Shifting Budgets to Walled Gardens as Cookies Crumble? Here’s How to Beat 5 Common Causes of Campaign Mismanagement


In response to the impending end of third-party cookies in 2024, marketers are likely to shift more of their budgets towards walled gardens like Google, Meta, Apple, and Amazon, which offer rich first-party data and sophisticated targeting capabilities. This strategy shift may cause challenges and issues with managing campaigns and budgets. This article explores the five common causes of mismanagement and tips to avoid them.

The digital marketing landscape will forever be changed in 2024 when Google finally drops the last nail in the coffin of third-party cookies. But even with deprecation underway, just 33% of marketers believe they are well-prepared for the deprecation of third-party cookies — and just 36% are fully aware of solutions to replace them.

So, what is the right path forward?

Gartner recommends walled gardens like Google, Meta, Apple, and Amazon as key options for marketers to consider. These platforms are rich in first-party data and more insulated from signal loss than other publishers.

Digital marketing leaders should prepare by exploring how leading brands are adapting ad efforts within the walled gardens. 

Shifting at least some budgets to walled gardens — especially in the short term as solutions are figured out — makes sense. In a post-cookie world, these publishers and platforms will continue to offer sophisticated targeting, personalization, measurement, and optimization capabilities on par with (or superior to) what is currently supported on the open web today by third-party cookies. In fact, 80% of digital marketing spend is already going to walled gardens for these reasons. 

Five common causes of budget mismanagement for walled garden advertising — and tips on how to avoid them

Whenever there are significant changes in any business, mistakes can occur. One key area where marketers must remain diligent in the post-cookie media mix is managing the budget.

As every marketer knows, going over or under budget isn’t ideal.

  • Going over budget is a problem because you can’t spend money you don’t have — it will have to come from somewhere!
  • But going under budget is also an issue because you leave money on the table. For example, if your current ROAS is $5, that means that if you underspend by $100K, you just lost $500K in ad-driven revenue.

And, while brand-side marketers don’t want budget issues, it’s even more critical for agency marketers to spend their clients’ budgets properly, as they can get fired for these kinds of mistakes. 

The following are five common causes of campaign budget mismanagement and tips on avoiding them.


Going with your gut

Marketing is a blend of art and science, requiring a balance between creative intuition and data-driven analysis. Seasoned marketers sometimes lean too heavily on their experience, rather than data, for the countless decisions they face daily — choosing the optimal headline, selecting the most compelling image, picking the most effective publisher, etc. While marketers agree on the need for a data-driven approach, it’s not uncommon for decisions to be made without the level of data scrutiny that’s ideally needed. 

Tip: Double down on data-driven decision-making. Of course, small decisions might not warrant a full analysis. However, it is critical when it comes to an area such as budget management. And that raises questions about how much data and which data is needed to truly be data-driven. When it comes to budget allocation, don’t rely on one report or ROI number; you need insights from all of your channels to make intelligent budget decisions to ensure you don’t overspend or underspend. This is essential because whenever you make changes to one part of your media program, it often impacts other parts.


Not having a bird’s eye view of your campaigns

The marketing world is swiftly moving towards an omnichannel approach. This shift demands that marketers plan integrated media plans coordinated across channels, but most walled gardens are focused on a single channel, making omnichannel management much more difficult. Integrating these disconnected datasets into a single platform requires time, expertise, and constant data maintenance. One misplaced comma or unchecked box can spend your annual budget in one week.

Tip: Use tools that give you a holistic view. In a walled garden, post-cookie world, omnichannel tools aren’t just nice to have; they’re essential. These solutions are designed with the complexity of modern marketing in mind, ensuring siloed datasets across walled garden channels are harmonized and ready for action from the get-go. By having a unified view of all of their team’s marketing efforts, decision-makers can make informed choices about where and how to allocate their budgets most effectively. With this aggregated view, marketers will make fewer mistakes when reallocating budgets. 


Simple mistakes

Marketing has become more sophisticated than in years past. While this has opened up opportunities for brands to grow and maintain market share, it has also added more complexity. With more investments in walled gardens, marketers may find themselves downloading report after report, merging spreadsheets, concocting formulas for various tasks, and working with multiple agencies and tech vendors. This ongoing complexity can lead to simple errors and mistakes that can devastate your bottom line. 

Tip: Let intelligent machines watch for you. Artificial intelligence excels at poring through big datasets and identifying inefficiencies and potential budgetary issues. AI is your always-on monitor, flagging deviations and other common problems in your walled garden campaigns to ensure your budget is spent in line with your media plan. An AI-powered watchdog not only spots problems but can also flag other anomalies, such as emerging opportunities that can benefit your marketing investments — things that even a team of marketers may miss.


Bad forecasts and bad media plans

The adage garbage in, garbage out sums up this issue. Most companies, especially large corporations, set budgets for the upcoming year in October and November. That means four, six, or ten months later, marketers are managing their campaigns based on a plan using forecasts that might be a year old. While various forecasting methods and tools exist, not all approaches are equally valid. Some are accurate, but some are outright awful. Bad media plans based on bad forecasts often mean marketers are constantly in adapt/change mode to improve performance, which increases the potential for mistakes and the mismanagement of budgets.

Tip: Get a better crystal ball. Forecasting is complex. Effective forecasting tools leverage advanced algorithms and machine learning to analyze historical data, identify trends, and accurately predict future performance. This process enables marketers to anticipate changes, allocate resources efficiently, and optimize strategies for better outcomes. Ideally, if your forecasting is solid, so will your media plan; that means fewer changes — and possible budgetary errors — throughout the year.


Lack of agility

The speed of both business and consumer behavior is only accelerating. This rapid pace requires quick decision-making to drive walled-garden campaign optimizations before the window of opportunity closes. The traditionally lengthy processes of assembling reports across channels, sending them to data scientists for analysis, and finally getting those insights to the activation team to make changes is simply too slow.. Often, the key to success lies not merely in possessing superior data but in being first to market, allowing for the nimbleness needed to gain the upper hand on your competitors.

Tip: Have the right foundational tech. Streamline your optimization process for faster, more impactful insights, enabling more real-time campaign changes. To do this, you need tools and platforms that offer immediate insights to reduce optimization lag. This enables marketers to swiftly adjust campaigns in response to emerging trends and performance metrics, ensuring strategies remain aligned with current market conditions. By fostering a culture of agility and continuous improvement, marketers can stay one step ahead of their competitors.

The real need: budgets that drive performance 

As digital marketers brace for the post-cookie era, they will likely increase their reliance on walled gardens to reduce risk, especially in the short term. Rich in first-party data, these platforms enable marketers to maintain advanced campaign tactics. However, the shift will lead to a new media mix, which will come with a learning curve. Beyond the need to simply not overspend or underspend, marketers could struggle with maximizing the return on their budgets.

To navigate this landscape effectively, marketers require a forecasting and planning foundational tool with specific capabilities:

  • Seamless omnichannel integration. A platform that effortlessly aggregates inputs from various channels, providing a unified view of marketing efforts. Getting all of your data in one place is a monumental task.
  • Sophisticated AI for forecasting. A tool with advanced artificial intelligence to generate accurate predictions aids in strategic planning and budget allocation.
  • Proactive issue identification. An intelligent system capable of detecting potential inefficiencies, thereby preventing wasteful spending and ensuring budget optimization. Conversely, one that spotlights emerging opportunities to consider.

Are you looking for a platform like this? 

Check out Skai Decision Pro, a first-of-its-kind solution built for media leaders by the media experts at Skai to help you connect and contextualize all your media, enhance and accelerate your decision-making, and maximize their outcomes in one place.

With Skai Decision Pro, media executives get the connectivity, visibility, and flexibility needed to:

  • Control budget, oversee performance, and avoid overspending and underspending
  • Maximize outcomes and speed up decision-making
  • Uncover new opportunities and avoid wasteful spending

Beyond forecasting and monitoring, among the most important benefits of using Skai Decision Pro are that it makes you more agile and speeds up time-to-insight (TTI). By the time one of your rivals realizes they need to make a change, your team is already on to the next opportunity. 

For more information or to see the cutting-edge innovation of Skai Decision Pro, we invite you to schedule a quick demo today.