Reasons and consequences of the impending cookie calypse

Reasons and consequences of the impending cookie calypse

Up to now, advertisers on the Internet have been able to rely on very specific targeting for their digital advertising campaigns, which is based on detailed tracking, i.e., user tracking on the Internet. To date, third-party cookies have been used for tracking purposes, mostly to record the browsing behavior of users across websites. Nevertheless, the end of the cookie age has already been ushered in and is likely to be reached by 2023 at the latest. There are several complementary reasons for this.

Consent, delete, prevent

Firstly, website operators must provide information about the use of cookies at the latest after the entry into force of the GDPR in 2018 and the European ePrivacy Directive, and website users must give their active consent (Consent) for the use of marketing cookies in particular. In this context, users who refuse their consent may not be excluded from visiting the website – in contrast to an activated adblocker, for example.

The same applies to the use of identifiers for advertisers or advertising IDs on smartphones, whereby consent was previously obtained by the respective app operator when an app was used for the first time. With iOS update 14, however, Apple has required app operators to obtain consent from the user through a central consent tool from Apple (Tracking Transparency Prompt). Officially, this change was made to ensure greater transparency for iOS users regarding their data usage. However, the app and advertising industry fears that only a fraction of iOS users will give their consent to tracking in the future.

Besides the need for users to actively agree to cookies or IDs, they have always been able to delete cookies from their browsers at any time. Mobile IDs, which are not discussed in detail here, can also be reset by the user in the smartphone, which also means that the information collected so far is no longer usable. And more and more browsers, such as Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari, now prevent the storage of cookies, especially third-party cookies, by default or delete them automatically after a short time, even if a user has consented to the storage of a cookie on a website.

However, at the latest after Alphabet (“Google”) announced in 2020 that its Chrome browser, which has a market share of almost two-thirds worldwide across all end devices in terms of page views (StatCounter 2021), will no longer allow third-party cookies from 2023, the entire online marketing industry is in an uproar (“cookie calypse”) and is feverishly searching for alternative tracking and targeting approaches.

Large platforms such as Facebook or Amazon will continue to be able to intensively analyze the usage behavior of their users in order to generate detailed targeting characteristics for advertising companies with this first-party data in addition to their own offer optimization. Apart from these large but closed ecosystems (walled gardens), however, most website operators are unlikely to have sufficient first-party data to be able to offer advertisers attractive targeting.


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Prof. Dr. Sascha Hoffmann hat eine Professur für Online-Management an der Hochschule Fresenius in Hamburg. Davor war er u.a. Director Business Development bei XING sowie Leiter Produktmanagement bei blau Mobilfunk ( Seine Schwerpunkten sind E-Commerce, Online Marketing und digitales Produktmanagement.