Cookies Are Crumbling, What Other Alternatives Do We Have?

Published on 30 Nov 2019

During the summer, the CNIL issued new directives concerning cookies, which complement those defined in 2013. Key change: further navigation on a website will soon no longer be considered as proof of active consent to the installation of cookies. This change, combined with other factors, appears to be one more step towards the decline of cookies.

While the implementation of the GDPR last year laid the foundations for greater respect for privacy and user data, the CNIL took a further step in this direction during the summer, by specifying the guidelines it had defined in 2013. The multiplication of alerts around user data has brought the subject of e-privacy to the forefront and at the heart of this subject is the principal medium for collecting user data: cookies.  The main change to the direct impact on cookies: continued browsing on a website by an Internet user – after the appearance of the cookie notification banner – will no longer constitute proof of active consent as was the case until now.

Today most websites do not offer a real alternative to accepting cookies. When the banner informing the use of cookies appears, users usually have the choice between two options: “I accept” and “Learn more”. This second option generally only gives information on how to refuse cookies in the web browser, it makes the process voluntarily tedious for the user to limit the loss of data.

If this decision of the CNIL – announced last July 18 – went relatively unnoticed, it is because this new rule will not be introduced overnight. To give companies time to comply, the CNIL grants a transition period of one year. Until the first half of 2020, the websites will therefore be able to make do with the Internet user’s browsing as “proof” of his or her consent to the collection of his or her personal data. There is no doubt that such a change – once the transition period is over – will have a major impact on the number of cookies collected by publishers’ websites, as many cookies are now set because there is no simple alternative for users to express their refusal.

Various factors are converging to amplify this trend.

If the evolution of the legal framework is a first indicator of the future decrease in the use of cookies, it is not the only factor that should accentuate this trend.

First, we can highlight the evolution of users’ behavior: they are now more informed on the subject and becoming reluctant to share their data, which translates into a more widespread use of ad-blockers. Today in France, one out of three Internet users uses an ad-blocker to block ads and cookies. With a portion of Internet users using an ad-blocker that exceeds 40% among people under 35, this trend should only intensify, all the more so as browsers are also starting to integrate tracker blocking functionalities, as it is the case with Firefox.

The end of cookies: what’s at stake for the programmatic market?

As a result, it is now becoming necessary for the various players in the programmatic ecosystem to start finding alternatives to the cookie system, both to adapt to legal and technical developments and to reduce dependence on the biggest players in the market. The challenge for advertisers and the agencies that support them will therefore be to succeed in continuing to reach their core target despite a drop in the amount of available user data. These questions need to be anticipated: waiting for the disappearance of cookies before starting to think about alternatives means taking the risk of disrupting one’s business and/or increasing one’s dependence on walled gardens.

An alternative to user data stands out: contextual marketing. Where most programmatic actors will seek to target the intention, expressed by the user through his browsing history and user data, contextual marketing will focus on the user’s attention. The objective is simple: to place advertisers’ advertising content in contexts that are in affinity with the brand, to maintain a targeting that remains consistent with the company’s persona, while reducing marketing pressure. In other words, give priority to attention targeting over intention targeting, which is more respectful of the user’s privacy. To do this, a semantic analysis of publishers’ websites is carried out, to identify and target the most relevant contexts for each advertiser, all without exploiting user data.


This article was initially published on JDN.


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