How A.I. Could Help Replace Third-Party Cookies


If your business advertises on the internet, big changes are headed your way. Google is planning to eliminate third-party cookies by 2024, meaning advertisers will no longer be able to use the snippets of code that reveal sites users are visiting, save shopping cart information, and serve targeted advertisements.

Google has said that between now and 2024 it will research, test, and develop alternatives to cookies while protecting user privacy. A 2020 Consumer Reports study found that 96 percent of participants believe more measures should be set in place to protect their privacy online.

GumGum, an A.I. marketing company, specializes in cookie-free digital advertising. Founded in 2008, the Santa Monica, California-based company uses something called contextual intelligence rather than behavioral targeting. GumGum’s A.I.-powered software analyzes online content to identify keywords and images that help its team determine what kind of advertisements are best suited for those sites. After creating the application only for internal use, the company attracted interest from clients to use the technology. Now called Verity, the software is GumGum’s flagship product and is used by publishers including the Meredith Corporation, Rolling Stone, and U.S. News and World Report.

“We turn [the data] over to the brand and agency to say, ‘how do you want to use this?'” says William Merchan, head of Verity. 

One of GumGum’s greatest challenges is convincing companies to consider an alternative to third-party cookies before they’re forced to stop using it. To demonstrate the effectiveness of its technology, GumGum recently ran a trial using Verity to promote Vodafone’s Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 smartphone. The trial showed that, compared to digital ads without contextual targeting, using Verity led to a 3 percent increase in consumers with an intent to purchase.

Whether GumGum’s Verity or a competitor’s technology emerges as the leading product for optimizing digital ads remains to be seen. But digital advertisers may be wise to adapt to the post-cookies world before it arrives.

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