A future without advertising cookies? It's possible! Really?


After a six-month research, advertising cookies turn out to be ‘useless’. Well, according to the recently published STER cookie report. Not very surprising taking into account that this is what they have been offering since January 2020; digital advertising without the use of cookies. But they do see something in contextual targeting, which is personalized advertising based on the content on the site. In the end we are all heading that way, browsers like Safari and Firefox already block cookies by default and Google Chrome will also implement this mid-2021. But, are we following the results of the STER research or do we have to take a closer look? Are cookies really worthless? We did a deepdive and will share our most important findings and conclusions at the end of this article.

future advertising cookieless ster

The Research

STER examined the result of the same ad, using two strategies. One supported by cookie data from site visitors who gave permission and the other was based on visitors who did not give permission for personalized ads based on cookies.

The Results

Within the Display campaigns of “Eliza Was Here”, “Etos”, “Krant.nl” and “American Express”, the difference between CTR and landing percentage was almost nil. The quality of the clicks (based on bounce rate, session duration and pages visited per session) for the “Eliza Was Here” campaign was higher on cookie-free advertising, but in the case of “Etos” the best results were gained with cookie-driven campaigns. So far, the score is set on 1-1.

In addition to clicks and their quality, STER also examined whether there was a difference based on conversions. In all cases, the best results were gained with cookie-free advertising. The advertisements placed in a relevant environment turned out to work better than ads that were placed random in the NPO network in combination with data. The score is set on 2-1 for cookie-free advertising.

Online Video
For Online Video campaigns, the most important metric for advertisers is View Through Rate (VTR) followed by Click Through Rate (CTR). For both cases, cookie-free advertising on the NPO network won again, especially the VTR was higher. Another defeat for cookie driven advertising (3-1 already), although two very important questions remain unanswered: The first question, does VTR and video on demand really infect each other? After all, if someone wants to view an NPO show on demand, this will often be done very consciously. In addition, the video will start long after given permission for cookie usage. The quality of the NPO content is generally of "high" quality. Then the cookie wall should not have much to do with this in advance. The second question is about the comparison that was made between cookie-free advertising on the STER and programmatic advertising with cookies, but outside the STER. Here as well, the cookie-free ads are performing better on VTR, CTR and landing ratio. However, the problem here is that there is no pure A / B test. After all, as mentioned earlier, the shows that were viewed on the NPO network are of higher quality than those of other unknown channels.

Generic vs. Specific

It is very important to consider what kind of personalized data it concerns, which unfortunately is not mentioned in the report. If we are looking for men between the ages of 18 and 45, it could indeed be that this is too broad and the euros that we invest in this data are wasted because it is too generic. However, if we want to reach a very specific target group, e.g. "homeowners with garden" or "wine lovers", it could be interesting to use cookie driven data. Of course, it is always the question how this third party data is collected, but that is another discussion.

The “Conclusion”

When we take a look on the display campaigns, it seems that contextual targeting works better. Especially when we focus on the conversion rate. However, with only four different brands, where we do not know which target group and which data was used, we cannot yet make a conclusive judgment.

For Online Video, there are too many questions to immediately state that, as STER says, “non-personalized (without cookies) ads are just as effective as personalized (with cookies) ads”.

Of course, in the end we are moving away from cookie-driven campaigns and that’s not necessarily bad. But to say that everything is just better without cookies, has absolutely not (yet) been proven. There are more options and lots of parties are actively developing new possibilities at the moment.

If you like to know more about these developments, then this article by Joan Hoekstra which we published recently is a must-read: click here! The full STER cookie report can be downloaded here: https://www.ster.nl/onderzoek/een-toekomst-zonder-advertentiecookies-het-kan/

By Sven Bon

future advertising cookieless ster
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