Allyson Ward, Associate Media Director

What’s The Skinny with Cookies?

When looking at the evolution of the cookie and Chrome’s announcement to eliminate them by 2022, two questions come to mind as advertisers. The first, how is this going to fundamentally change the way I reach consumers and the second, how in the world am I going to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message without them? In fact, when I first heard the news, I have to admit that I was a bit cynical about the whole thing, and considered that there was no way that Google wouldn’t have something else up its sleeve that benefited its business while leaving competitors to forge their own paths, creating a decentralized system that makes Google stronger. That said, after watching countless webinars and reading dozens of articles, it was time to get off of the singular track that I was on, and look back to the WHY behind the announcement. All roads lead back to the consumer and their perception of data safety.

Data can be wonderful if used correctly. That said, it also raises concerns with consumers around what info businesses actually know about them and how their data is being used. Cue the standards that the ad industry cherishes with partners such as the IAB. 

Let’s reflect on the differences between a cookie and actual data. While it’s easy to understand why a consumer would be concerned around data privacy, it’s also important to properly categorize cookies as anonymous and randomized IDs that allows advertisers to follow a consumer’s browsing history across the web. What many consumers don’t necessarily consider is the quid pro quo relationship that they have with the internet. Of course we’re all paying for wifi to allow our devices to go online, but what happens when you get there?

If we consider that nothing in life is free, we can more closely evaluate who is paying for our content consumption on publisher sites and in digital apps. In some cases, it’s the consumer when they pay a publisher to access content (likely without ads). However, what’s more likely is that the content and apps that being consumed are working off of a freemium model, which is where there is a value exchange to be considered. The exchange for individuals to consume content, games, and social apps all tie back to advertising. 

If you’re not a part of the marketing world and you’re reading through this, you may be thinking to yourself that advertising won’t go away, just the cookies and thus I have more control of my data. While true in theory, it could also open up an unexpected can of worms as reaching the consumers advertisers want to talk to becomes more challenging.

Consider the following:

  1. If CPMs decrease because advertisers are focusing on less data driven approaches to targeting, publishers may need to provide more ad space on their sites and apps to maintain their revenue numbers and produce consistent content.
  2. To combat this and ensure data is taken into account, consumers may find themselves logging into their browser or websites as they enter so that pubs can ensure advertisers are able to use a new source of data from login information and create a sense of security that they’re reaching the right audience.
  3. You may find advertisers taking a step back from spending as many dollars across the open web. If that happens, the next best choice may be walled gardens such as Facebook or Google that can focus on people based targeting. Relying on walled gardens more heavily poses the threat that these large powerhouses could get an even more substantial piece of the ad spend pie.

Testing Alternative Solutions:


After understanding the challenges that lie ahead, it’s important to start testing alternative solutions now so that we’re better prepared as advertisers as we wait for the display world to figure out what’s next.

First Party Data: First party data has always been incredibly important, but it’s playing a bigger role now than ever before. The industry is urging advertisers to continue ramping up their data collection so that they already have their most important audiences on hand.

Artificial Intelligence: AI Tech typically doesn’t rely on cookies alone and is able to optimize towards goals and draw effective results with the right audience. AI tech is continuously growing, with many new vendors in the space and more breaking through. The earlier you test, the better suited you will be for the cookieless future.

Contextual Targeting: While contextual targeting won’t be the only solution in a post-cookie world, having a line item in your campaign to target this way is more important than ever to gain learnings for your brand. Contextual targeting is also growing up. Vendors in the contextual space are finding ways to use AI to scan images and read between the lines of articles, making this an intriguing and incredibly simple way to start testing beyond third party data.

As marketers, we know that there will be a continued evolution on the topic of cookies over the next few years. The most important thing to do now is test, get comfortable with new ways of looking at data and targeting, and continue to have open minds for testing as we work through the changes.