Mobile navigation


Taking cookie soup off the menu to boost reader engagement

Most of us like chocolate. Most of us like cheese. But would we put them together in a sandwich? Probably not. Sometimes, what works on its own simply doesn’t work when combined with other ingredients, writes Passendo CEO Andreas Jürgensen.

By Andreas Jürgensen

Taking cookie soup off the menu to boost reader engagement

It’s the same with cookie soup. Cookie soup is a term we use to describe what happens all-too often in our industry. It’s when a marketing company takes private data from publishers, along with its own behavioural customer profiles, matches it into a cookie, and sells it to the highest bidder.

An unpalatable offering

There are several ways in which marketers go about combining data into cookies, including the use of identity solutions. These could be authenticated web solutions that attach data to a persistent, unique ID (deterministic matching) – or they can be unauthenticated or ‘open web’ solutions that use data signals and algorithms to identify users across devices and apps (probabilistic matching).

If you think this all sounds a bit off, you’re right. It’s time to take cookie soup off the menu.

It looks as though consumers have caught on to this notion, too. In general terms, perhaps unsurprisingly, they feel uncomfortable having their privacy breached across the web. But more specifically, if they’re being bombarded with irrelevant messaging from certain brands, it’s likely to detract from the user experience to the extent that they switch off from the brand completely, scuppering any potential relationship in the future.

A new recipe for engagement

Publishers are also reporting a shift in how they interact with their readers. Newsletters, for instance, were already booming before the pandemic. But in 2020, publishers suddenly needed to pivot to meet the demand for content among a rising work-from-home audience. As one study revealed: “newsletters are the most common product, with some 55 percent [of publishers] saying they have launched them”.

And today, with work-from-home (or at least some form of hybrid working) here to stay, consumers are spending more time than ever in front of their screens. More people are reading newsletters and, in turn, we’re seeing more publishers incorporating newsletters into their engagement strategy to capture this new audience. Send-outs and open rates are up significantly, and as a result, we’ve also noticed an increase in ad impressions.

In response to this shift, tech companies are developing solutions that are designed to secure the whole supply chain – from the recipient to the sender – and make sure that no data leaks during the process.

The power of email (when prepared correctly)

The unease surrounding targeted advertising gives us all the more reason to believe in the power of email newsletter marketing. Unlike targeted ads across the web, email newsletter advertising keeps user data private and secure. What’s more, email marketing is more intimate. It reaches a captive audience who are primed and ready to consume content.

With the deprecation of the third-party cookie looming, it’s natural that some marketers are panicking, with many looking for alternatives like the identity solutions we describe above. But with in-email advertising proving a powerful means of engaging with consumers in a secure, compliant way, there’s no need for any party to rely on cookie soup to monetise their content.

Instead, marketers and publishers need a platform that’s completely transparent in regards to how sensitive, private profile data is treated throughout the customer journey. Publishers need to know they can trust any external data partner with such data, and that it won’t be resold, reused, rehashed, or rewashed.

Imagine a safe and secure advertising environment in which marketers can rely on full campaign management including A/B testing and CPM/CPC/CPA models; where they can customise the look and feel of native and display ads for each placement; access live reports on advertisers, campaigns and performance at the click of a button; make direct deals with their own network of publishers; or tailor their demand strategy according to each vertical, market or language.

It’s this type of control and transparency we as an industry should be providing as an absolute minimum as we move beyond the cookie. So for any marketer looking for the perfect recipe to satisfy their advertising needs, they can rest easy knowing there’s no chance of cookie soup on the menu today.

About us

Passendo is the leading European platform commercialising newsletter inventory. Founded in 2016 by two digital advertising pioneers, our award-winning email ad server and SSP provides value for publishers and advertisers worldwide, with over 4,000 premium publishing house newsletter inventories across the world. Partnering with some of the world’s largest media publishers, we help them activate new incremental revenues in an existing and untapped media channel – in-email advertising – reaching new audiences to unlock new and exciting opportunities.


UK Business Development:

Anthony White

+44 (0) 7905 234788