On October 27, Google announced that it is postponing the sunsetting of GA360 to July 2024, which means that companies will have more time to fully migrate to the new GA4 marketing technology. Anticipating various questions and concerns, our experts in the field of data and technology services have joined forces for a conversation about privacy, first-party data and the importance of GA4.
When it comes to the privacy arena, what trends are you seeing agnostically?
Privacy is one of the fastest changing and most complex realms in the digital space, even more so than Web3. On top of that, privacy is an ever-present undercurrent—ongoing in everything that we do. With a plethora of global and regional players involved—the tech sector, regulatory bodies, public opinion—we can safely say there’s a complex interaction at play, which makes coming up with any long-term prediction or silver bullet solution practically impossible. As a consequence, our waterways can quickly go from clear to muddy. What follows is a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt among many companies.
In working with companies across the board, we still see a lot of confusion around technical terminology, with partners raising questions such as, “What is personal data compared to Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?” To be frank, we believe this is in part driven by clickbait. Headlines propagating that “GA is illegal” cause unnecessary confusion and concern, when the fact of the matter is that Google’s GA4 as a product has gone through a massive rebuild from the ground up to address and tackle the issues in question. As a baseline trend, we’re receiving more and more questions about privacy matters with regards to all products in the digital marketing ecosystem—and we welcome them with open arms, because we’re here to help solve the riddle.
How are you helping clients navigate this new, data-focused advertising landscape?
Our objective is to help our partners take proper control of and ownership over their data collection and activation. Therefore, we first focus on basic data hygiene, conducting health checks and audits. It’s very important to know what your company has in store, so we ask questions like what data is collected, which cookies are set, how is the collected data used, and who else is getting the data of your users? Creating a graph of 3P consumers and beyond is complex and thus requires high levels of scrutiny.
Though the third-party cookie deprecation has been pushed back until at least late 2025, we don’t like to wait around and carry on in the same way we have always done. Rather, we’re embracing a first-class, first-party and privacy-first strategy, for instance by helping companies migrate to GA4—because we see no reasons for taking a reactive approach. We make sure our partners get on the front foot as fast and efficiently as possible, with a strong emphasis on automation. When you’re working with large data volumes, you can’t rely on human-centric processes to manage compliance. For instance, we have implemented automated machine learning as part of the data pipelines in order to prevent PII ingestion. There’s no way that a company can afford to manage a breach retrospectively or be proactive without automation—simply put, this is the most efficient way to scale.
What are the main lessons that you have learned on this journey?
First of all, we clearly communicate to every brand we partner with to always aim for transparency, make a plan, and move beyond the minimum. Let’s be honest, the economic headwinds that we are all currently facing mean that every dollar, euro and pound spent needs to deliver a return more than ever before. As such, preserving data quality is our top priority. To give you the full scoop: everything we do to be more transparent, protect users’ privacy, and apply rigor and governance to data collection and activation is, in fact, enhancing the data quality, too. So long as you go about your data the right way, you can’t go wrong.
Speaking of data quality, another key lesson that we have learned is to use time to the fullest. Yes, industry leaders like Google may unexpectedly push back plans, but rather than seeing this as an issue, we believe it can work to our advantage. Setting up the privacy tech for this tool is quick and easy—the hard part is changing the people and processes, which we know can take a while to get completely right. Though we expect that many brands will interpret this extension of GA360 as extra time to look around and perhaps jump ship to another technology, we believe that this is a risky strategy. Instead, we recommend our partners to take this change of plans as an opportunity to perfect, rather than a chance to pivot. There are no excuses to delay GA4 migration. It's imperative to use this time to manage change, translate data workloads, dashboards and data pipelines, and ensure all those GA360 assets become high quality GA4 assets.
Do you see gaps in performance between brands that invest in privacy and those who don’t?
There's a clear and definite advantage to taking a strong privacy-first approach to data—and companies are catching on. People are realizing (or, at least, starting to realize) that we’re not playing a zero-sum game and the exchange of data in return for personalization and better ad targeting is the data privacy transaction we all engage in—with reciprocity being the key word. Those who are best able to complete this transaction at scale will be rewarded with the best results, whereas those who continue to walk the third-party cookie path will fall behind. For some time now, we’ve been helping many of our partners run on a healthy diet of deterministic and probabilistic data and not trip over the mix of consented first-party and modeled data, and we can tell you: they are in good shape.
Want to discuss next steps? Get in touch.
Everything you do for privacy feeds back into your data quality, hence the opportunity to sharpen and perfect your process of migration to GA4 is one to take with both hands. It’s essential for brands to look beyond the obstacles of GA4 and work to get the best first-party data off the back of the migration.
It’s a time to revisit, realign, clean out the data cobwebs, and move into a brand-new system which allows you to perfect not only your data and privacy strategies, but also your marketing strategy across the board.
We’re here to help make sense of changes in the privacy landscape, how to make use of GA4 data, and how such technologies can support all your marketing needs. If you have any questions with regards to GA4 migration, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll schedule some time to discuss any questions you may have and see how we can support your analytics needs.
Insights for this piece were contributed by Doug Hall, VP Data Services and Technology, EMEA; Julien Coquet, Director of Analytics, EMEA; Suzanne Jansen, Head of Data Strategy, EMEA; Véronique Franzen, Senior Director Business Consulting, EMEA; Jakub Otrząsek, VP Data, APAC; Sayf Sharif, VP Data, NAMER; Michael Neveu, Director of Data, NAMER; and Wenting Wang, Senior Director of Data & Analytics, UK.
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