With cookies being the way advertisers have always tracked users movements through the internet it’s critical that the users browser plays ball and provides access to these cookies. US ‘do not track’ privacy legislation requires browser companies to give users the ability to ‘opt out’ of data tracking. Microsoft recently went further by making ‘opt in’ the default setting on its latest browser, but does this kill online advertising as we know it?
That means unless people change Internet Explorer 10 browser settings, third-party cookies – the main way industry targets ads – are rejected. At least in theory. The onus is on third parties to honour the consumer’s choice.
Now Mozilla, funded largely by Google, will go further still. It looks set to ban third-party cookie tracking, with a beta browser due within weeks. The fear in adland is that the rest of the major providers, including Google and Apple, may follow suit.
What this means is that ad servers will become less useful with increased wastage and the problem of less relevant adverts and increased ad blindness.
The interesting issue is how Google is using Mozilla as a test case for its own browser Chrome, which does not automatically activate “do not track” but does provide the option. Since browser firms are also content producers and publishers, “do not track” could these publishers to command their own price for online advertising.
Whether Mozilla’s approach becomes the common one is unknown. “[But] the companies that are least affected by cookie legislation are those with large, logged-on userbases,” Mindshare chief digital officer Ciaran Norris said. “Legislators should consider the impact on local businesses.” Industry had a key role in educating both legislators and consumers, he added.
What the IAB’s director says about this online advertising issue
The IAB’s director of regulatory affairs, Samantha Yorke, agreed. Transparency and choice were key, she said. Web users need to understand why cookies are useful to them – such as enabling free access to content – and not a threat to individual privacy. However, she said uncertainty would not be diminished until ‘do not track’ was properly defined.
Not holding her breath for a definition, Yorke was under no doubt that moves to block third-party cookies would have “a profound effect on the digital economy”. The ability to collate analytical data would be “severely compromised”, she said.
What this does point out is that advertisers need a better way to track users online journey in order to provide options for targeting and retargeting of users. Ironically this lack of targeting and increased CPM costs might lead to increased revenue in the digital industry!