The Death of the Cookie Monster
And what it means for high-traffic online publishers
We knew it was coming. We’ve known it for a while – we could feel the cookie-less winds blowing ever since GDPR happened.
And then, in January 2020 the official announcement came. Google will do away with cookies, for good. They promised to be done with the job by 2021, to the horror of anyone who depends on these tiny but oh-so-powerful information bites.
The deadline was then moved to 2022, leaving some breathing room to figure out how the digital advertising industry should cope.
Is there reason to panic?
The short answer is ‘no’, no need to panic. The large stakeholders of the digital advertising industry would never do anything to hurt… themselves.
What this means is that cookies are leaving and relevant other solutions will step in to replace them in a way that will align better with today’s privacy standards.
In general, the solutions are focused on:
A, 1st party data that can be acquired from different sources, or
B, advanced machine learning technology that replaces individual information with statistical models.
Now that nobody is panicking, let’s move on with our FAQs.
What is being lost exactly?
Starting next year, third-party cookies will be taken out of the equation. What are third-party cookies anyway, you ask?
A first-party cookie is code an entity may put on its own websites. Third-party cookies are codes put on websites by other entities such as online advertisers. These cookies (unlike first-party cookies) enable the cookie’s owner to track user movement throughout websites where their codes are implemented.
Handy real-life example: this is how the coat you looked at on an online store pops up in ads on random websites you visit for the next 90 days.
What will stay?
The good news: first-party cookies will not disappear. Diligent websites, who ask their users for consent can still place cookies and track them. That said, first-party cookies do not enable tracking outside that specific domain – but enables the publisher to map out user movement within their own site and recognize them when they return.
Handy real-life example: When you visit that online store next time, the items you placed in your cart will still be there.
How will this affect content recommendation advertising?
Advertisers do use third-party cookies to target and retarget users throughout websites, and the shutting down of cookies will certainly affect publisher revenues. However, experts predict the numbers will recover once workaround solutions kick in.
Currently, multiple solutions are being explored by the many entities impacted by the planned changes. Among them are increased usage of 3rd party data sources, intent-based advertising, and fingerprinting. Furthermore, information (cookies) collected by the publisher itself might be used to identify the right content recommendation topics for each user.
Now let’s take a closer look at the potential workarounds.
WORKAROUNDS I. – 3rd party data agreements
The easiest way to gain access to data is to close agreements with domains that issue first-party cookies.
The third-party entity can gain access to a website’s first-party cookie by receiving the key to the code they are using. This way they will be able to recognize the cookies issued by the website and read its content.
Another way is to ask the first party domain to use the advertiser’s code as if it was their own. This way encrypting is not an issue anymore, the advertiser will be able to identify users – and the domain will benefit from the personalized ads that the advertiser is serving to their visitors.
Note, this solution runs into red tape in EU countries and California, where relevant legislation has been passed to fully prevent third-party access to data.
WORKAROUNDS II. – Intent-based marketing
Intent-based marketing doesn’t use personalized data. It tracks the users’ behavior from the second they enter the domain, and compares it with other visitors’ behavior. Taking into consideration where the visitors arrived from, where they clicked, and what they looked at within the site, the machine learning algorithm behind the intent-based attribution machine determines what those users are interested in and/or seeking.
WORKAROUNDS III. – Fingerprinting
Without cookies, websites cannot identify individual visitors anymore – or can they?
Instead of collecting and storing unique identifiers about a visitor in a cookie, websites can gather easily available information like the device the visitor is using, the browser type, the applications on their phone, their time zone, and more to create a unique fingerprint.
This unique constellation of information identifies the individual without a cookie and enables advertisers to track and serve ads uniquely targeted based on these specific parameters.
How come WhizzCo never used (and will never use) cookies?
While some native ad vendors might have to update their modus operandi, WhizzCo is a GDPR-safe, cookie-free solution for publishers interested in increasing their native ad revenue in a compliant way.
Our operations are based on our sophisticated neural network algorithm that considers a multitude of factors to accurately predict the winner of each and every ad auction.