Targeted advertising without cookies

26 Nov 2020

The end of the cookie is near. Three solutions to reach your potential customers without cookies.

If it is up to Safari, Firefox, and Google, we will no longer use cookies in the near future. The end of the cookie seems inevitable, given that over 80 percent of web traffic passes through one of these three browsers. This has major consequences for advertisers and publishers, that have to reinvent how to reach potential customers with appropriate advertisements. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives for this, which forerunners such as the New York Times are already working on.

1: Contextual advertising
An older but very relevant alternative to advertising with cookies is tailoring the advertisements to the content of a page: contextual advertising. You can assume that someone reading about sports would be interested in an ad about sports equipment. The same goes for travel, games, and cooking. This form of advertising has fallen into obscurity due to the arrival of third-party cookies and is now on the rise again.

STER (operator of the public system) has been working with this model since the beginning of this year. After a test phase, STER decided to ban cookies. Advertisers looking to purchase video and display space are now doing so context-driven. The big advantage of this method of advertising is that consumers are not overwhelmed with - often unclear - cookie banners. The big disadvantage of contextual advertising is that you are less able to personalize. Yes, you can customize the ad based on the subject of the text and the outlet, but personalization based on an interest profile, age, or place of residence - as is possible with cookies - is not possible anymore.

2: Profile-oriented advertising
Another option for cookie-free advertising is profile-oriented advertising, where more personalization is possible. This is in line with the move announced by the New York Times in May: the American newspaper will stop placing third-party cookies, and from 2021 it will only work with the customer knowledge it has collected in recent years.

We call this profile-oriented advertising: browsers or publishers create profiles themselves by linking surfing behavior (or reading behavior) to a login ID and other data. This produces profiles that may differ from time to time when looking at surfing behavior, but also profiles with characteristics that are fixed for a longer period of time when looking at someone's income or family composition. The New York Times categorized readers by age, income, employment, demographics, and areas of interest. In its own words, the newspaper now knows quite accurately which kind of reader reads which kind of stories. That has yielded the Times 45 datasets from which advertisers can choose.

In principle, any website or publisher with a large number of logged-in users can embrace this development by creating profiles - with users' consent - that are made available to advertisers.

3: More focused targeting: CRM onboarding
A further option for profile-oriented advertising is linking a login ID to external data. Do you approach prospects with ads on Facebook or Marktplaats (or the New York Times)? Then you preferably ensure that you do not lump current and potential customers together when purchasing advertising space. One possibility to target more focused is CRM onboarding: a data solution that allows you to find customers elsewhere on the internet through their login ID.

One of the early adopters of CRM onboarding was Facebook, which launched the comparable Custom Audiences in 2012. CRM onboarding makes it possible to recognize customers (anonymously) one-on-one, not only within Facebook, but also within Google, Instagram, and Marktplaats. This prevents you from showing an advertisement to an already existing customer with the umpteenth offer to become a customer. This saves irritation for your customer and you keep the costs for your acquisition campaign lower.

You can also reverse this by targeting only existing customers. For example, by setting up a campaign for customers whose subscription is about to expire. Furthermore, CRM onboarding allows you to work with look-alike targeting. By looking at agreements among existing customers you reach new prospects in a more focused manner. This way, it is most likely that your advertisements will reach people that are interested in your services or products. Of course, there are also challenges with CRM onboarding. For example, it only works optimally with a high match rate and the link with all platforms must be maintained.

Not adrift without cookies
For many advertisers, it will take some time to adapt, but the end of cookies does not mean the end of targeting. The developments in context- and profile-oriented advertising more than make up for the loss. You can still set up intelligent campaigns by setting up profiles that fit the context, excluding existing customers, or setting up customer profiles.

This article was written in collaboration with Emerce.

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