Embracing change: navigating the cookieless era in programmatic online display advertising
by Sarah Coften


In the dynamic world of programmatic online display advertising, the decline of third-party cookies is a game-changer. As Google and Apple implement changes, marketers must prepare for a landscape without the familiar trail of behavioural data left by cookies. In this blog, we will explore how cookies work for advertising, the impact of their decline, and the preferred approach to thriving in this new era.

Understanding Advertising Cookies:

Advertising cookies, often known as third-party cookies, are small pieces of data stored on users’ browsers by websites they visit. These cookies enable advertisers to track user behaviour, preferences, and search patterns, allowing for personalized ad experiences and improved user targeting.

With Cookies: Targeting and Behavioural Advertising:

Leveraging cookies allows us to precisely target users based on their browsing history and preferences. Behavioural advertising cookies provide valuable insights into user behaviour, empowering us to tailor ad campaigns and achieve higher conversion rates while delivering exceptional user experiences.

Without Cookies: Rethinking Targeting and Reach:

As third-party cookies decline, we must adapt our targeting methods to rely on first-party data and segmentation strategies. Fear not, as this opens new doors to explore innovative ways of extending our reach and connecting with broader audiences while still maintaining personalized messaging.

Retargeting: Navigating a Cookieless Landscape

Retargeting has been a powerful advertising strategy, showing ads to users who previously interacted with our brand. In this cookieless era, we’ll explore new techniques like contextual advertising and first-party data retargeting, ensuring our campaigns remain effective and engaging.

Measurement: Beyond Cookies

In the past, third-party cookies facilitated accurate measurement, but today we turn to conversion modeling. By relying on predictive and statistical models that understand user behavior, we can attribute success without relying solely on third-party cookies. This ensures our measurement remains robust and privacy-friendly.

Cookie Consent and CMP:

Respecting user privacy and securing consent have never been more important. Cookie consent management platforms (CMPs) play a vital role in ensuring compliance with privacy regulations while maintaining transparent user experiences.

Cookie Blocking by Browsers:

Major browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Edge have taken steps to protect user privacy by limiting third-party cookies. As advertisers, we embrace these changes and work within the new restrictions to deliver effective campaigns.

Preferred Approach to Programmatic Online Display Advertising:

In this cookieless era, the preferred approach to programmatic online display advertising involves:

Leveraging first-party data: Utilize first-party data to personalize campaigns and build stronger connections with our audience. This data is obtained directly from our own websites, apps, or other owned channels, ensuring reliability and privacy compliance.

Contextual targeting: Analyse content to ensure relevant ad placements that resonate with users. Contextual targeting is privacy-friendly and respects users’ preferences without tracking individual behaviours.

Cohort-based targeting: Group users with shared interests for effective campaign segmentation. Cohorts offer an alternative to tracking individual user data while still delivering personalized experiences to target audiences.

Privacy-focused technologies: Embrace privacy-focused technologies, such as differential privacy and federated learning, to gain insights from aggregated data without compromising individual user identities.

Adapting to Changes: Insights from Authoritative Sources

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) highlights the inevitable decline of third-party cookies and its impact on the advertising landscape. This prompts marketers to explore segmentation methods that align with traditional advertising models, extending their reach for optimal results.

Forbes outline the importance of building great customer relationships through attentive customer service and value driven content, encouraging users to leave reviews and driving word of mouth. 

Smithfield Agency believe that all media and marketing planning needs to incorporate a strong focus on digital media and online customer journeys in order to hit the right touch points across both online advertising and all media campaigns. The cookieless era is making the lines between online and offline (ATL) campaigns evermore blurred. If cookieless targeting is building trust with consumers through in-built privacy considerations and putting the needs of the individual first then online advertising will thrive and we see more creativity and brands expressing themselves in a meaningful way to drive customer acquisition and brand loyalty in the new era. 

Preparing for the Cookieless Era: A Checklist for Advertisers

To navigate this new landscape effectively, we would love to hear from you in the meantime you can can refer to industry best practices for cookieless advertising from the IAB UK. This valuable resource guides us with essential questions to ask vendors and stakeholders, ensuring privacy compliance and effective advertising strategies.


Embracing change is the secret to success in the ever-evolving landscape of programmatic online display advertising. As we venture into the cookieless era, we have an opportunity to reimagine our strategies and embrace new targeting methods that prioritize user privacy and deliver personalized experiences. By adapting to the changes and leveraging preferred approaches, we can continue delivering exceptional results and thrive in this exciting new chapter of programmatic online display advertising. So, let’s face this challenge head-on and rise above the fray, confident that our perseverance and innovation will pave the way to future success.


Harvard Business Review. “Why Marketers Are Returning to Traditional Advertising.” (https://hbr.org/2022/04/why-marketers-are-returning-to-traditional-advertising) [Accessed: 25 July 2023]

Industry Best Practices for Cookieless Advertising. (Reference anonymized to protect the preferred approach to programmatic online display advertising)

July 26, 2023

If our Performance results have piqued your interest, get in touchto see how we can help your business growth.