Is the Cookie Crumbling?

One of this year’s most talked about issues in the world of digital marketing is the fact that browsers are changing their policy to allow users to block third-party tracking cookies.

The era of the cookie as a tool for collecting data about consumers, and using it for targeting ads, is crumbling.

This follows on Mozilla’s Firefox 69, which already blocks third-party tracking cookies by default, and Apple has similar cookie restrictions on its Safari web browser for Macs and iPhones, which go even further by destroying first-party cookies after only one day.

The latest blow struck at cookies has come from Google Chrome – the browser that accounts for 67% of desktop/laptop usage. The Chrome Canary (experimental) version of the browser is currently testing a feature which allows users greater controls over tracking cookies and how their data is shared in general.

Online Privacy

The big cookie crackdown is apparently in reaction to internet users’ demands for more online privacy, taking GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which came into force back in May, 2018, a step further.

Third party tracking cookies being blocked may be appreciated by some users who don’t like being targeted by ads, but first party cookies are generally useful for most of us, keeping note of login details to specific sites or storing our preferences, for example. The new Chrome cookie controls allow for blocking third-party cookies while leaving first-party cookies enabled.

Being able to turn cookies on and off is definitely beneficial for the masses, but it also leaves digital advertisers up a creek without a paddle. Data about consumers is crucial – what they’re shopping for, what videos they watch, what they read or search for online. It all helps the digital marketing industry to target people with ads that are personalised to their needs and interests. Many digital advertisers have decided to revert back to more simple contextual targeting.

Seeing as Google is largely dependent on its huge advertising revenue, it seems that allowing users to slice out cookies is akin to cutting off the nose to spite the face.

There’s presumably more to it than just a commitment to – in the words of Prabhakar Raghavan, SVP Google Ads & Commerce – “a new level of ads transparency”. Some industry movers and shakers have speculated that Google might be planning an earth-shattering dominant replacement for the cookie system that will steer the adtech market to their advantage going forward. Time will tell!

If you are curious as to Google’s full motivation, read Prabhakar Raghavan’s blog which was published when the plans to upgrade cookie controls were announced.

All is not Lost

Before you start panicking about how you’ll forge ahead with your digital marketing and advertising campaigns in Chrome’s post-cookie world, consider some factors that may ameliorate the blow:

  • Consumers are generally slow to react to new browser features, especially ones that require delving too deeply into settings menus, so in the short term there should not be too many cookies being blocked.
  • There are plenty of users who don’t object to cookies and in fact prefer to have their preferences conveniently recognised and stored.
  • Don’t forget the fact that cookies bear no relation to mobile apps, where there are great opportunities for digital marketing.
  • There is a school of thought that believes that consumer behavioural insights that are gathered by cookies are not really relevant and useful. More can be achieved through smart SEO and first-rate content with keyword targeting.

Yes, it may be frightening for digital marketers to contemplate that the cookie is crumbling, but they have been around for about 25 years so are perhaps becoming a little stale anyway! The whole industry is in the same boat, so it is time to move on, innovate and look for new ways of reaching out to the audience.

Here at Dentons Digital our cracking team are on the case, keeping up with the latest trends and developments, so that we can make sure we run efficient, data-driven digital advertising campaigns for our clients.

And don’t worry, we still keep cookies in our cupboards, in case you wanted to pop in for a coffee and a chat to get some digital advice.

About The Author

Phil Mitchell

Phil Mitchell

Phil has been interested in technology since he got his first Acorn Electron and started programming in basic. He has worked for many companies in the digital field whether that is developing or marketing. His main skillset is driving traffic primarily via PPC advertising as he said ‘it is binary you spend X amount and need to make more than that to profit. You either make a profit or not there is no talking around it.’

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