Drop that cookie – by Total Media Ventures and Smartifai’s Halyna Salame

Total Media Ventures and Smartifai's Halyna Salame looks at navigating the shift towards a “cookieless” internet

With Google’s announcement of removing third-party cookies by the end of 2023, the time to rethink advertising strategies is now or never. The move towards a more “cookieless” Internet may have a significant impact on online advertising. Traditionally, cookies have been a key tool for advertisers to track user activities and preferences across different websites, allowing them to deliver relevant ads to specific audiences. Without cookies, advertisers need to find alternative methods for identifying and targeting the right users.

We came to the point that changes should be done very fast. We do not have time to wait for the best solutions as the future is unclear. Should we rely on Google solutions? Use content for marketing and advertising. Is AI our answer to everything? What can be a better alternative to cookies? Surely, all those questions are parts of one puzzle that we must solve.

Here are some alternatives for cookies in the digital world based on current trends in media:

  1. First-party data: With privacy concerns growing, many companies are relying more heavily on first-party data, which is data that they collect directly from their own customers or users. This data can be used to personalise content and advertising without relying on third-party cookies.
  2. Local Storage: This is a way for websites to store data on a user’s device without using cookies. Local storage can be used for things like user preferences or login information.
  3. Contextual targeting: It allows targeting ads based on the content of the website or page being viewed rather than the user’s behaviour. By analysing the content that users are currently viewing, advertisers can display ads that are more likely to resonate with them. Contextual advertising can be effective but less precise than targeting based on user data, and it may be more difficult for advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.
  4. Consent-based advertising: Some companies are experimenting with consent-based advertising, where users can choose which types of ads they want to see and which data they’re willing to share with advertisers. This approach puts more control in the hands of users, which could help build trust and improve the overall advertising experience.
  5. Fingerprinting: Fingerprinting is a technique which involves the collection of data such as browser type, screen resolution and device information to create a unique user profile. However, fingerprinting can be controversial as well raising privacy and accuracy concerns. Unlike cookies, which can be cleared or blocked by users, fingerprinting is much harder to control or opt out of.
  6. As a result, some internet privacy advocates have expressed concerns about the use of fingerprinting in only advertising. Some web browsers and ad networks have also taken steps to limit or prevent fingerprint usage, either through technical means or stricter privacy policies.
  7. Server-side tracking: This involves tracking users by recording their actions on a server, rather than on their device. This method can be less invasive than using cookies or fingerprinting but may still be subject to privacy concerns.
  8. Privacy-focused browsers: Several available browsers prioritise user privacy and limit the use of cookies and other tracking techniques. Examples include Brave, Tor, DuckDuckGo, etc.

While alternatives for cookies in digital advertising offer new opportunities, they also come with challenges that need to be addressed. Here are some challenges to consider:

  1. Privacy concerns: With the growing concern about data privacy, advertisers and publishers need to be mindful of how they collect and use data to personalise content and advertising. Any alternative solution needs to be privacy-focused and transparent in terms of data collection and use.
  2. User consent: As we move towards more consent-based approaches to advertising, it’s important to give users more control over their data and the types of ads they see. Advertisers need to be clear and upfront about what data they’re collecting and how it will be used.
  3. Effectiveness: While alternatives like contextual targeting and first-party data can be effective, they may not be as precise as cookies in terms of targeting and personalisation. Advertisers will need to carefully evaluate the effectiveness of these alternative solutions and be willing to adapt and refine their strategies over time.
  4. Regulatory compliance: With new regulations like GDPR and CCPA, companies need to be aware of their obligations when it comes to collecting and using data for advertising purposes. Any alternative solutions must comply with these regulations to avoid potential legal and financial consequences.
  5. User experience: While advertisers need to personalise content and advertising, it’s also important to ensure that the user experience is not negatively impacted. Advertisers should strive to strike a balance between personalisation and user experience.
  6. Data accuracy: With the loss of third-party cookies, it’s important to ensure that the data being used for advertising purposes is accurate and up-to-date. Advertisers may need to invest in data quality and verification processes to ensure that they’re working with reliable data.

In summary, the move towards a “cookieless” internet presents challenges and opportunities for advertisers. Advertisers will need to rethink their targeting strategies and explore alternative methods for reaching and engaging audiences. This may involve a greater focus on first-party data, contextual targeting, consent-based advertising, and other alternatives that rely less on third-party cookies.

At the same time, advertisers will need to be transparent about their data collection and use practices and prioritise user privacy to build trust with users. This could involve implementing clear and concise privacy policies, providing users with more control over their data, and being more upfront about how data is being used for advertising purposes. By being proactive and strategic in their approach, advertisers can continue to deliver relevant and engaging ads to users while also respecting their privacy and building trust.

By Halyna Salame, Associate Director – Agency Partnership , Total Media Ventures and Smartifai.