The Cookie-less Era: the future of Internet Advertising


In these crazy times, where everybody is more digitally connected than ever, many companies are organizing webinars. I was fortunate to be able to follow a series of three webinars, initiated by IAB Nederland, about the cookieless era that we are all getting in to.

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Already 40% of the Internet usage is without (3rd party) cookies. Safari and Firefox already started blocking  3rd party cookies some time ago, Chrome’s deadline is approaching rapidly and Google announced at the beginning of this year that all 3rd party cookies will disappear within 2 years from now.

This series of webinars gives some answers to the many questions, and gives some insight on the impact this has on online advertising and also offers possible solutions for a future without cookies. Each webinar hosted three speakers, of various disciplines, to give their view on the developments.

What this series of webinars has taught me is that there are some very promising alternatives for 3rd party cookies. Especially when we look at 1st party cookies (e.g. logins) or contextual targeting.

It is also evident that the whole industry (brands, publishers ánd tech companies) is working hard to find solutions. I believe that we are moving towards a much more qualitative way of online advertising and that brands can have a truly added value for consumers.

Marketingfacts has published an excellent outline of all three webinars (links below).


In this article a short summary, in English, of the webinars.

Part one:   What impact have cookieless browsers on advertising

Speakers: Bryan Nelson, Northern Europe Marketing Data & Architecture Lead at Google; Dennis Buchheim, President of IAB Tech Lab; Wouter Hulst, founder of 201 Connected Media.

The key question of this first webinar: “what impact has the loss of cookies on digital advertising” is not exactly answered, but I think we can overall agree that the impact is large. It is evident that all strategies and tactics based on 3rd party cookies will become obsolete in a very short period of time.

It is crucial that large companies, for example browsers like Google, but also large tech companies are prepared for this. Fortunately, there are a number of promising initiatives that are being developed and that are showing a large willingness of different stakeholders in our industry to collaborate.

Google started an initiative, together with the whole branche, to look for privacy friendly solutions for the 3rd party cookie and also for fingerprinting. This initiative, called Privacy Sandbox, is working on a number of solutions, e.g. one how groups of users (instead of individuals) can be identified based on their browsing behaviour, where the browser (instead of the advertiser) holds the knowledge about people’s interests. There are several ways in which one can participate in the Privacy  Sandbox initiative (as an interested follower Chromium-blog, or testing and proposing possible solutions).

Another great initiative is Project Rearc, from the IAB Tech Lab. The idea behind Project Rearc is based on trust. To create an environment (technical standards and guidelines) that satisfies the need of the consumers, but is also workable for advertisers and brands. In this environment the consumer has total control of what is shown to them (privacy by default) and understands and acknowledges that more and other content is accessible in exchange for data. More about this project on this page.

The third speaker in this session, Wouter Hulst of 201 Connected Media, advocates that we shouldn’t wait for the large tech companies like Google (or Facebook) to come up with a solution. He believes in the power of local initiatives and presents two options:

a Local (i.e. National) login –  consumers needing a login account before they can access the internet. Both advertisers and publishers share their content with each other and coordinate advertising.

Content Classification – use the strong content of Dutch media to target audiences (e.g. article for women to be shown only to women) in combination with the data that NOBO (Nederlands Online Bereiksonderzoek) provides.

Both solutions are technically possible but will require an extensive collaboration of all parties involved.

Part two: addressability in a cookieless world, how?

Speakers: Bernard de Vreede Data Strategy Benelux  at Ebay; Travis Clinger, Sr. Vice president Addressability and Ecosystem  at LiveRamp; Slaven Mandic, director of Advertising at Mediahuis

In this second part of the series, the focus lies on ways to maintain addressability, even in a cookieless world. The outcome of this webinar is that we need to be focusing more on obtaining 1st party data.  All three speakers in this webinar agree on the essential importance of login data or consent marketing if you will.

One company that has been focusing on 1st party cookies for some time, is Marktplaats.

They explain to their users why collecting data is important, and builds on the user’s consent to gain insights. As a result, 80% of its users logs in. At the beginning of this year, Marktplaats developed a proposition in which they match their CRM system (encrypted) with the CRM system of an advertiser. By doing this you can also create lookalike audiences and thus aim for new prospects.

LiveRamp, a leading data connectivity platform, uses login data as the basis of their Data Connectivity Platform, which is used by a large number of DPS’s and SSP’s. They believe that trust is the most important building block for a new ecosystem,  where the internet users are in control and decide what data they want to share. LiveRamp is part of The Advertising ID Consortium (founded in 2017) which works on solutions for addressability without 3rd party cookies (e.g. adding people based ID’s like email to the bidstream). The future lies in creating scale for their solutions, and form partnerships with SSP’s, DSP’s and publishers, to minimize the impact of losing the 3rd party cookies.

The last speaker of this second webinar, Slaven Mandic of Mediahuis Nederland, is an enthusiastic advocate for a universal login. If all media companies unite in setting up a new infrastructure, in which users have to registrate to get access, it is possible for advertisers to still reach their audience without cookies. This ecosystem, a walled garden, in which only local media are represented, services both consumers and advertisers.

Part three: targeting without personal data

Speakers: Linda Worp, Productmanager Digital at STER; Reynder Bruyns, Head of Strategy at iProspect; Jakub Skwarski, European Customer Success Manager at Digiseg

How is advertising and marketing going to look like without using personal data? Which targeting methods will survive and how can we still approach the right person for our message. It is evident for all involved that the quality of data is priority number one. Because we can no longer buy countless impressions based on cookies, but instead have to earn it based on people’s consent, it becomes more and more important to be relevant and to the point.

STER saw a huge decline in their advertising business when GDPR was introduced. Instead of relying on people opting for personalized ads (of which only 10% survived after GDPR) they set up a new ecosystem. By using the old fashioned technique of teletext (888-subtitles) and cross references to Wikipedia, it is possible to build a context, editorial surroundings, in which a commercial message can be shown. Contextual advertising has proven to be very successful for STER. An elaborate report about the results will be published very soon.

The next speaker, ‘our very own’ Reynder Bruyns, from iProspect, agrees with Lind Worp from STER that the future lies with contextual advertising. After all, the effects of ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) are getting more significant the lower you get in the funnel. People are not looking for personalized ads, on the contrary, most find it spooky. Though contextual targeting is key, it has to meet certain conditions (mostly emotional) to be relevant to the consumer and to have the effect that brands are looking for. When you have more insight in which moments matter to your audience, what their interests and needs are, you can connect better.

As ideal as this may sound, there are also some pitfalls about contextual advertising. Context may say something about the interests of a consumer, but not necessarily so about purchase intent. But by connecting it to other sources (like the STER example) results may improve.

The search for cookie alternatives focusses on three different options: contextual targeting, location data and household characteristics.
The latter two are the focus of the final speaker of this episode, Jakub Swarski of Digiseg. He believes that looking at household data and living environment reveals a lot about the personal and financial situation of a person, and moreover these data are very stable and not often subject to change and,  most importantly, 100% compliable with GDPR.

If I would have to name three key take-outs of these webinars it would be the following:

    1. 3rd party cookies are becoming obsolete very rapidly

    2. Do not wait for new user ID solutions, start working on a 1st party strategy

    3. Do not personalize, focus on context and earn people’s consent

If you want to be kept in the loop of all developments, there is the  IAB Europe Guide to the Post Third-Party Cookie Era. This is an overview of all developments around the third-party cookie abolishment and is updated continuously.

By Joan Hoekstra

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