Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Adam Chugg: Cookieless solutions for driving growth in a downturn 

Adam Chugg is Head of Big Tech Activations at the7stars and NDA’s new monthly columnist.

WARC is predicting that global ad spend will slow to 2.6% in 2023 and cited that social media companies were expected to bear the brunt of the slowdown. At the same time, the industry at large is talking about media inflation across channels. 

Alongside the macro-economic factors of supply chain issues and consumer demand, a significant driver of this slowdown are the changes to third-party cookies. Deciding how to plan budgets for Q4 and beyond is challenging in the current context. 

But opportunities do exist in these uncertain times and those advertisers that focus on their own performance and on developing their cookieless solutions will be best placed to drive growth and buck those macro industry trends.

Apple’s ATT effects

Apple’s app tracking transparency initiative (ATT) was initially predicted to remove close to £34bn from the bottom line of social media companies through to 2023 according to WARC. Yet Apple released a report stating that the impact of ATT on businesses has been overstated. 

Meta themselves cited improvements in their modelling capabilities, to plug gaps in data, had in fact lessened the impact and at the end of last year the loss in signals was then only at 8% versus 15% when ATT first launched.

And whilst advertisers have been pulling back on spend because of degraded performance over time, as the availability of data for optimisation shrinks and tracking becomes more restricted, it’s not all doom and gloom.

At the7stars, we are seeing opportunities to take advantage of significant media value and improved performance, given the right advertiser.

We are seeing a decrease in CPMs of over 20% YoY in Meta. At the same time, we are seeing advertisers who adopt Meta’s conversions API benefit from hugely increased conversion driving performance. After adoption, one client saw a CPA decrease of nearly 80% MoM and conversions increase by over 200%. 

But the picture is complex when making future channel split and investment decisions based on varying 3rd party reports and opinions. Here are some guiding principles to bare in mind when it comes to planning for Q4 and into 2023:

Top considerations for channel split & investment decisions

It’s important to be aware of different agendas. Apple has an interest in downplaying the impact of ATT to temper the narrative of exploiting their competitive advantage. The fact is that businesses built on apps are in large part reliant on data passback from Apple. They are the gatekeeper to app adoption and monetisation across apple devices, with nearly 50% of market share. As Apple makes moves into the ad space, they also have an interest in destabilising the competition.

On the other hand, Meta has an interest in pushing multiple angles. They want it known that Apple is exploiting their market dominance but, at the same time, they want to give advertisers the confidence to continue to plan investments in their platform.

Of course, the irony of this opinion piece coming from an agency perspective is not lost. Which leads me to the second point.

Use your own data to make decisions where you have it

The dynamics of impact are nuanced. Advertisers are affected by changes to cookies and privacy initiatives in different ways according to their own business models and strategies.

Advertisers who rely on revenue generation through apps alone, and optimising ad delivery to in-app conversions, will be having a tougher time with ATT than those advertisers who have multiple acquisition channels – web, in-app and in-store.

At the same time, advertisers who predominantly buy ads for reach will be having a great time, as CPMs decline for these campaign types due to an overall decrease in competition. So it’s important to be aware of the nuances of your own business and the performance of your own campaigns, rather than be heavily led by industry trend reports and opinions.

Things can change quickly. Warc’s report on the slowdown in ad spend and their Global Ad Trends report show this. The global ad trends report refers to aggregate CPM increases in Q4 2021. Their latest report on ad spend refers to significant slowdown in social media in particular, which will lead to CPM decreases, as we have seen. Which leads to the final point.

Be agile. Digital platforms offer you the opportunity to be agile according to performance as you don’t have to commit spend. Making big bets on where to spend budgets ahead of time, and sticking rigidly to the plan, is not optimal. One of the opportunities auction-based media provides is flexibility, and you should take advantage of this by being prepared to make quick changes to budgets.


Ultimately, there are tough times ahead for lots of businesses and advertising budgets will be squeezed. In times of recession, performance media, specifically search, usually gets more competitive as advertisers look to spend more in channels that appear to be more immediately measurable. Google is more resilient to ATT than Meta,

But there is clearly a current reduction in competition in social media platforms as a result of ATT and cookie degradation. Both brand and performance advertisers can take advantage of this and there is a significant value opportunity to be gained if you’re in the right position.