A Post-Cookie World

Ian Maxwell, Co-Chair, IAB Ireland Display Trading Council and CEO/Co-Founder of Converge Digital shares his thoughts on the implications for our digital advertising industry.  (for publication in IAB Europe Post Cookie Guide – mid April 2020)


The blocking of third-party cookies in Chrome will bring the single biggest change to the digital advertising ecosystem since the introduction of real-time bidding in 2009.

Currently, approximately 30% of available impressions are rendered on browsers (mostly Safari and Firefox) with no third-party cookies. Chrome is approximately 65% of remaining browser usage so from this change forward there will essentially be no third-party cookies.

From an advertising perspective, some changes we can be confident will happen:

  • Frequency capping is largely based on third-party cookies so this feature will be gone in its current form.
  • Third-party data currently being used for audience targeting will become unusable immediately.
  • Retargeting and most forms of dynamic creative targeting will become unworkable.
  • DMPs (data management platforms) cannot continue to provide the service they do today.
  • Last or Multi-touch attribution will no longer be possible.

What this means is that the way we frequency cap, target users, and track conversions will all disappear following this change. Nearly 100% of campaigns today will have at least one of these features applied which means nearly 100% of campaigns will have to find new approaches. Today, there are both DSPs and SSPs working between buyers and sellers. This chain is enabled by third-party cookies but this chain is not necessary to facilitate trade.

Platforms exist which allow brands and agencies the opportunity to build their own marketplaces, eliminating the need for 3rd party participation and thus the third-party cookie. Here, buyers and sellers trade within a single environment.

These platforms can then fulfil many of the requirements listed above:

  • Frequency capping – Knowing the inventory and user activity allows frequency models to be built and executed on a first party basis. Shared matching tables can then be used to frequency cap pseudonimised users. Single identifiers can be utilised across a controlled pool of inventory.
  • Audience/Content targeting – Publishers know their audiences and content best. As Publishers create the content and have a first-party relationship with their users, they have the unique ability to package up both inventory and data exclusively for these marketplaces. They can then provide that unique first-party data to buyers.
  • Dynamic creative – This can be API driven based on real time information from the publisher – context and audience.
  • Inventory requirements – Buyers define their goals (viewability, quality, brand safety, etc). Publishers optimize their inventory to meet these targets. Trading on trust and transparency is important here.
  • Attribution for advertisers – If you know where and when your ads are serving and you can measure your site traffic and sales, you can map one with the other to determine the true value of your digital advertising.

All of the above can be achieved without the third-party cookie. Short term, brands and agencies working in this capacity have the opportunity to maximize their reach and performance across browsers such as Safari and Firefox. When there are no third-party cookies in any of the browsers, this approach delivers a privacy first environment for buyers and sellers to trade within.

I am very positive about the third-party cookie change within Chrome for the wider industry. Agencies have just been presented with a great opportunity to create genuine differentiation within the products they offer their clients while publishers can really focus on building quality audiences and content again.