Cookiepocalypse: The Rapidly Approaching End of the Third Party Cookie

What will the future of advertising after the disappearance of the cookie look like? – Golden times are coming for publishers and website makers.




If Facebook, with quarterly revenues of $28 billion, is worried, then something is wrong. Mark Zuckerberg is having sleepless nights over what American media is calling the cookiepocalypse: the rapidly approaching end of the third-party cookie. Cookies are bits of data that allow Internet users to be tracked very closely, enabling ads to be shown in a highly targeted way.


But the cookie topic has tilted, because of growing social awareness on data privacy and an increased consciousness among regulators to protect Internet users. Collecting data for commercial gain is no longer accepted. The big tech giants also see the writing on the wall: last year web browsers like Safari and Mozilla Firefox already banned third party cookies, as well as Apple who announced to protect users from large-scale data collection. In 2022 the final blow will probably come when Google Chrome, the world’s most widely used web browser, will start blocking third party cookies. The cookie-free world is on the rise.



This will have a huge impact on advertisers, publishers and website creators. After all, for years the cookie has been decisive for effective online advertising, to enable marketers to target their users and thereby place their ads in relevant context. The better the collection and analysis of cookies, the more directly target groups could be reached. At least, that is how it worked in theory, because the focus on cookies also blinded some people to another important factor: in which environment will the potential customer actually see my ads?


Above all, the impending end of the third-party cookie offers a great deal of opportunity. In the post-cookie world, publishers and website makers will be more valuable than ever. Because from 2021 onwards, anyone who wants to reach their target group can do so with contextual advertising.



Contextual advertising is placing ads near content that is highly relevant to the target audience. It’s a familiar premise of advertising: an ad for a new athletic shoe will be most effective on a website with sports news. After all, that’s where the target audience can be found. Moreover, research shows that if a user rates the environment in which an ad is shown as high quality, the reputation transitions to the ad – the so-called Halo effect. Content is therefore more important than ever.


For that solution, publishers and website creators are crucial. After all, they specialize in producing relevant and reliable content for their target audience. The more they connect with the lives of their readers, the more valuable their advertising space is, Stefan Havik Director at DPG Media argues. A golden age has dawned for the savvy publisher and website creator.


The Dutch Magazines Het Financieele Dagblad and Wired wrote about the extraordinary story of the nation’s public broadcaster NPO, which on its own has already switched to completely cookie-free advertising. Through advanced data analysis of all TV programs, the public broadcaster can sell highly relevant advertising space to advertisers, who are happy to pay for it. And all that without using cookies. NRC Media has also largely turned its back on cookies.



What can be learned from the NPO case: the cookiepocalypse in no way means a return to bygone advertising times, with men in Mad Men suits and ad campaigns that were deployed at random, in the hope of reaching the target group. Modern contextual advertising means a renewed appreciation for the expertise of publishers, media agencies, advertisers and brands. Moreover, that expertise is combined with data analysis and technological developments, making contextual advertising more accurate, faster and more relevant than ever. Case in point:


At Showheroes, we have our technology running a scan at lightning speed whenever a website affiliated with us publishes new content. It makes it possible to determine the tone, emotion and angle of the content, during the blink of an eye. Because of the enormous amount of data that is obtained, it even turns out to be possible to build an accurate picture of the user’s interests, without the need for user data.


This new reality is not only a theory, it practically also shows the value of contextual advertising. When data analysts from an advertiser client at ShowHeroes recently studied the results of a contextual advertising campaign from January 2021, they blinked: the view through rate had more than doubled, while the click through rate had increased no less than fivefold. At the end of last year, we were thus reaching almost 12 million people per month, a mere eighty percent of Internet users over the age of thirteen in the Netherlands.



This revaluation of high-quality content is a boost for reliable, original stories. This development is more broadly visible in society: the number of digital subscriptions to quality media is rising. Netflix demonstrates in living rooms worldwide how unique content is of great value.


In this new reality, publishers and website creators even have an edge over the social media companies that were untouchable for so long. After all, Facebook refuses to take responsibility for the expressions on its platform, leaving companies to fear that their ads will be seen alongside objectionable or offensive content. Contextual advertising is a safe and lucrative alternative to the unregulated jungle of social media. No wonder that Facebook is concerned.


We are about to experience exciting times in the cookiepocalypse. The reshuffling of online advertising brings uncertainty. Already we can see how the creativity of publishers and website makers is gaining a new appreciation, as advertisers see the value of contextual advertising. Technological developments and data analysis are making contextual advertising measurable, more accurate and effective. For advertising agencies and media agencies, the work has only become more enjoyable, as their creativity, craftsmanship and a good network are decisive in this new world. Who knows, we might even see the return of the suits from Mad Men.




This article was first published on Adformatie by Olivier Barger. Find the original article here.