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How start-ups can advertise in the cookie-less world

online advertising
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/mtkang)

The cookie has crumbled, and it has plunged Marketers and Advertisers into dark waters. They know that they will eventually find a way to the surface, but how long will that take? 

Before we get into the topic, let’s refresh what a cookie is. Unlike the non-threatening delicacies of our offline world, online cookies are small text files of data that track our computer system when we visit a page on the internet. Yes, all our visits and activities were monitored by them. This is not always a bad thing. For one, it can help to improve our browsing experience. That being said, it was definitely infringing on our privacy. 

This January when Google announced that they plan to phase out support for third-party cookies on their chrome browser by 2022, it signaled an end of an era of invisible eyes tracking customer behavior online and serving up to businesses who profit off them. It is clear that this is going to have a significant impact on digital advertising, and let’s see how.

Businesses used third-party cookies to personalize their ads and to hyper-target them to their target audience. This required no direct engagement between the advertiser and the customer. 

However, in the light of Google’s announcement and also considering today’s strict data protection regulations, it is becoming clear that businesses need to come together to develop a more unified approach to consent-driven data collection. 

Advertising campaigns need to become efficient and effectively reach the target audience without invading consumer privacy; Marketers and ad professionals need to stop relying on third-party cookie-derived data and employ other technology and data sources to understand the interests and needs of their customers. 

Are these possible? It is not as hard as you might think but also won't be as easy as third-party cookies previously allowed it to be. 

Following are some of the ways businesses can navigate easily in a cookie-less world:

Top 6 ways businesses can advertise effectively in the cookie-less world

Back to contextual advertising 

Go old school again and start relying on keywords instead of cookies. With the use of third-party cookies, advertisers moved as far away from keyword targeting as possible in the last decade. However, it is now time to move back to it. 

In contextual advertising, ads are displayed according to the content on the user's screen. Contextual ads are more relevant and a lot less invading than cookie-based targeting. It’s akin to seeing advertisements for candy in candy stores and seeing ads on carpentry tools on a carpentry blog. This way businesses can target customers according to the content they look at instead of relying on their behavioral pattern. 

This move to contextual targeting will mean an increased focus on the production and distribution of relevant content. Content will replace cookies. Google AdSense has tools for this and will enable advertisers to place their ads in front of people who might not be searching for their business. 

Rely on first-party data collection 

In the absence of third-party cookies, it will be even more important to focus on first-party data. If you use data capturing mechanisms in a careful and precise way, it will ensure the availability of a robust amount of data for the personalization and targeting of users who previously engaged with your business. However, this will take time if you want sufficient volumes of data and you need to start early. 

Big brands like Google, Amazon and Facebook already have an advantage in this but most brands have access to a lot more data than they think. For instance, you can collect data from customer-care calls to your business and listen to what they want. There are quite a few automated systems available to help you do this. 

Try unusual personalization tactics 

You can get higher engagement for your advertisements by applying deep personalization. Time parting and geo-targeting are some ways to do this. These tactics are not as widely used as they should be in the industry. Now is the perfect time for you to explore and get perfect at wielding them.

Develop better cookie consent solutions. 

You need to work on ensuring that the first-party data you collect from users is fully compliant with regulations. Consider the implications of the cookie-less world and implement cookie consent management accordingly. Your customers should be able to understand how their data is processed and how you protect it. This will build trust and establish positive communication. 

Explore second-party data 

You can obtain second-party data from Facebook, Google and other tech leaders. They have collected a lot of aggregated audience data from their platforms over the years. You can use tools platforms like Facebook Ads Manager and Google Ads to do this for no extra cost. Publishers also tend to offer video, display and native buys that overlay the data they own.  

People-based targeting

Cross-device marketing has been quite ineffective for some time now. The retargeting trail usually goes cold when users switch between devices. However, people-based advertising can help bridge the gap and solve the issue. It relies on unique identifiers that are related to the user and not their device. Facebook was the first to introduce this to the world of marketing and has shown how effective it can be. There are three key elements involved - identification, data and automation. 


The gist of this is that the end of third-party cookies will not mean an apocalypse for advertisers like it is widely discussed over the internet today. There will be a lot of ways to overcome this change and you can still advertise effectively in the future. 

Moving forward, there has to be a better balance between privacy and profit. While personalization of ads is expected, users also want to be able to choose whether they are tracked or not and if they want such a targeted advertising experience or not. Businesses need to realize that consumer experience needs to come to the center for positive and effective advertising campaigns in times to come.

Madhura Moulik, Co-Founder and Director, Skilfinity

Madhura Moulik is the Co-Founder and Director of Skilfinity, a Singapore based full-service Digital Marketing and Analytics company. She also mentors organizations of varying business maturity with their digital communication, outreach and more, including pre-seed start-ups and SME marketing and strategy teams.