Retargeting Adrift in a Mobile Seachange


Remember cookies? Not the kind you dunk in milk; the kind that relentlessly chase after you on the web. Right! Those cookies! Well, they are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

“In the old days of ad targeting, we give them a list of sites and we’d say, ‘Women 25 to 45,’ “ said David Katz, the former general manager of mobile at Groupon. “In the new age, we basically say, ‘Go get us users.’ “

In the good old days—or as I like to call them––“last year,” digital advertisers could use cookies to retarget customers. We could stalk consumers to the ends of the world, until they bought our mail-order gizmos. But, these days, cookies mostly don’t work on smartphones or tablets because they don’t attach to apps. And more and more people are doing most of there browsing on mobile devices rather than desktop computers.

And that’s just the half of it.

Today, cookies are becoming less and less effective even on PCs because PC users often install cookie blockers. This growing problem has caused the Interactive Advertising Bureau to form a group to investigate cookie alternatives.

“It’s a lose-lose-lose situation for advertisers, consumers, publishers and platforms,” said a spokesman for the newly formed group.

Google, the search engine powerhouse, isn’t just crying over spilled cookies. They are busy creating what they call an anonymous identifier tied to their Chrome browser. This identifier algorithm is designed to help target ads based on a user’s web browsing history.

Whereas, third-party cookies still work on most mobile web browsers, they don’t work on iPhone’s Safari. Reports indicate that this will soon be true for Firefox, as well. So Google Chrome appears to be the only web browser that is looking out for digital advertisers.

It’s really kind of sad to watch our cookies sink in the tidal wave of change. After all, these clever little cookies have brought us shoe sales, promo codes and modest discounts on auto parts. As consumers we pretend to be annoyed with being constantly pursued by retargeting ads. But deep down we know the truth: It always feels better to be pursued than to be ignored.

We are a Dallas Advertising Agency specializing in integrated marketing.