Cookies! Om Nom Nom… Gone?

cookie monster

Just to clear things up, I’m not about to start a thousand-word tirade against Cooper – the office dog – because she ate all the cookies in the cupboard.

Although, if there were any in there (Alex, cough cough…), I’m sure she would have.


I’m talking about Google’s recent decision to remove third-party cookies from all Chrome web browsers by 2020.

Cool, so what does that mean exactly?

Good question.

Cookies – despite their reputation as evil computer programs designed to invade your privacy online – are nothing more than .txt files.

Every time you visit a website that uses cookies it’ll leave one of these .txt files – which contains information about your browsing behaviour, such as how long you spent on the website or which buttons you clicked – on your hard drive.

For the most part, this is very useful.

Without cookies, you’d have to log in to Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix, every time you opened your browser.

Lets’ face it. That would be seriously annoying.

But controversy arose when big tech giants – like Google and Facebook – started using this cookie data to build up comprehensive profiles of users.

Now, that wouldn’t have been an issue, except these profiles were often linked to sensitive user data like names, emails, addresses, and even behaviour.

As an example, Google’s crafty algorithms could use your online behaviour to work out if you were in the market for a new car or redecorating your house.

This data was then sold to big brands – enabling them to direct targeted ads to you based on your behavioural profile.

Ever wondered why it seems like the moment you say “red paint” out loud, you’re suddenly receiving ads for Dulux on Instagram? That’s why.

Since no one consented to have their data abused in this way, people were rightly angry. This resulted in public outcries for changes in legislation that eventually lead to GDPR.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we’re seeing a growing number of people concerned about the safety of their personal data.

Naturally, Google has had to respond to this in order to calm anxieties about how data is used and stored – thus ushering in the “death of the cookie”.

So, what’s going to change?

Now, the first thing to note is that Google secures the bulk of its revenue through advertising services. It’s obviously not going to ditch it’s biggest revenue source without a contingency plan.

Exactly what the future will look like, however, is pretty unclear right now.

The only concrete information Google’s given about its next steps is that they’re “exploring how to deliver ads to large groups of similar people without letting individually identifying data ever leave your browser.”

Roughly translated, that reads “we’re aware there’s a problem, but we don’t yet have a solution.”

That said, we should expect that ad targeting capabilities will be significantly limited when compared to what we’re used to – regardless of what Google’s eventual solution is.

In 2020, Twitter has already removed all behaviour-based targeting from its ads. So it’s sensible to assume other big-players will follow suit.

If you’re relying on behaviour-based targeting, here’s what you should do.

Many businesses – SMEs and startups in particular – rely on granular targeting to maximise the effectiveness of small marketing budgets.

By targeting certain behaviours they’re able to improve the odds of a) getting a click, and b) turning a click into a conversion.

The loss of granular targeting could also mean the loss of a guaranteed stream of steady customers. That’s scary stuff for a business.

The best way to stop that loss from happening, of course, is to act proactively.

It’s been stated, for instance, that cookie-based programmatic advertised has led to “unimaginative and lazy campaigns.” So your first step could be to inject more creativity into your digital marketing content.

Doing this will improve your odds of attracting the attention of, and better engaging with, your target audience.

You could also consider looking into new channels to advertise on outside of the usual suspects.

As an example, an online male clothing store could investigate popular podcasts to advertise on.

These days there’s a podcast for virtually every segment out there, so it could provide access to an audience highly receptive to what you’re selling.

Finally, there’s the use of “zero party data” to consider.

Zero party data is “any data that a customer proactively and deliberately shares.”

As an example, a user might choose to give you their name, phone number, and email address when they sign-up to your newsletter. This is zero party data.

If you’re transparent about how you intend to use this data from the get-go, users may agree to be sent targeted, personalised advertising.

This could include emails, SMS or texts, browser notifications, alerts for related products while they’re browsing, and much more. Providing you get creative, the sky really is the limit.


One thing’s for sure, the death of the cookie isn’t going to signal the end of digital marketing as we know it.

Far too many businesses would stand to lose far too much money – Google included – for that to happen.

However, things are going to change in the next 2 years – so it’ll be far better to prepare for what’s to come than to spend that time in blissfully willful ignorance.

You should start by following the advice laid out in this article. While it’s not guaranteed to future-proof you, it’ll stand you in good stead to limit any potential damage.

It’ll also be worth checking out our recent article on 2020 digital marketing trends – it’s packed with tips and advice about how to remain relevant online.

As always, it’s the brands who find the most creative solutions who stay on top. Keep flexing those elastic creative muscles, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.


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