Pioneering the future of digital advertising in a cookieless world

The question that advertisers and marketers are now facing is how to navigate a post-cookie world while still delivering relevant and engaging media content. Here’s a guide to prepare ahead for the cookieless future.

Cookies have been taking marketers on a rollercoaster ride, but now is the time to plan ahead. James Milne, Northern Europe Managing Director of Outbrain gives you a guide on how to prepare your strategies for the future of digital advertising.

The evolution of online web-browsing has been influenced by the integration and use of cookies to deliver relevant online experiences for users. In short, cookies are used to leverage information about a site visitor such as usernames, logins, memorable data, and shopping carts, aiming to deliver more relevant experiences. 

In doing so, cookies have also become a core tool for marketers and digital advertisers to improve ROI.

Although, cookies have not come without their challenges. Research in 2022 indicates cookie pop-ups are perceived negatively by web-users when they aim to benefit the host website or collect data, decreasing user experience and increasing bounce rates. Over the years, the general consensus enlists cookies as a ‘necessary evil’ that rarely facilitates an improved user experience. 

But now, the era of the cookie seems to be coming to an end. Big tech companies have vowed to scrap third-party cookies, with Google announcing that they will cease to exist on Chrome in 2024.

The question that advertisers and marketers are now facing is understanding how to navigate a post-cookie world while still delivering relevant and engaging media content. 

Alternatives to cookies already exist. Learning from previous experiences and trends, they can be used to overcome the challenges posed by cookies. These alternatives include sophisticated AI solutions and contextual advertising.

The rise of AI and automation

As cookie-use continues to decline, many big and small tech players are looking to alternatives including AI methods, such as machine learning. Along with traditional manual processes, many marketers are increasingly recognising the value of a hybrid approach to tracking and analysing user data. 

Automation, on its own, can help to identify highly-engaged users, which marketers can then analyse to refine their targeting and offer more relevant ads, making the likelihood of conversions higher.

Contextual advertising with first-party data

Web cookies are related to third-party data collection. So, alternative marketing methods using first-party data to reach audiences have become a lot more attractive. 

While the elimination of cookies may create challenges for the industry, it will also lead to a more transparent future and more secure foundations for users. Contextual is an alternative marketing mechanism that promises to offer relevant, high-performing ads that respect users’ online privacy. 

Contextual advertising involves placing ads on web pages based on the content of those pages, in a format that matches the look and feel of the host website. This allows advertisers and publishers to deliver advertising and editorial recommendations that are aligned with the content on the page, and therefore aligned with the user’s mindset. This results in a more relevant user experience, which can help improve campaign performance.

This channel is constantly being refined. Today it involves: deep page analysis, location-based inferences and user intent prediction among other technological advancements. Combined, these enable a better understanding of the primary indicators of intent in the customer journey, ultimately leading to optimal results and efficiency.

Building an audience and improving the customer journey

In today’s online landscape, tapping into consumer engagement at earlier stages of the funnel is an essential way to turn a prospect into a customer. However, competing for consumer attention has become more challenging for brands.

This includes determining how best to identify which types of engagement represent user intent, or what connections can be drawn between consumer attention and the desired action. These mid-funnel metrics can also be more difficult to track or optimise toward, sometimes causing advertisers to focus instead on sessions, purchases, or other more easily quantifiable data points.

Given the rising cost of engaging users, paying for clicks from uninterested users poses a question mark against this type of advertising activity. This is where it becomes extremely beneficial to understand what signals of attention and intent are the most indicative of future conversions for your unique audience.

Future-proofing prospects of AI

Along with an AI-human hybrid approach more generally, marketers have greater prospects to repurpose valuable user data and better understand consumer intent from the early point of engagement. 

This knowledge will only continue to grow more and more useful as cookies fully depreciate and advertisers no longer rely on third-party pixels to optimise their campaigns. Marketers are encouraged to begin exploring new and alternative solutions now to maintain or even enhance their brands’ marketing performance.

James Milne

Northern Europe Managing Director