The Death of Cookies: What Does the Advertising Landscape of the Future Look Like?

By Jorge Poyatos, Co-CEO and Co-founder, Seedtag

From reading articles to browsing through social media platforms, the internet is full of cost-free content available at the click of a button, but this is not a coincidence. Much of the “free” content on the Internet comes at a price to users, who are subjected to ads that are targeted specifically to them. 

A New Dawn

For the past 30 years, advertising has been based on targeting audiences based on stereotypes, but today people are more diverse than ever. Stereotypes are no longer effective. Cookies have played a key role in helping brands to target audiences based on these stereotypes, being effectively used to identify consumer trends. However, with consumers becoming more conscious of how their data is being taken advantage of, cookies are on the way out. 

The problem with cookies is not a problem with its technology but with its lack of privacy. In turn, the advertising industry needs to modernise the way it targets people to fit today’s world, because in today’s world, privacy is hugely important. Every action taken that gives people control over their personal data is a good thing for society.

In response to these growing privacy concerns, we have already seen large web browsers such as Safari and Firefox block third-party cookies, soon to be followed by Google Chrome. In addition to this, Apple has also released an update to its Safari platform, named the Intelligent Tracking Prevention which allows the web browser to block cookies.

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Brands Must Innovate

Of course, walled gardens will continue to remain an option for advertisers, allowing them interact with their potential clients using first party data – and this is completely fine. However, the question remains: what will happen in the open web without cookies? Let’s not forget that the open web still concentrates roughly 75% of total time spent by users. That’s where contextual advertising comes into play.

Considering a post-cookie landscape, brands will be forced to rely on new technologies in order to target relevant audiences with their marketing campaigns. In such a competitive environment, not only will advertisers have to find alternative solutions that don’t involve cookies, but they will have to continue to become even more effective with their campaigns in order to stay on top of the competition. 

Once cookies are completely eradicated, those that remained proactive in their search for new solutions will reap immediate rewards as others struggle to find an effective way to target audiences without the use of third-party data. But how can this transition be achieved successfully?

The Future is Contextual

Contextual targeting performs a full-page analysis to place ads on relevant content for brands – similarly to behavioural targeting. However, where behavioural advertising relies on third-party data of specific users to follow them around the internet with ads, contextual advertising utilizes artificial intelligence to provide human-like understanding of the content. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to understand context. The technology gathers information from areas such as web page sentiment, the nuance of the language being used on these pages, tone of images and video, and will publish creatives that best fit the context in which it is being served. As a result, audiences are provided with relevant and engaging content without sacrificing their personal data. Advertisers can maximize the value of the ads that they are serving while providing a high-quality user experience.

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Delivering Impactful Campaigns

The question is, how is that user experience improved in a post-cookie landscape? As mentioned above, contextual targeting can provide ads that complement the context in which they are served. It allows brands to utilize a broad range of innovative capabilities and tools to reach the best contextual integration with content. As a result, ads are found more attractive, enjoyable and interesting by users.

For example, the technology can integrate an ad directly into an article’s image, while keeping roughly 40% of the original image in view. This allows the ad itself to cover a sufficient space, but always maintains complete integration with the image without covering it – keeping it non-intrusive. With ads that are seamlessly blended into content that the audience is interested in, they can drive strong engagement with relevant audiences that are targeted by the context of the content they are consuming. 

Contextual AI keeps brands safe while improving favorability, and the specific placement also helps them to be highly impactful. Contextually placed ads – whether these are in-image, in-video or even in-article or in-screen – lead to stronger recall memorability for users, landing better with audiences and creating a strong impact.

Everyone’s a Winner

As we hurtle toward a cookieless world, it’s important to recognize the major wins presented to consumers, publishers, and brands by a post-cookie landscape. Third-party data may have previously given the advertising industry a bad name, but not all hope is lost. 

With new solutions incorporated into campaigns – such as contextual advertising – brand trust can begin to be rebuilt. Suddenly, consumers are no longer worried about how their private information is being used because they’ll no longer have to give it up. Furthermore, the ads that they are being served continue to be highly relevant and engaging – and they don’t disrupt the user experience.

From a publisher’s perspective, they can rest easy in the knowledge that the ads they are promoting on their site don’t actively turn users away. The likes of pop-ups and interstitial ads can be extremely overwhelming for site visitors, and can quite understandably be a reason for never returning to a page. Contextual targeting removes that threat.

Finally, brands themselves will be able to create both brand safety and favorability through their advertising campaigns, while reaching relevant audiences and seeing true return on investment for their efforts.

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