User ID solutions must hit the sweet spot cookies missed

Posted on: Thursday 04 June 2020 | Tina Lakhani - Head of Ad Tech, IAB UK

Tina Lakhani explains how the IAB is working with industry to chart the UK’s path to a post-cookie world

When Google announced back in January that it would be phasing out use of third-party cookies in Chrome within two years, following similar moves by Firefox and Safari, it set the clock on a new era of digital advertising.

Over the past decades, third-party cookies have become widely used to track and target consumers online. Yet cookies were never created for this purpose and, in the years since, misuse of them has become popularly synonymous with a poor online experience. We’ve all been there.

When you get persistently retargeted for a pair of trainers you bought 3 weeks ago and that aren’t even that comfortable, it starts to grate (and not just on your heels).

With Chrome accounting for nearly two-thirds of UK browsing, Google’s decision to call time on third-party cookies has put in motion a period of intense recalibration. There are challenges that we need to navigate but, by working together as an industry, we have a unique opportunity to redraw the digital ad ecosystem around user experience and build a better web for all parties - consumers, advertisers and publishers.

It’s not an opportunity we can pass up; consumer trust in all advertising, including digital, is faltering according to the Advertising Association’s research. By reconfiguring user ID solutions and prioritising privacy, we can now make widespread meaningful change. Not to put too fine a point on it, but none of us should underestimate how much getting this right matters.

But what does change look like? What can we actually expect from a cookie-less future? Ahead of my session at Mediatel’s Future of Media Trading event on 14 May, I want to share how we at IAB UK are working with our members and the wider industry to lead the UK’s response, shape solutions and feed into global initiatives; including Google’s Privacy Sandbox and IAB Tech Labs’ Project Rearc.

If you’re not yet engaging with our work in this area, get in touch and get involved. No single country or organisation will be able to deliver a solution alone and collaboration will be crucial at every stage.

We can’t claim to have the solution yet. What we can do is lay out the principles that we believe any future solution needs to meet in order to align with and deliver on our core vision; building a sustainable future for digital advertising.

To achieve this, we need to ensure that there is transparency around what data is being collected, who is using it and how. We need to give users control over their own data and make privacy opt-out by default. We need to allow for relevant ads to be served, but in a way that respects the consumer experience by not supporting intrusive, annoying ads and excessive frequency.

For advertisers, we need to provide a fraud-free environment and the ability and control to protect their brands online. We need to allow them to understand the value of the vendors they are working with and to have control over where their money is being spent.

And for publishers, we need to support quality journalism and accurate information so that they can effectively monetise their content via ads. Without that, we run the risk of creating an information elite, where quality news content is only available to those that have the means to pay for it.

Only by putting these ideas at the heart of our work on user identity can we fully embrace the opportunity we now have. To get the best possible outcome for all of us, we need to look beyond the technical solutions available and consider what the ad funded web should - and needs - to be. By harnessing these core principles, we can make the tech work for us in a way that third-party cookies never have.

There’s no denying that developing a solution - or set of solutions - that delivers on this will be a challenging process. For some, use of third-party cookies is baked into the fabric of their business models, making it all the more important that we engage with all parts of the industry to develop a viable alternative. By working together, we can fully embrace this chance to build a better web - for both users and advertisers. Let’s not waste it.

This article originally appeared on

Written by

Tina Lakhani

Head of Ad Tech, IAB UK


Related content

Google logo on a smartphone screen

Q4 2022: Update from CMA & Google on Privacy Sandbox

The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has shared Google’s latest quarterly report, updating on its compliance with binding commitments made in...

Learn more

Privacy Sandbox: what to expect in 2023

Read the latest updates on how Privacy Sandbox is developing testing and what to expect in 2023

Learn more

Update from CMA & Google on Privacy Sandbox

The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has published Google’s quarterly report, updating on binding commitments made in relation to Privacy Sandbox

Learn more
Man reading news on a laptop

Targeting & measurement: the story so far

Find out more about what third-party cookies are used for, why they are being deprecated and the alternative targeting and measurement strategies that...

Learn more

Why digital advertising works

Discover why digital advertising is effective for reaching your customers and building brands.