Intent-Based Advertising Is the Future of a Cookieless World

It’s time to move on from tracking customers

Since their creation in 1995, browser cookies have spread like wildfire. At their peak, some sites would contain more than 100 tracking cookies at once, and their invasiveness could go as far as to collect medical data.

But the reputation of cookies in advertising has so heavily declined that we’ve now reached a point of no return—the ad-tech industry is going cookieless. And alternatives have already started to emerge on the market.

Moving on from cookies

Cookies won’t die for nothing. They’ll die so that the advertising industry can move from often invasive practices to something consumer-friendly and equally effective.

Data gathered by third-party cookies has been a powerful tool. To be successful with your advertising, you need a suitable audience, and a cookie could latch to an individual user and act like spyware—collecting information and building a profile. Knowing an individual’s likes and dislikes, interests, hobbies and habits should bring good results, right? Well, not exactly.

As cookies derived information from browsing habits, they were quite often wrong. According to a study, targeting a single parameter could be 15% less accurate than targeting no parameters at all. And often marketers have been so used to their preferred methods that they haven’t questioned their effectiveness. Additionally, many marketers misused the cookies and lost chunks of their advertising budgets on ads displayed to people who had already converted.

Yes, cookies provided valuable data. But was that data worth its price if it wasn’t accurate and often misused? Information collected in a spy-like way never paints the full picture.

After the recent privacy regulations left third-party tracking nearing its end, new and existing methods of targeting have come to light. The new territory of privacy-first cookieless targeting methods has become laden with safer options for profiling users and groups.

First-party cookies provide direct and accurate information, but require a tight relationship between companies willing to exchange gathered data. Google’s FLoC is supposed to group users into cohorts based on browsing habits. While it’s meant to be a privacy-oriented solution, its announcement caused controversy and criticism. And, of course, identity targeting of any kind (email, device or transactional data) provides insights into user profiles but it’s limited and can be fragmented due to multiple user accounts and devices.

Attempting to exchange cookies for another tracking method might work. But it may be an attempt at swimming against the current, as now user privacy comes first.

Future-proofing your advertising

Relying on third-party data or individual identifiers is bound to cross the privacy line at some point. That’s why at NewProgrammatic, we believe that intent-based advertising is the way to go. Matching ads with the desire of the consumer rather than with a suspiciously obtained user profile information is not only mannerly but also more efficient—ads that fit well into context are far more engaging than the ads that don’t.

Intent-based ad formats, such as search autocomplete, are triggered by users inputting keywords into the search bar. There is no data collection involved, and the ad appears as a suggestion that matches the user’s search intent.

For instance, if someone types in “Nike shoes” you can instantly direct them to a relevant product page, skipping SERP altogether. That’s a great way to display your ad in a brand-safe environment and improve the user experience, while getting a fantastic conversion rate from consumers who are interested in the advertised product. All that, with no cookies, or any other third-party trackers involved.

To keep your advertising efforts effective and compliant with the new standard of privacy, you need to prioritize customer-facing solutions. With third-party cookies gone for good and the future of individual tracking uncertain, intent-based advertising solutions are a smart and brand-safe option.   

Mat Drela has been involved with NewProgrammatic since its inception, leading its growth to being recognized among Financial Times 1000: Europe’s Fastest-Growing Companies in 2017, 2018 and 2019.