Google Practice MD says “don’t panic” to businesses in the wake of devaluing third-party cookies

Business Leader sat down with Nicola Marsh, Managing Director at MediaCom North Group and Google Practice UK, to speak about how the tech space has changed, what the environment is like for women in tech and Google’s decision to devalue third-party cookies.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what brought you into the tech space?

I have worked in the media industry for the last 25 years. I started my career working in publishing sales and moved into a media agency 20 years ago where my roles have always been within digital media. The impact of technology on marketing has always been fascinating to me and still continues to be so.

I was extremely lucky to go out to Silicon Valley with both clients and the agency I work for now, MediaCom. We visited Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, AOL, etc., and met first-hand the founders of these organisations and listened to how they invested in and utilised technology to resolve what they considered to be crucial challenges. Understanding, developing and utilising new technology has and continues to be a key part of my role.

How has the tech industry changed since the pandemic and what can we expect it to look like post-pandemic?

The pandemic and the media landscape have both had a significant impact on the tech industry. The pandemic has seen us all embrace technology in different ways and technology has become a much bigger part of our everyday lives post-pandemic. Working environments have changed too, which has seen more remote and hybrid work and the mass use of Teams and Zoom.

Regarding the changes in the media landscape, technology has had a huge impact on everything from how we buy and how we trade media, to how we track media and how we target consumers. For example, 87% of people now own a mobile phone and we have seen a rise in the popularity of online gaming and entertainment. This has been powered by tech. We have also seen more people move to cloud-based solutions for data – this again has been powered by tech. The pandemic has highlighted these tech trends and how they have impacted the industry.

What are the main challenges women face when entering the tech industry?

I think the challenges women face are similar across industries. Whilst we are seeing an increase in the number of females entering into the technology space, the numbers are still not high enough. Having female role models is key to both attracting and retaining female talent. Investment has been slow in attracting females to the tech industry, I believe this is why there are still very limited senior females.

Flexible working is the key to attracting female talent. Companies that can offer part-time work options to work around out-of-work commitments, good maternity packages and clear career progression will be more attractive to women than those that don’t.

How is the tech space changing for women in the industry?

There are a number of ways the tech space is changing for women:

  • It is becoming more attractive for women based on the flexibility and recognition of the value women can bring
  • The closing gender pay gap is ensuring equality
  • Recruitment methods are becoming much more inclusive, and businesses are starting to understand what motivates females to join the industry.
  • Female role models are active in the space and there are female-only networks that are creating support and advice for women specifically.

What has your experience been like as a woman in tech? How are you supporting female talent in the industry?

I have always felt very comfortable working in this space but can fully appreciate that my experience is not the same as everyone’s. I have often been the only female voice at a table but have never been made to feel that my voice is a less valuable one than my colleagues. It could be said that this has created opportunities at times for me as I have been able to offer a different view/way of doing things than my colleagues.

I am supporting women in tech by:

  • Investing in diversity and inclusion training and our HR processes have been reviewed to support this. Measures have also been put in place to ensure we are hitting targets
  • We run various apprenticeship schemes working with local schools and colleges
  • We have a flexible working policy which includes brilliant maternity benefits
  • We offer leadership training for women in tech-based roles.

Why is training and development so important for women in tech?

Training is crucial in any area but especially within an area that is underrepresented. Training gives confidence and creates opportunity.

It’s crucial that training is offered at an entry-level to ensure we are developing female talent from the bottom up. The number of females in senior positions can only be influenced if there are more females entering into the industry.

How has your experience as a personal performance and corporate coach benefitted you as MD of MediaCom North and the UK Google Practice?

Coaching is a fantastic skill to learn and reaps a whole host of benefits when used as a management and leadership style. Coaching as a tool supports collaboration and empowerment, it gives people the opportunity to find their own solutions in a supportive way.

The fundamentals of coaching act as a perfect framework for moving at pace and working through change, both of which are essential in the media/tech space. Leaders of the past worked on the basis that they had the experience and knew all the answers, whereas good leaders of the future don’t have that luxury so need to create an environment where their team feels comfortable and confident to make decisions, potentially make mistakes and move on in a positive way.

Nicola Marsh, MediaCom

Nicola Marsh, MD at MediaCom and UK Google Practice

What does Google’s upcoming decision to devalue third-party cookies in 2023 entail?

The decision means that Google is respecting users’ privacy more. However, for us in digital media, this comes as a trade-off against the data we can capture to target users and measure activity. This means that we will need to work with clients closer from a technology standpoint to ensure they have the right tech stack and features to enable them to give the best possible view of performance whilst still respecting user privacy.

How will MediaCom be preparing for Google’s devaluing of third-party cookies?

Mediacom and its Google practice are working closely with Google and our clients to understand the changing landscape and how we advise and work with clients to ensure they are in the best position.

We are putting a key focus on our clients’ first-party data and how we use this to try and fill the gaps of data that we are looking for in the depreciation of third-party cookies. As well as ensuring we are on top of the technical elements of Google products to help protect against data loss, such as Google consent mode and enhanced conversion. Both of the products will help us use modelled and observed data to feed into the Google marketing platform tools to ensure we are giving our teams and client the best view of their data to base optimisation off.

As the UK’s largest Google practice, what advice would you give tech companies that will be affected by Google devaluing third-party cookies?

My best advice is to not panic, everyone will be in a similar position. The best thing any company can do through these changes is to be agile in their working practices. As things are likely to continue to change over the next few years, continue to understand what products and tools are in the market and how they can benefit you. I would also say having a strong understanding of what data you have as a business and a first-party data strategy will stand you in good stead to adapt to any changes that may happen.