Category: Thought Leadership

Making Google Optimize More Effective with Double Blind Testing

Doug Hall
Senior Director of Analytics
Allison Hannah Simpson Blog Post
Allison Hannah Simpson
Marketing Associate

The Opportunity for Better Testing

We’re big fans of Google Optimize, a premium testing and personalisation tool. We’re also big fans of Double Blind Testing. Double Blind Testing weeds out the bias that can diminish the effectiveness of your data analysis. This article proposes integrating Double Blind Testing with Google Optimize to further validate your marketing research, thus helping your marketing dollars go further.

What is Double Blind Testing? A handy definition:

A double blind test is an experiment where both the subject and observer are unaware that the exercise in practice is a test. Double blind testing is referred to as the gold standard of testing. Double blind tests are used in science experiments in medicine and psychology, including theoretical and practical testing.

See how that’s different from Optimize testing? With Optimize, the analyst often sets up the test, runs the test, analyses the test, calls the winner (if there is one) and shares learnings. That last part of the process, sharing the learnings from the test, is the most important piece.

Caution: Unconscious Bias Ahead

One person wearing multiple hats during testing is also known as a single blind test and comes with consequences. A single blind test risks being influenced by unconscious bias. In a single blind test, the test participant is the only individual unaware of the experiment they’re being subjected to. The person running the test knows what is the control and what is the experiment.

There’s the rub. It’s quite possible for an analyst to draw a conclusion around results based on their knowledge of the test participant – not necessarily to the extent of creating manufactured data, but unconscious bias creeps in subtly.

For example, the analyst may be presented with an aggregated view of the data that shows the experiment outperformed the control. At first, this sounds like a success! However, confirmation bias could make the analyst less likely to dig deeper and explore the data under a more critical lens. With the results in the bag, the analyst moves on and misses important insights into the effects of the experiment.

The opposite is also possible: the control wins, so the experiment tanks. This cannot be true! So the analyst, misled by their cognitive bias, wastes time digging for signals that validate their hypothesis.

Change the Methodology to Remove Bias

Testing is a team effort. Divide [effort across the team] and conquer [cognitive bias] to achieve proper double blind tests. Let’s take a look at how a simple A/B test approach might change:

First, the test owner develops the hypothesis, which must remain private to the test owner.

Based on data [a] and feedback [b], we believe that doing [c] for audience [d] will make [e] happen.

We will know this to be true when we observe data [f] and get feedback [g].

We expect a change in metric [h] of magnitude [i] within [j] business cycles.

The test owner will then work with the designer and front end engineer to develop and implement the test experiment. It’s important for the test owner to keep the hypothesis a secret and only share what the test experiment is with other team members. The reason for the test should not be revealed.

The test is executed and now an analyst is introduced to the test data. The analyst has no previous knowledge of the hypothesis, experiment design or testing process at all. They only know this is a test in which they must perform a calculation on the presented data to determine the test experiment performance and significance.

Setting Up a Double Blind Test

Tell your data engineers to get the Google Analytics add-on for Google Sheets. Share the audience definition piece of the hypothesis with the data engineer. The data engineer will set up a query as shown below to produce two reports accurately representing the audience defined in the hypothesis. One report is the daily session, conversion volume and conversion rate for the test experiment. The other report is for the control. Name the report Population A and B – something anonymous will work.

Google Analytic Report Information

Now schedule the report to refresh daily. Having done this, hide the config sheet and make sure the test analyst is not given editor rights on the data so they cannot see the produced report config:

Hidden Google Sheet message

Now the analyst has blind access to the data with no awareness of what the experiments are for, what the hypothesised effect is, who the audiences are or which population corresponds with what experiment. Due to the blind data access, there is no cognitive bias in the analysis.

Google Sheet data

The analyst reports on the performance of each population as they see it in the numbers. Each member of the team is sufficiently removed from the hypothesis and test detail so as to achieve a double blind test production and analysis. Insert happy-dance here!

Integrate into Your Data Team’s Workflow

Google Optimize just leveled up by going one step further with Double Blind Testing. The double blind testing strategy has the power to improve your data analysis. It can open opportunities for you and your team by decreasing unconscious bias and increasing the effectiveness of your media spend. Choose to take more control of your marketing dollars by integrating this testing process into your daily workflow.

To learn more about Google Optimize and Double Blind Testing, reach out to us at

Apple, Google, Privacy, and Bad Tech Journalism


Wait, did they just say Safari now blocks Google Analytics?

(Spoiler alert: it doesn’t)

At the 2020 edition of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced that the new version of MacOS (nicknamed Big Sur) would ship with version 14 of the Safari web browser – promising Safari would be more privacy friendly. Which is a great move and in line with the regulatory and digital marketing landscapes.

However, based on fuzzy, out-of-context screenshots shown during the announcement, some digital marketing publications started asserting that the new Safari would block Google Analytics.

[Narrator’s voice: it didn’t]

Here are some of the articles in question:

Within minutes, that poorly researched bit of fake news was all over social media.

So what really happened? Should you worry?

Cooler heads always prevail, so let’s take a step back and look closely at what really happened.

What is ITP and why does it matter?

The WWDC is generally the occasion for Apple to announce new features and key developments in their tech ecosystem from desktop and mobile operating systems to SDKs, APIs, and all that good technical stuff.

In recent years, Apple has used the WWDC to announce changes to the way they handle privacy in web and mobile apps, namely with initiatives such as ITP (Intelligent Tracking Protection), which is used in Safari, Apple’s Webkit-based browser on Macs, iPhones, and iPads.

In a nutshell, ITP restricts the creation and the lifetime of cookies, which are used to persist and measure someone’s visit on one site (first party, a.k.a. 1P) or across multiple websites (third party, a.k.a. 3P). ITP makes things more difficult for digital marketers because users become harder to track and target.

If we use Google Analytics as a comparison, ITP can “reset” a known visitor to a new visitor after only a couple of days, instead of the usual 2 years – assuming users don’t change devices or clear their cookies.

If we look at ITP with our privacy hat on, even collecting user consent will not stop ITP from neutralizing cookies.

ITP arrives at the right moment; just as online privacy starts to finally take root with pieces of legislation such as GDPR and ePrivacy in Europe, CCPA in California, LGPD in Brazil, APA/NDB in Australia, APP in Japan, PIPA in Korea, and a lot more being made into bills and/or written into law.

Arguably the above pieces of legislation allow for the collection of user consent prior to collecting. So we should not really be worrying about Safari potentially collecting information that users consented to, right?

That was not even a consideration in the aforementioned pieces on “Safari blocks Google Analytics.”

Does the new Safari really block Google Analytics?

(Second spoiler alert: it still doesn’t)

The most obvious way to show you is with a test. Luckily, I had MacOS Big Sur beta installed so I took a look under the hood – especially on the sites that published that “Safari blocks Google Analytics” story. Let’s fire up Safari and turn on developer mode.

Sure enough, Google Analytics sends a tracking call that makes it home to Google collection servers. Safari does not block Google Analytics.

Now let’s take another look at that new privacy report: it shows “22 trackers prevented.”

Wait, the list shows! Didn’t we just establish that Google Analytics tracking went through?

Let’s clarify: what the panel below shows are the domain names of resources loaded by the page that are flagged in the ITP lists as potential tracking vectors using third-party cookies.

Other than that, ITP plays its role in drastically reducing the Google Analytics cookie’s lifetime to just a week as shown below.

Let’s drive this point home again if needed: Safari 14 does not block Google Analytics.

ITP is enforced as per the spec by blocking third-party cookies and limiting cookies to a lifetime of a week at most.

So what’s the big impact?

As mentioned, ITP is primarily going to reduce the time during which a visitor is identified. After a week, ITP deletes/resets the user cookie and the visitor is “reborn”. Not a great way to study user groups or cohorts, right?

If you’re worrying about the impact of ITP on your data collection, may I suggest reading this awesome piece on ITP simulation by my colleague Doug Hall.

What is important to remember is that Apple is using ITP block lists built in partnership with DuckDuckGo, a search engine that has made a name for itself as a privacy-friendly (read: anti-Google). I, for one, have yet to see what their business model is but that’s a story for another post.

At any rate, ITP lists are meant to block cookies for specific domain names.

Even if Apple did decide to block Google Analytics altogether, how big a deal are we talking about? According to StatCounter, Safari accounts for roughly 18% of browser market share (as of June 2020). Let’s round this up to a neat 20%. That’s an awful lot of data to lose.

Arguably, Google Analytics wouldn’t be the only tracking solution that could be impacted. Let’s not forget about Adobe, Criteo, Amazon, Facebook, Comscore, Oracle—to name a few.

So if you keep implementing digital analytics according to the state of the art, by respecting privacy and tracking exclusively first-party data, you’ll be a winner!

Is it really just bad tech journalism?

Let’s get real for a moment. If tech journalists posting the story about Safari blocking Google Analytics knew about ITP, they wouldn’t have published the story – or at the very least with a less sensational headline. Even John Wilander, the lead Webkit engineer behind ITP spoke out against the misconceptions behind this “Safari blocks GA piece.”

This is unfortunately a case of bad tech journalism, where half-truths and clickbait titles drive page views. Pitting tech giants Apple and Google is just sensational and does not highlight the real story from WWDC: privacy matters and Apple are addressing it as they should.

In this, I echo my esteemed colleague Simo Ahava in that this kind of journalism is poorly researched at best, intentionally misleading at worst.

Most of the articles on this particular topic backtracked and offered “updates” but they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

To be fair, it is also Apple’s fault for using misleading labeling.

But is it so bad considering we’re talking about a beta version of a web browser? Ìf anything, Apple now has a few months ahead of them to make adjustments before Big Sur and Safari.

Beyond the fear, uncertainty and doubt, this kind of publication is symptomatic of an industry that is scared by the effect that privacy regulation is having on their business.

How is MightyHive addressing this?

While we at MightyHive have long been preparing  for the death of the cookie and digital ecosystem focusing on first-party data, we can appreciate that initiatives such as ITP can make a digital marketer’s life very complicated.

We strongly believe that the future of digital marketing lies in first party data, consent and data quality.

Cookies are on their way out but this does not mean the end of the world.

Need help navigating the ever-changing digital marketing landscape? Contact us for guidance!

WEBINAR: A Programmatic Buyer’s Look at the ISBA Report’s “Unknown Delta”

A Programmatic Buyer’s Look at the “Unknown Delta”

Recently the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) set out to shine a light on the programmatic advertising supply chain, but despite exhaustive efforts to map and attribute every advertising dollar, the subsequent report could not account for a sizable fraction of digital advertising budgets. This “unknown delta,” as the ISBA calls it, is associated with causes ranging from fraud to inventory reselling. But regardless of the reasons, the ISBA report exposes a complex system that lacks transparency.

“[The unknown delta] is not meant to be assumed as fraud….This is important for anyone who is thoughtfully assessing this study; the unknowns can ideally become knowns.”

– Rachel Adams, Head of Media Activation US, MightyHive

The ISBA report is the focus of the latest episode of Live with MightyHive and features Rachel Adams, Head of Media Activation, MightyHive US. Adams brings years of agency buying experience and countless hours working with MightyHive clients on in-housing strategies and implementation. Together with Senior Director of Marketing Myles Younger, the two cover some of the report’s findings and strategies for optimizing the digital advertising supply chain and improving transparency.

This episode of “Live with MightyHive covers: 

  • Findings from the ISBA report
  • The advantages of simplifying your supply chain
  • The increasingly important role of transparency

Get the Video

Watch Episode 3: A Programmatic Buyer’s Look at the ISBA Report’s “Unknown Delta”, and view the slides below.

Subscribe to Live with MightyHive to hear about all of our upcoming webinar-workshops. And if there’s a topic you’re interested in, email us at

And check out MightyHive CEO Pete Kim’s thoughts on the ISBA report here: Marketers Deserve Better.

Marketers Deserve Better


Last week, the UK’s Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) published a landmark Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study. Every day, MightyHive helps clients gain transparency into their digital media spend and take control of their media buying and analytics. The collective efforts of the ISBA, the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and participating brands and agencies are greatly appreciated in giving the industry ecosystem constructive insights as we chart a path forward.

Join us on Tuesday, May 19 for a special “Live with MightyHive” episode with our head of Media Activation Rachel Adams to dig into the technical complexities behind the ISBA report. Space is limited, so register now.

It has been four years since the bombshell 2016 ANA K2 report laid bare the egregious lack of transparency in digital and programmatic media buying. Based on our experience, and as the ISBA’s study has confirmed, it seems there is still a great deal of work to be done in making digital media work better for marketers. The experience of the ISBA in even conducting the study exposed significant barriers and gaps:

  • Out of 15 advertisers studied, nearly 300 distinct supply chains to a mere 12 publishers were identified;
  • The study ran a full nine months longer than planned due to difficulties accessing needed data;
  • Out of 267 million impressions analyzed, only twelve percent could be mapped, meaning only about 1 in 8 impressions could even be studied at all!

The report highlights important issues, and points to a fundamental truth that many who work in online advertising already know: though programmatic advertising represents a leap forward in marketing efficiency, there are many issues that need to be solved before it can reach its true potential.

The programmatic ecosystem’s flaws boil down to two root causes:

  1. Complexity. Ecosystem complexity is at best a burden on brands, and often an outright liability. There are simply too many companies offering a confusing and often overlapping capability set. Case in point: the ISBA study called out that just one data set for one supply chain needed the coordination and approval of four different entities to allow access.
  2. Lack of transparency. Transparency issues continue to cost marketers time and money. For example: to conduct the study, the ISBA partnered with PwC, one of the world’s most respected auditing firms, and even a team of professional auditors grappled with data access and reconciliation issues, causing months-long delays and incomplete analyses.

MightyHive has been tirelessly working and innovating on these issues for years, and so I would like to offer our experiences, viewpoint, and possible solutions.

Unsustainable Ecosystem Complexity

We’ve all seen the “logo soup” of the LUMAscapes and Martech 5000 (now 8,000 actually). This complexity is as unsustainable for marketers as it is for the ecosystem itself. In 2018, I wrote about the need for ecosystem consolidation and I still believe this is the right path. To be fair, it is entirely normal for new technology ecosystems to be chaotic before they mature, but the ISBA study reminds us that marketers are navigating a byzantine and often counterproductive web of vendors, contracts, pricing, and capabilities.

However, I think it’s unfair to characterize the ecosystem as an “ad tech tax.” When you fly, somewhere around 15-20% of the price of your ticket goes to the oil industry to pay for jet fuel. Is that portion of the cost a nefarious “petrochemical tax?” No, it’s just part of the value chain that lets you conveniently fly from point A to point B.

When MightyHive engages with brands, our goal is not to fire every tech vendor and get intermediary costs to zero. Instead, we seek to maximize efficiency and advertiser ROI. Our first step is to assess a client’s current setup so they can at least know what they’re paying for. Equipped with that knowledge, we then partner with them to optimize for the value of various intermediaries.

I’m extremely proud of the work we did in 2017 with Sprint, one of our first major in-housing clients. We did not get their intermediary costs to zero, but as part of a deliberate, informed, and holistic approach, we were able to consolidate their tech and partner footprint. And we didn’t stop there. We helped Sprint implement process improvements, put the right in-house staff in place, and overhaul creative production and optimization. The results were staggering: Sprint nearly doubled performance while lowering spend.

sprint transparency
Read about our in-housing work with Sprint here.

Transparency: Data and Visibility in Every Transaction Should be the Default

The fact that the ISBA and PwC, after a fifteen-month study, were still left with an “unknown delta” that ranged as high as 86% shows that marketers (or their agencies) are still not putting best practices into, well, practice. Granted, there will always be variances when comparing large volumes of internet data, so an “unknown delta” of zero is probably unrealistic (Ari Pararo, CEO of Beeswax has some great thoughts on the “unknown delta”). But still—eighty-six percent?

The underlying causes of an “unknown delta” will vary from case to case. Parts of it are likely benign. It seems obvious that marketers should not have “unknown deltas”—that is to say, marketers should take immediate steps to avoid situations in which significant portions of their budgets are apparently being spent with zero accountability. We should also note that the US DOJ investigation into agency media buying practices is still ongoing.

As the ecosystem consolidates around a few platforms, and as standards like ads.txt and sellers.json gain wide adoption, it’s going to get harder for non-transparent vendors and tactics to hide amid the chaos. Marketers need to know that “unknown deltas” can be removed.

MightyHive has used our Spectrum of Control methodology to help brands like Bayer, Electrolux, Mondelēz, Sony Pictures, and Sprint take some degree of buying, ad serving, measurement, and analytics in-house. A key ingredient is always to evaluate what’s possible in terms of getting brands direct ownership and control over their digital media data.

spectrum of control
Get a complete walkthrough of the MightyHive Spectrum of Control here.

Consolidation and Transparency are but Means to an End

Transparency, vendor consolidation, and supply-path optimization are only part of the story. One reason MightyHive is so passionate about helping marketers tackle these challenges is that, once they are addressed, a world of new possibilities opens up. Access to data and a finely-tuned tech stack will not only yield budget transparency and optimization benefits, but will also unlock incredible possibilities in targeting, personalization, and measurement. Alongside MediaMonks, S4Capital performs this work across the value chain, and our purely digital model is what enables transparency and flexibility for our clients.

mondelez case study
With better insight into performance, Mondelēz has seen a +10% return on investment. Read the full case study.

Our work with Mondelēz is, in my view, the gold standard of what a brand can achieve with access to data coupled with the right tech and partners. In order to be the first CPG in their category to see the direct correlation between digital advertising and in-store sales, Mondelēz needed to gain access to its digital media, to standardize that data, and then to make innovative use of cloud architecture for analysis, measurement, and personalization. Sure, “transparency” was a big part of the story, but it was a stepping stone on the path to something much greater.

For all the issues discussed here, it’s worth closing with a reminder of the benefits of ad tech and programmatic media. Though there is much work to do, my confidence and optimism remain unchanged: these powerful technologies are only going to get better as the industry continues to mature by solving these issues and innovating in countless other areas.

Our goal should be an ecosystem that is fully auditable, completely transparent, and which provides a powerful ability to deliver compelling content to consumers, meaningful ROI for marketers, and a steady source of income for the publishers and content creators.

If you have questions or would like to begin a deeper discussion, please reach out to us at

Lastly, I invite you to join us for a special episode of “Live with MightyHive” on Tuesday, May 19 that will dig further into the ISBA report. You can RSVP here (space is limited). MightyHive Head of Media Activation Rachel Adams will examine the technical complexities behind the study and walk through some of the approaches MightyHive takes to solve for issues of complexity and transparency. I hope you’re able to make it.

Introducing: Live with MightyHive


MightyHive is launching a new series of webinar-workshops, Live with MightyHive, to give you quick, actionable insights from MightyHive subject matter experts and partners. In each workshop, we spotlight one aspect of digital marketing, such as data analytics, performance, attribution, privacy, and more. We interview specialists with years of field experience to draw out useful tactics that can be applied today and then we welcome questions from our live audience.

We kicked off our first episode with Doug Hall, MightyHive Senior Director of Analytics EMEA, who joined Live with MightyHive to discuss using Google CausalImpact to extract significance and causality from Google Analytics data. Hall also shared techniques for presenting data significance in ways that tell the story and enable action.

Because we are dealing with probabilities…the explanation needs to be absolutely clear. If you can explain the difference between significance and noise, then you can definitely start to use this tool. If you start to explain Bayesian time series, inference models and machine learning, then you are going to lose people real quickly.”

— Doug Hall, Senior Director of Analytics, EMEA


Subscribe to “Live with MightyHive” to stay informed about our upcoming webinars like “Data Quality Nightmares” with Julien Coquet, Director of Analytics, EMEA on Thursday, May 14.

And we want to hear from you! If there’s a topic you’re interested in, email us at



Five Ways MightyHive is Building Workplace Culture During COVID-19


MightyHive’s culture is instrumental to our success as a company, and a typical day in the MightyHive office is buzzing with energy. Throughout the day you’ll find MightyHivers engaging in all kinds of conversations, and we’ve built a culture that encourages this kind of collaboration. We believe the more opportunities employees have to engage with each other, the more likely they are to learn from one another and continue to build their expertise and connections.

COVID-19 has been an unexpected visitor, and fundamentally shifted the way we work in 2020. As a company, we are practicing ways to maintain an energized company culture virtually and we’ve found a few key solutions for maintaining our culture.

Host Virtual Social Events

While we are practicing social distancing, it’s more important than ever to stay connected and engage with one another. We’ve substituted virtual happy hours, team lunches, and workouts for our standard in-person events. Our Sydney office was even more creative and hosted a virtual wine tasting! Additionally, we’ve taken our coffee buddies program completely virtual, allowing our global teams to connect at random with other MightyHivers for coffee and a chat.

MH Sydney Team's Virtual Wine Tasting

While we may not be physically together, using video has allowed us to stay closer than ever. Some teams say they’ve spent more time with one another over virtual lunch than they were able to when working in the office. Setting aside intentional time to connect has been critical to MightyHive’s continued success.

Encourage Productivity Hacks

The majority of our company works from an office, and the transition to WFH life required significant adaptation. To help employees stay focused we provided a productivity stipend to improve our employees’ WFH office set-up.

We also had some fun and asked our team to add songs to a collaborative WFH Spotify playlist to provide a productivity soundtrack similar to our daily office playlist.

Since we do have some seasoned WFH employees, we asked them to share their productivity hacks, which turned into a dedicated #WFHack Slack channel. In addition to offering a more flexible work schedule, our team also created the #WorkingParentHacks channel for our MightyParents who are navigating childcare and education while trying to balance their own work.

Leverage Communication Platforms

We’ve found that one of the best ways to keep company culture alive is leveraging our different communication platforms. We rely on Gmail and Mailchimp for more formal messaging, but Slack has become instrumental to keeping our team engaged.

Our Slack channels went silent for the first few days of WFH, since we were facing so much uncertainty. However, we learned that it was best to carry on with employee engagement virtually to create a sense of normalcy. We’ve since used Slack to post pictures of WFH setups, share baby photos of employees, and post a series of fun, screen-free weekend projects.

Building Workplace Culture During COVID-19

These activities engaged employees from all different departments and are a great conversation starter when getting to know another team member. It also allows us to connect our global teams around activities we can share together.

Share Resources and Recommendations

Using our quarterly wellness program, our People Ops team provided a ton of resources on Mental Health in response to COVID-19 and social distancing measures.

MightyWellness Newsletter

The newsletter features at-home workouts, journaling prompts, meditation practices, and tips for consuming news in a healthy way. One of our teams even shared an existing spreadsheet containing all of their recommendations (books, movies, games, recipes, and more!) and opened it up as a collaborative resource for the whole company.

Our goal is to help give our employees access to the resources they need to adapt to our new environment and know that they have their MightyFam for support.

Celebrate Your Employees

Long before COVID-19, MightyHive made it a point to celebrate our employees. Every employee is celebrated in multiple ways throughout the year for both professional and personal life events.

We have continued celebrating our employees by hosting virtual onboarding sessions, sending ecards to employees on their birthday, and announcing other exciting news in a monthly newsletter.

We have always been excited to highlight the accomplishments of employees, and we feel it’s crucial to continue celebrating our employees during this period.

Navigating a completely virtual world can be difficult, but we are adjusting to the current normal. We’ve not only maintained our global culture, but have watched it grow as our global teams connect more than ever. Change is nothing new to MightyHive, and we continue to learn and adapt during this uncertain time–we may even come out even stronger for it.

The Sun is Setting on Third-Party Cookies and It’s Time to Move with the Market, Not Against It


Google Chrome to Drop Third-Party Cookies

On January 15th, Google announced that third-party cookies would be blocked in Chrome by 2022. Over the past 24 months, increasingly aggressive iterations of Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in Apple products have challenged the third-party cookies used for measurement and targeting. However, Chrome currently commands a majority of desktop browser share globally, which makes Google’s announcement significant for the industry. In the next 24 months, third-party cookies will become effectively unusable for advertising measurement.

Based on current usage, by 2022 the market will be dominated by browsers that block some or all third-party cookies by default.

The Next Two Years

With this announcement and self-imposed deadline, Google will have to work out how their own ad platforms will interface with third parties, such as ad exchanges. The programmatic advertising ecosystem of which Google is a significant part of is based on third-party cookies. As things stand, Data Management Platforms (DMPs) will be significantly challenged. Likewise, view-based and today’s multi-touch attribution (MTA) solutions are effectively moot. Many forms of third-party data, already challenged by government regulations like GDPR enforced in May 2018, will cease to exist.

Google has proposed a mechanism to allow for anonymized and aggregated measurement called the Chrome Privacy Sandbox which was announced in August 2019.

Sand What?

In August 2019, Google announced an initiative aimed at evolving the web with architecture that advances privacy, while continuing to support a free and open ecosystem. They call it a “Privacy Sandbox.” Right now, these constitute a set of proposals for browser APIs that will eventually serve as privacy-preserving technical alternatives to third-party cookies.

There aren’t any tangible tools inside the Privacy Sandbox—at least not yet. Google said in their blog post that it aims to “eventually” build these tools with the industry over the next two years to ensure interoperability in the programmatic and ad tech ecosystem.

How Will We Target Audiences Without Cookies?

Third-party cookies have been used for everything from frequency management to behavioral targeting. How might marketers continue to employ these tactics moving forward?
Audience-based and user-level targeting have been the cornerstone of programmatic buying over the past decade. Indeed, the very concerns around ad targeting and user privacy contributed to Google’s announcement.

There is every reason to believe that targeting will still be possible, as will attribution, but the mechanisms will need to radically change. The scale and scope of addressable audience targeting will decrease and advertisers may turn to federated learning, contextual targeting, and other techniques to drive business performance through programmatic platforms. Another suggested approach would be for the browser itself to segment audiences based on their browsing behavior, and once there are a sufficient number of other browsers in this interest group an advertiser could target them.

What about frequency management? In October 2019 Google introduced frequency management across bid requests without a third-party cookie associated with them. Instead, Google employs machine learning to analyze behavior from across their ad inventory and provide an estimate with a high degree of confidence the number of impressions an individual had been exposed to.

Lastly, publishers with first-party audience relationships are poised to fill in audience targeting gaps left by the removal of third-party data cookies. For example, this would include a publisher with a paywall that requires a user to login to read content. Publications are likely to sell more curated inventory packages (here’s an example from Meredith), much of which will be available programmatically via private marketplaces (PMPs) and programmatic direct/guaranteed deals.

Spending on programmatic direct channels has grown significantly in recent years and is expected to continue climbing.

How Will We Measure?

Conversion tracking will become increasingly difficult to measure using current approaches, but there are several solutions available now and on the horizon. For example, as Campaign Manager log-level data loses fidelity, solutions like Google Ads Data Hub stand to open up new possibilities with more durable data and more privacy-safe methodologies. Likewise, platforms like Amazon and Facebook are working on similar solutions.

Google’s proposal for a conversion measurement API would allow for click-based attribution without using cross-site trackers. Trials for click-based conversion measurement sans third-party cookies will start by the end of 2020. Read more on the Chromium Blog and in AdExchanger.

What about view-based conversion tracking? Most current approaches will cease to work in any major browser once Chrome deprecates third-party cookies, but Google has indicated that the future of measurement may be more probabilistic or panel-based. Whether this will allow for view-through conversion tracking remains to be seen.

How MightyHive Will Adapt

As with many businesses in the programmatic space, a number of MightyHive services are built to some extent on top of the third-party cookie, such as programmatic audience activation, dynamic creative, and advanced attribution.

In their current state, these technologies will not work in two years’ time. However, there is every reason to believe that ad tech will continue to innovate and adapt with these changes opening up new opportunities for more advanced and smarter marketers in a new cookie-less era.

  • We have already started developing targeting and measurement approaches independent of cookie-based approaches for use on multiple bidding and measurement platforms. Further, as a leading Google partner, will be collaborating closely with Google on the Privacy Sandbox protocols and work hard to bring these solutions to our clients.
  • MightyHive has deep, holistic consultative expertise to bear on these challenges. For example, we have invested heavily into data science, API and Cloud-driven solutions to help marketers gradually increase the utility of their first-party data while simultaneously reducing reliance on third-party cookie pools.
  • As part of S4Capital, with our sister company MediaMonks, our clients are exploring end-to-end digital strategies that leverage first-party data to drive content and programmatic media.

We argue consumers should always be the first constituent in considering the digital advertising experiences online and adapting to this shift requires marketers to place more attention on the value exchange traded for a consumer’s attention. The key will be to move with the market, as opposed to push against it and seek short-term fixes.

As always, MightyHive is your partner and your advocate.

Please contact us to start a discussion or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn to stay updated on this topic and more.

With Safari ITP 2.3, It’s Time to Stop Thinking in Terms of Workarounds


In September 2019, the Safari WebKit team announced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) 2.3. While it has had a smaller direct impact versus previous ITP releases, Safari ITP 2.3 contains important lessons for marketers and their technology teams, not just in narrow terms of cookie strategy, but in more broad-reaching terms that beg a fundamental shift in how brands approach digital marketing and advertising.

Safari ITP 2.3 Thwarts More Tracking Workarounds

The incremental updates in Safari ITP 2.3 are intended to thwart a few workarounds and mitigation tactics that advertisers, publishers, and tech platforms were using. Some workarounds were employing localStorage or using the JavaScript Document.referrer property. The Safari WebKit team identified the scenarios where these tactics could be used to circumvent Safari’s tracking prevention features and took steps to close the gaps. You can read the full ITP 2.3 release notes here.

The takeaway is that Apple and Safari will move quickly to shut down practices that they deem in violation of their concept of user privacy and security.

The Last Fallback: First-party HttpOnly Cookies

Safari ITP 2.3 still allows unlimited expiration for all cookies set server-side, regardless of the HttpOnly attribute. But the Safari team is already clarifying that only server-side cookies using the HttpOnly attribute are truly secure:


In the past, the Safari WebKit team has referenced an article by Google Engineer Mike West. The article cites a low 8.31% adoption rate of server-side cookies using the HttpOnly attribute as a security issue. In reiterating this concern with the latest ITP release, the Safari WebKit team is painting a clear picture. This should be taken as a not-so-subtle hint about your cookie strategy to favor the HttpOnly attribute.

It should also reinforce a larger lesson for marketers regarding ITP: the goal should not be to find temporary, short-term work-arounds. These efforts (which are often burdensome) will likely yield few sustainable results.

This is About More than Cookies

Privacy is here to stay, and advertisers will need to adapt their thought process as much as their technology. Safari ITP should be seen as a part of a broader push for user privacy and security across the web, and it is much easier to understand if seen in this light.

Source: “Digital Privacy in a Post-Cookie World”

Trying to “work around” or “solve for” Safari ITP (or GDPR and CCPA for that matter), or insisting on 1:1 user mapping rather than working from larger (but still actionable and measurable) audience cohorts is a misguided path. Advertisers should mitigate the effects of Safari ITP where possible, but keep focus on developing more durable privacy-safe strategies around first-party data, user logins, universal first-party IDs, opt-ins, and data clean room technology. Soon, advertisers won’t be able to execute tactics that may have worked just a year ago. Fighting this change will just keep get harder and yield fewer results as time goes by.

With all the clear indicators of where things are heading, not changing your approach to privacy is akin to polishing your saddle rather than learning how to drive a car.

How will the shift to digital privacy affect digital marketers?

Download our report “Digital Privacy in a Post-Cookie World” to understand how privacy trends will impact marketers and learn about possible solutions.


Download the Slide Deck and Video that Explain Data Clean Rooms

Meet Your New Best Friend: the Data Clean Room

Recently I had the privilege of delivering a packed session at AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O in New York. The session, titled “Meet Your New Best Friend: the Data Clean Room,” quickly brought marketers up to speed on:

  • What data clean rooms are
  • How they work
  • How they’ll help bridge the gap between user privacy and marketing insights

There was a lot of demand for the slides following the session! So we’ve packaged up the PowerPoint deck and the complete session video and made them available for download. Marketers, media buyers, and tech platforms are all looking for practical solutions to preserve measurement and insights in a privacy-first era. This deck offers an overview of data clean rooms that are available now (e.g., Ads Data Hub) as well as what might be coming next.


A few sample slides from “Meet Your New Best Friend: the Data Clean Room.”

Get up to speed on data clean rooms in under 30 minutes

Here’s a highlights reel of what the session covers in about 25 minutes and 44 slides:

  • How data clean rooms maintain privacy by being a “Switzerland” for data
  • An overview of Google’s Ads Data Hub, the best-documented data clean room
  • A look at Amazon’s purported clean room solution
  • Why Facebook’s data clean room should be called the “Keyser Söze of ad tech”
  • What strategic partnerships like Target + Disney might have to do with data clean rooms


WEBINAR: How Do Sophisticated Marketers Think About Measurement?


Recently, MightyHive and Google set out to answer some questions about sophisticated programmatic advertisers’ best practices:

  • How are they building new connections to customers?
  • What discoveries are emerging from data and analytics?
  • How are marketers pushing technology to do more?

To foster an exchange of ideas about today’s most sophisticated marketers, MightyHive and Google collaborated on How Do Sophisticated Marketers Think About Programmatic & Measurement Maturity? Chris Brook, Director of Client Solutions at MightyHive, co-hosted alongside the Google Marketing Platform Customer Success Team.

“First-party data isn’t a tool, it’s the toolkit.”

— Chris Brook, Director of Client Solutions, MightyHive

Chris focused on the KPIs top marketers are using to determine the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer. He shared that the best insights are derived from a wide variety of first-party data sources (CRM, POS systems, customer loyalty programs, etc.) combined with user-data that is generated by owned web properties. Chris also touched on important issues facing sophisticated marketers today, such as new privacy regulations and the benefits of dynamic ad serving.

The webinar concludes with a walkthrough of how personalized, dynamically-generated promotional content for the Netflix series “Narcos” was able to cut production costs by 40% and boosted clickthrough rate by 60%.