Navigating cookie limitations for enhanced user experience

The ad tech landscape is transitioning towards more inclusive and privacy-centric advertising that aligns with data privacy regulations and consumers’ rising demand for privacy-first practices.

Before this shift, audience categorisation heavily depended on third-party cookies, which target users based on their demographics and past behaviour.

This approach, known as identity-based targeting, is now facing significant challenges since Google started phasing out third-party cookies from Chrome in early 2024.

To effectively reach users, advertisers should consider targeting beyond these cookies, especially considering that Chrome is the largest and most widely used web browser.

What are cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of text sent to your browser by a website you visit. There are two types of cookies: first-party cookies and third-party cookies. First-party cookies are here to stay, as they’re necessary for a website’s performance. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are those being deprecated.

Third-party cookies are created and stored by external parties other than the browser you’re currently visiting, and are commonly used for tracking user behavior across multiple websites for targeted advertising.

Why are cookies being deprecated?

Consumers’ increased awareness and rising frustration around data privacy, together with governments implementing more stringent data privacy regulations has resulted in the phase out of third-party cookies by major web browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Google Chrome. Soon, over 80 per cent of the world’s browsers will no longer support third-party cookies.

The rise of interest-based targeting 

In the search for sustainable advertising practices that respect user privacy and are free from intrusive third-party cookies, interest-based targeting arises as a promising solution. 

Interest-based targeting goes well beyond identity-based targeting by not focusing on who’s behind the screen. Instead of tracking users based on their demographics and past behaviour, interest-based targeting focuses on a user’s current areas of interest and the context of the content they consume.

As a result, this approach breaks away from stereotypes and is regarded as a more effective, non-intrusive, and privacy-centric alternative.

Taking a closer look at the features of interest-based targeting, this approach enables personalisation and allows marketers to tailor ads to individual preferences, thus enhancing relevance and engagement.

Users are more likely to engage and resonate with the ad because it aligns with what they’re looking for in the moment. And since the ads blend with the content they’re reading, the ads don’t hamper their browsing experience.

One effective strategy within interest-based targeting is contextual targeting, which leverages advanced contextual AI technologies to reach consumers based on what they’re interested in at present and by displaying ads that align with the content they’re consuming.

With contextual targeting, advertisers appeal to a more relevant customer base with ads that align with their real-time interests. Brands and agencies can rely on this technology to target precise interests rather than broad stereotypes, capturing their target audience’s attention and engaging them at the optimal moment to maximize campaign effectiveness.

The end of third-party cookies is fast approaching, but it’s not too late to explore privacy-centric alternatives that overcome the limitations of identity-based targeting.

Advertisers aiming for success in the privacy-first era of ad tech should embrace interest-based targeting, leveraging contextual AI to reach the right audience effectively, while respecting user privacy.

By Sherry Mansour, Managing Director at Seedtag MENA