Is a cookie-free world possible in digital marketing?

Is a cookie-free world possible in digital marketing?

In a world without cookies, you would not be able to know who was visiting your website, what their behavior on your website would be, what pages they had consulted and what products they had bought. It would mean the end of targeted ads, retargeting and personalized offers. That is, unless the Internet user agreed to identify themselves when entering the website. This would also be much more time consuming for the user, as they would have to enter their details each time they consulted a website.   

So what exactly are cookies? Why do they have to disappear and what would be the consequences for online marketing? Eminence explains everything in this article.  


Cookies: definition and interest  

Cookies take the form of text files that are automatically saved by the browser on the hard disk when a user visits a website. They have been developed to improve the user experience and to enable websites to remember an Internet user’s visit. Cookies are not malware or viruses. Each cookie has an expiry date, which varies from site to site. 

What are the rules on using cookies? 

Since the implementation of the European RGPD laws (General Regulation on Data Protection) and ePrivacy as well as the recommendations of the CNIL (French Data Protection Authority), websites have specific rules to respect regarding cookies. Especially as they contain personal information about website visitors. A visible banner must therefore inform Internet users of the purpose of the cookies, then obtain the user’s consent to the cookie creation and storage. The banner must also provide a means for the Internet user to edit or refuse these cookies.  

What are they used for? 

The purpose of cookies is to collect information on the preferences of the person visiting the website. This allows the site to be able to recognize and store information such as language preference, login details, the pages visited and the contents of a shopping basket. Cookies are also important for obtaining website statistics such as page view times, bounce rates, number of clicks, etc. In other words, cookies make it possible to understand and analyze the behavior of web users. This in turn enables you to improve web traffic to your site and provide a better user experience.   


Cookie-cutter style: the difference between first-party and third-party cookies 


The main purpose of internal cookies, also known as first-party cookies, is to provide optimal user experience. This means that the website will remember your login details, language preferences, location and so on. This said, only the host website can retrieve and read the content of a first-party cookie.  

Third-party cookies play an important role in targeted advertising. These cookies remember the pages that website users have visited and then display ads to them that they might like when they visit other websites.   


Read more : What is Consent Mode?



The end of third-party cookies & it’s consequences  

Google announced on January 14, 2020 that it aimed to remove thirdparty cookies by 2022 for Chrome, the Google web browser. This was a real blow to the advertising market since these cookies remain the only effective way to identify users across multiple websites and then offer them targeted ads.

The consequences:

  • Anonymization of Internet users: the collection of third-party cookies is what allowed marketers to segment their audiences. With the elimination of third-party cookies, it will no longer be possible to identify different website visitors. This in turn will penalize the personalization of content and limit the targeting that allowed relevant product recommendations to be made. Most advertising campaigns currently use third party cookies, not only to ensure ads are targets to specific audiences, but also to know who not to distribute them to 


  • Digital advertising without afrequency cap: in an ecosystem where respect for the user is at the heart of the industry’s concerns, it will no longer be possible to limit the exposure of an advertisement to a given Internet user.
  • The return on investment will be difficult to calculate: since third-party cookies are used to measure the effectiveness of campaigns and attribution, the fact that they will be removed will make it difficult to justify media investments when there is no conversion made.
  • Personalization will evolve: the positive side is that it will give advertisers the opportunity to improve the relevance of the data collected. This will lead to more personalized offers.   


What are the effective solutions available? 

Contextual Targeting  

Showing an ad according to what a user is looking at (e.g. a travel ad is shown on a travel related article): this solution is based on the use of the semantic data present in the pages that the user visits. The advertising is therefore no longer linked to personal data but to the content viewed.   

The Privacy Sandbox   

In an attempt to solve the impeding problem, Google has created an alternative to third-party cookies to be able to deliver targeted advertising based on the interests of specific audience segments without compromising the privacy of Internet users. The Privacy Sandbox’s key objectives of are to fight fraud by distinguishing human activity from robots, measure conversions (clicks) and page visits, access statistics and of course, re-target users. 

The Unique ID   

The idea behind the unique ID is that it would be an excellent alternative solution to third-party cookies for all stakeholders and would enable the agencies to offer advertisers qualitative and exclusive data.  


With the removal of third-party cookies, brands will now have to focus all their efforts on developing creativity while preserving the user experience. Machine Learning could also allow you to improve your creativity. Especially as it offers real-time campaign performance analysis that can be applied according to the context of the ad (for more information, see our article of 17 December 2020). LINK THE ARTICLE HERE 

Semantic URL Targeting  

This system already existed before cookies. It works via the identification of keywords only. The goal here, is to be able to perfectly understand the content consulted by the Internet user in order to analyze it in real time, so as to propose ads that are relevant to the content of the pages consulted.  

Even if the world is changing, internal cookies will remain an essential part of digital marketing. If you would like to test personalization strategies, targeting models and other techniques for your ad performance, do not hesitate to contact us. Click the link here to get in touch with us today: