Does advertising without tracking cookies work?

Imagine a web without tracking cookies. Wouldn’t that be nice? You might argue that this isn’t feasible, because for all those nice free content and services, ads need to be very efficient to generate the highest possible click through rate.

Ad tech companies like Google or Facebook, argue that microtargeting is the solution for publishers to get this higher click rate. After all, users like “relevant” ads and advertisers are able to reach potential customers more precisely.

However, there is a growing body of evidence, that questions these arguments. And there is also the example of Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO) that got rid of tracking technology for ads altogether. To cut a long story short: their approach worked and the results have been striking. Digital ad revenue went up 62 percent and 79 percent (January and February of this year).

Even during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that caused brands to cut back on advertising, NPO’s revenue is still double-digit percentage points higher than last year. Why? They cut out the middlemen that get their cut for microtargeted programmatic ad tech, since they don’t need it anymore.

Instead, they show ads based on the content that users see. This is called contextual advertising and advertisers on NPO can pay to advertise on specific content on curated custom interest channels.

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Photo by Luis Rivera on Unsplash

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