Audience Targeting Options When the Cookie Crumbles


ADOTAS — Marketers and their respective ad agencies will increasingly be on the lookout for new ways to reach target audiences, as well as properly track and attribute engagement for digital media investments. This is largely the result of increased consumer cookie deletion as well as browsers such as Firefox and IE setting default configurations to reject 3rd party cookies.

Sound bites to support this include:

  • comScore estimates that roughly 30% of consumers delete cookies at least once per month.
  • Casale Media’s Q4 index found that 37% of RTB impressions blocked cookies (up from 34% in Q3).

Consumer education and a choice to “opt out” is of course how the IAB and the vast majority of us in the industry want things to shake out and it is no secret that finding the happy balance between consumer privacy and the industry’s lifeblood (i.e. tracking, measurement, etc) continues to be a delicate matter.

However, given a worst case scenario of 3rd party cookies disappearing altogether there are alternative strategies to reach target audiences:

Demographic targeting

Go back to basics and purchase content which caters to specific audiences (i.e. W25-54).  This can be accomplished by leveraging the proverbial media kit and industry rankings, not necessarily ideal for those wanting automated audience buying but a safety net of sorts.

Contextual targeting

Page level contextual and semantic analysis has been around for more than a few years and a variety of platforms are available that support automated or even programmatic/RTB programs.  Additionally, the notion of native advertising (i.e. brand messaging woven into relevant editorial content) becomes even more interesting.  While these formats speak to upper funnel engagement, their potential for data capture and e-commerce efforts becomes equally attractive should cookies exit the stage.

Device targeting

Creating unique device IDs is still a relatively new (and polarizing) topic, but from my seat is preferable (if done correctly) versus continually dropping code on consumer devices and provides a persistent way to track and measure engagement.  This tactic paves the way for both audience targeting plus attribution for advertisers.

The cookie is far from making its last stand in the near term, but keeping a finger on the pulse of DNT adoption and ensuring industry players provide consistent notice and choice for consumers is paramount to its survival.  Long term it would appear that consumers will have a much more active role in dictating what information is shared with advertisers.

The brands, agencies, and ad tech companies who recognize this shift towards a consumer-driven web and embrace it by developing the proper frameworks may be surprised at the level of engagement that occurs, as well as the information consumers are willing to share when there is a true dialog.


  1. Oh My … Woe to us…you mean that media buyers will have to concern themselves with the relevance of editorial content in which to advertise…we can’t wait!!!!


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