure digital ad campaigns for the past few years. And while this has forced considerable soul searching amongst all the stakeholders involved in making digital campaigns happen, it has also brought with it a welcome opportunity to rebuild the foundations of our ecosystem around solutions that are more fit for purpose – it’s hardly a secret that cookies were never meant to be used as a way to track and target users across the internet. This will also help us to break our preoccupation with the more “traditional” measurement metrics we have been forced to become accustomed to using, and instead look more broadly at newer, more meaningful brand-focused metrics which arguably give a truer picture of the quality of engagement with a brand’s messaging.

In our search for privacy-compliant, identity-free solutions, there have been many different approaches put forward, including everything from publisher first-party data to increased focus on contextualised placements. Some are even exploring probabilistic algorithms that will build a picture of sales from a small section of activity, while also taking into account previous conversion rates and data from legacy cookie activity. Whatever solution marketers and advertisers are leaning towards, the fact is it will completely transform the way we all do things. 

Niall Moody, managing director, Nano Interactive

The reality is that we not only need to find new ways of targeting audiences, but to also find new ways of optimising, delivering, and measuring ROI on campaigns and the effectiveness of different media channels. Ultimately, tracking post-click conversions, or post-impression conversions, was never an ideal way of assessing the impact of our campaigns. And it’s going to be even more challenging to track those instances back to sales in the future. 

It's also important to understand that the world we live in is changing: not only is the path to purchase becoming increasingly fragmented (making attribution extremely difficult), but we are also surrounded by brands vying for our attention. It’s estimated that the average person is exposed to around 4,000 media messages every single day; as a result, many of us are filtering out a lot of the ads we’re “seeing”.  Plus, we already know from research that around 50% of click throughs (particularly on mobile channels) are accidental; so measuring CTRs is equally limited. Finding ways to understand the quality of real user engagement is much more significant.

This is why attention is such a huge point of focus for the industry right now. With consumers being more aware of the importance and value of their data, attention has potential because it is not reliant on any form of personal information to deliver effective campaigns and targeting insights. It can also help encourage advertisers to be more creative in the ways they try to engage with users and grab what’s left of their attention – indeed, creativity is well known to be one of the key drivers of actual user engagement with online ads. 

We believe that metrics such as CTR and viewability will soon be replaced with attention-based metrics. Indeed, one powerful attention-based way of measuring is to look at time-in-view (TIV) defined by the length of time a creative is in view for and how this relates to uplifts in key brand metrics. A longer time-in-view means a user has more quality time engaging with the ad message, therefore generating higher uplifts in brand metrics. 

In a recent campaign, we were able to prove the impact of optimising to attention using TIV over the standard CTR. We monitored the difference in brand uplift using a cookieless brand lift study so we could track uplift. The results showed that by optimising to attention we were able to deliver uplifts across every key brand metric compared to CTR optimised activity.

Optimising to attention delivered a 62% increase in prompted brand awareness, a 58% increase in positive brand perception, a 121% increase in brand consideration, and a 33% increase in unprompted brand awareness. We also found that as the TIV increased, CTR decreased, and that viewability remained largely flat across CTR and attention optimised campaigns.

Despite this, attention alone isn’t a solution for all the challenges of digital advertising. Yes, it will be of key importance to many campaigns, but advertisers will need to embrace a number of different solutions, as there won’t be a unified, one-size-fits-all solution.  And there are still hurdles ahead, such as establishing an accepted definition for what attention is and how it is measured, as well as making sure it is accessible to all advertisers, not just those with big budgets.

As the digital ad landscape continues to evolve, attention has the potential to be one of the key defining metrics for the industry. The work of establishing it has only just begun, but we are seeing the industry actively coming together to test and learn in a bid to find a clearer definition. With this, and updated standards, we will all — whether as a consumer, brand, publisher, agency, or ad tech vendor — be able to reap the benefits of this new advertising world.


ATS London 2022 will be taking place at Central Hall Westminster on 14th and 15th June. Tickets and further details are available via the ATS London homepage.