Deepika Nikhilender
May 19, 2021

Why a cookieless world will be the dawn of data-led creativity

While much has been made of the cookie’s demise, marketers now have an opportunity to truly bring together creativity with data and technology without over-relying on just automatic re-targeting, writes Deepika Nikhilender, SVP Xaxis Asia Pacific.

Why a cookieless world will be the dawn of data-led creativity

For many digital marketers, the next eight months will be an anxious, nail-biting countdown to the looming 'Cookie Apocalypse' of 2022. With Google set to pull the plug on third-party cookies, marketers will be forced to change tack on their long-held programmatic strategies of ad retargeting and affiliate links. Yet, rather than lament the cookie’s demise, we should instead celebrate it as an opportunity to return to our roots: building real relationships with consumers.

COVID-19 has shown us that digital channels are crucial for driving engagement with consumers and has played the role of a key driver in accelerating eCommerce use among Asian consumers.

However, marketers now need to reconfigure programmatic’s role in brand-building for an entire host of platforms, moving beyond simple web-based advertising to interactive, shoppable formats. And that can only be achieved with the ultimate meeting of minds: programmatic media and rich, creative content.

Merging creative with technology

Meanwhile, creatives themselves have more tools to play with in their content creation.

Although holding companies’ recent exercises in consolidation has brought media and creative closer together, there is still work to be done in maximising this collaboration. Great creative campaigns, such as last year’s RHB Bank’s Deepavali film or Nike Japan’s ‘The Future isn’t Waiting’, are essential to building emotion, meaning, and relationships to influence customers’ purchasing decisions.

The challenge now for programmatic marketers is melding that gem of a creative idea with the technological tools and real-time data available. Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can enable marketers to convert these creative visions into effective programmatic targeting strategies that generate tangible outcomes. To achieve this, data, technology, and AI need to be introduced much earlier than in the optimisation stage to impact creative strategy. At the same time, creatives need to work more closely with their peers in programmatic strategy and data science.

Meanwhile, creatives themselves have more tools to play with in their content creation. No format is off-limits to them now, whether they are voice-activated ads, conversational ads, tap-to-maps, click-to-calls, or gamified content, plus more visual presentations such as prisms and lookbooks. In the long-term, utilising these tools better by both media and creative will help diminish marketers’ reliance on web-based retargeting, thereby preparing them for the future of new identities.

Everywhere is a storefront

Until 2019, most so-called ‘shoppable’ advertising was simply directing users to a third-party link by way of an ad. The majority of the digital ad landscape still requires that extra step to a third-party platform to complete a sale, hence the need for brands to tell a convincing enough story that converts consumers’ awareness to purchase without hindering their buying decision. But when Instagram introduced its shopping checkout function in 2019, enabling users to buy items within the app, it paved the way for the entire media landscape to become a shoppable storefront.

Now almost all social networks, including Snap, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitch, have accelerated their efforts into creating an eCommerce ground on their platforms. Generation Z favourite TikTok recently partnered with Shopify to bridge the gap between great content and online shopping.

Using shoppable formats enables brands to better track sales conversions and overall outcomes, giving them a higher return-on-ad spend (ROAS). With fewer barriers in the purchase path, consumers will be more likely to act on their initial buying impulses. In addition, tracking this journey provides marketers with a stronger source of first party data, which, in the long term, will prove more useful than that of third-party sources.

These efforts are just the beginning. And if marketers are prepared to put AI and predictive customer behaviour data in place of cookies, they will be best poised to capitalise on this new generation of blended advertising and shopping.

Test and learn

The role of programmatic is to help create the right creative for the right contextual environment, whether it's on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, or a web-based platform. Market testing is one of the most effective methods of ensuring the success of that goal and securing the right outcome for a campaign.

Building test and learn capabilities into every campaign enables marketers to hone their message’s effectiveness more quickly and precisely while also helping them develop strategies for future campaigns. AI technology accelerates the process, dramatically increasing marketers’ abilities to develop a hypothesis, create a methodology, and test different variables. It creates a data-driven path to converting creative vision and strategy into measurable results. It also separates the wheat from the chaff regarding a brand’s core business requirements, by eliminating non-essential elements from a campaign.

Times are undoubtedly uncertain right now. We are facing unprecedented challenges, navigating a post-cookie ad industry in an emerging post-COVID world. But we can always be certain about the value of high-quality creative, data-driven methodologies, and our ability as marketers to evolve with the times. In the post-cookie world, the brands that can put forth a streamlined vision from the marketer, media buyer, and creative stakeholders, and deploy test and learn tactics to sharpen that vision, will be able to deliver relevant content, excite their audiences, increase customer engagement, and improve bottom-line results.


We’ve reached our ten year milestone, and we’re celebrating our tenth anniversary with the launch of 10x10: Ten months of expert insights into the ten top categories of programmatic media.

Following a year in which the pace of transformation to digital-first ways of doing business accelerated, we expect the year ahead to be full of pivotal developments in the programmatic media space.

Over the next 10 months, we will be rolling out our 10x10 content series, exploring the 10 most significant trends that will shape the programmatic industry. Watch this space:


Deepika Nikhilender, SVP Xaxis Asia Pacific


Campaign Asia

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