How the cookie crumbled

Last year, Apple blocked third-party cookies on its Safari browser, while Google is still in the process of blocking cookies on Chrome, with plans to phase them out entirely by next year. (Shutterstock)
Last year, Apple blocked third-party cookies on its Safari browser, while Google is still in the process of blocking cookies on Chrome, with plans to phase them out entirely by next year. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 27 August 2021

How the cookie crumbled

Last year, Apple blocked third-party cookies on its Safari browser, while Google is still in the process of blocking cookies on Chrome, with plans to phase them out entirely by next year. (Shutterstock)
  • Apple and Google decisions to kill internet cookies mean companies are changing the way they target and measure ads

DUBAI: A cookie is essentially a tag or piece of code placed on any online content — such as an article, video or advertisement — that collects user data. The data collected includes information like the device ID, and the internet usage and browsing habits of a user. It cannot, however, collect any personal data such as a user’s gender, age or name. This data can then be used by publishers to tailor their content offerings and by brands to launch targeted advertising.

Although cookies do not collect personal data, over time, due to the sheer volume of cookies and the time an average user spends across their devices, brands and publishers can start to paint a picture of the person behind the device ID. For example, if a particular ID is engaging with more female content while shopping for beauty products, a publisher or analytics company can begin creating a profile and pushing tailored content and advertising to that ID.

Cookies not only follow users as they traverse through the internet across their devices, but the user data collected from them is then sold and monetized — something users have become increasingly uncomfortable about.

“There has been a reckoning when it comes to privacy building for the last few years,” Nader Bitar, deputy general manager of advertising technology company MMP Worldwide, told Arab News.

Last year, Apple blocked third-party cookies on its Safari browser, while Google is still in the process of blocking cookies on Chrome, with plans to phase them out entirely by next year.

Apple’s iOS 14 update also requires app developers to meet specific privacy requirements before they can be listed on the App Store, and gives users control over apps tracking their movement online and sharing their data with third-party companies.

“Most people never really understood how much information they were giving away about themselves for free, and how much money was being made off the back of this data,” Sarah Messer, managing director at Nielsen Media MENAP, told Arab News.

Typically, cookies cannot identify an individual, but the likes of Facebook know exactly who each user is and thus gain access to a much richer data profile which they use to make money, Messer said, adding: “But people don’t want that.”

The death of cookies is a victory for user privacy, but has thrown marketers into panic mode. “Advertisers have been left in limbo for a while as the goalposts surrounding user privacy began to shift even before the pandemic,” said Bitar.

Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings tool, which measures the on-target performance of online advertising, relied on cookies and worked across all web platforms including so-called “walled gardens” with closed ecosystems, such as Facebook and YouTube. One of the world’s biggest advertisers, Procter & Gamble, would ask all online publishers to place the Nielsen cookie on all their advertising in order to measure performance.

Without cookies, brands like P&G are reliant on data from publishers to measure the performance of their ads — lacking any third-party verification from companies such as Nielsen. “All the big digital publishers would say we have a ‘walled garden’ and you can only have the data that we allow you to have, and it’s really them that are then leading the charge in a cookie-less world,” said Messer.

Although Apple’s privacy changes are a massive boon to customers, “Apple is not doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” said Bitar.

“They are, in effect, creating their own walled garden to keep users within their own ecosystem and forcing everyone else to get on board. The advantage Apple and Google have in this space is astounding, and between them, they have upended digital advertising as we know it,” he added.

Messer, on the other hand, believes that “everybody wants a transparent media industry.” She said that the likes of Google are inviting companies such as Nielsen into their walled gardens. “This is very much about respecting consumer privacy, and not about trying to close the doors, because they’re actually inviting people like us in to come and have those conversations with them.”

Now, Nielsen is working with companies including Facebook and YouTube to set up technology on their platforms, which will enable them to receive independent third-party data without cookies. When it comes to other publishers that are not walled off, Nielsen and similar measurement companies are setting up “identity panels,” Messer said. Traditionally, an online panel in the UAE would consist of 60,000 to 70,000 people, but an identity panel is much larger, with ideal numbers of about 150,000 to 200,000 people.

“We will know the identities of people within this panel, and we will use it as proxy data and apply it to what we see on the rest of the web,” she added.

“This evolution of identity panels is what will replace cookies and tags,” she said. However, the biggest disadvantage of losing cookies is the accompanying loss of accuracy.

“In a world where we had the entire Facebook audience of about 8.4 million people in the UAE — the entire population in a dataset — we really understood the data,” said Messer. “We are then reducing that to about 200,000 people, so there will be some loss of accuracy.”

This loss can result in less relevant advertising, which in turn can become an annoyance for users. “Users don’t want their experience interrupted online with irrelevant ads, but they also want the right to shield their activity online from potential advertisers, which creates something of a Catch-22,” said Bitar.

While advertising’s relevancy may fall in the short term, consumers will likely see benefits through their lives and data being much more private. “I think that’s something that people want even if they don’t fully understand it,” said Messer.

Advertising often gets a bad rap for being intrusive and irritating, but it is worth remembering that “advertising isn’t bad when it’s done well, and actually anticipates and answers a need,” said Bitar.

Users want to feel valued, heard and understood, and according to Bitar, the only way to do that is to personalize, which means marketers “have to walk a fine line between being invasive and useful.”

He added: “I’m fine with my data being used to shape a better experience for me online as long as there is transparency from all parties involved. This is what will be at the heart of everything moving forward: An open and honest exchange.”


UK migrant deaths: Priti Patel demands BBC drop ‘dehumanizing’ language 

ritain will do whatever is necessary to help secure the French coast to stop migrants risking their lives trying to cross the English Channel. (Reuters)
ritain will do whatever is necessary to help secure the French coast to stop migrants risking their lives trying to cross the English Channel. (Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2021

UK migrant deaths: Priti Patel demands BBC drop ‘dehumanizing’ language 

ritain will do whatever is necessary to help secure the French coast to stop migrants risking their lives trying to cross the English Channel. (Reuters)
  • On Wednesday, 27 people headed for the UK drowned in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sunk

LONDON: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to ask the BBC and other media channels to abandon the use of the term “migrants,” claiming that the word is “dehumanizing.”

Patel made the pledge after being challenged by the Scottish National Party MP Brendan O’Hara on the BBC’s use of ‘migrants’ to describe the 27 men, women and children who died while crossing the English Channel earlier this week.

On Wednesday, 27 people headed for the UK drowned in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sunk. Those who drowned included 17 men, seven women — one of whom was pregnant — and three children.

Following the incident, O’Hara had told the House of Commons: “Last night, I tuned in to the BBC News to get the latest on this terrible disaster and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned.

“Migrants don’t drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown,” he added, urging Patel to take action and ask the BBC and other news outlets to “reflect on their use of such dehumanizing language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve.”

Patel responded positively to O’Hara’s request, and said: “Even during the Afghan operations and evacuation I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing.

“So yes, I will,” she pledged.

Patel had previously blamed France for the deaths of the 27 people, saying that it was up to the French to take action to prevent further tragedies.

She claimed that while there was no rapid solution to the issue of people seeking to cross the English Channel, she had reiterated an offer to send more police to France.


Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Updated 27 November 2021

Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
  • Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, a presenter at privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him
  • In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the violent attack on Afghani journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, who was assaulted in Kabul while on his way home. 

Ahmadi, a presenter at the privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him and attempted to shoot him. 

The men, whose faces were covered by black handkerchiefs, reportedly shouted, “Reporter! Stop,” demanded to see his identification card and asked him where he worked. 

“The Taliban has repeatedly failed to uphold its stated commitment to press freedom, as violent attacks against journalists continue and proper investigations or accountability are nowhere to be found,” said CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, Steven Butler.

“The Taliban should reverse this trend by thoroughly investigating the attack on Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, and holding the perpetrators accountable.”

Ahmadi’s assailants reportedly demanded he unlock his phone and open his WhatsApp and Facebook accounts. When Ahmadi refused, the men beat him with pistols and proceeded to shoot at him when he asked for help. 

The shots missed Ahmadi, but the men continued kicking him while he was on the ground, breaking his jaw. 

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers. 

In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul, and Taliban members beat and detained Zahidullah Husainkhil.


Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
Updated 26 November 2021

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
  • 88 entries shortlisted in 56 categories for 2021 Middle East Public Relations Association awards

DUBAI: This year’s winners of a prestigious Middle Eastern public relations awards scheme were revealed at a recent presentation ceremony in the UAE.

More than 88 entries were shortlisted across 56 categories in the 2021 edition of the Middle East Public Relations Association awards.

The communications industry has been seriously impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic with many companies and organizations cutting their advertising and marketing budgets.

And the latest MEPRA awards took into account the damage caused to the sector by the global health crisis through categories such as best creative approach and best internal communications response during COVID-19, and best social impact campaign in response to the virus outbreak.

The classes saw gold trophies awarded to APCO Worldwide for its campaign “Adapting UOWD’s Education Model in the Age of the Pandemic,” Mastercard MEA for its “Priceless Together” project, and Action Global Communications for “ADEK Back to School,” respectively.

During the awards ceremony held in Dubai on Wednesday, Red Havas bagged gold for best campaign in the Middle East with Adidas’ “Beyond the Surface,” and Hill+Knowlton Strategies took silver and bronze for its PUBG Mobile “Game on Henedy,” and Facebook Inc. “#MonthofGood” campaigns, respectively.

To mark MEPRA’s 20th anniversary this year, the awards featured a new category of people’s choice for the best Middle East campaign over the last two decades, won by Weber Shandwick MENAT and Environment Agency Abu Dhabi for the “Vote Bu Tinah!” campaign.

Special gongs on the night included the chairman’s lifetime achievement award that went to Jack Pearce of Matrix Public Relations, the small in-house team of the year accolade handed to Mastercard MENA, and the large in-house team of the year prize given to the UAE government’s media office.

Agency titles were awarded to Gambit Communications for best home-grown operation as well as small agency of the year, with Acorn Strategy being crowned large agency of the year.


New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2021

New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
  • New Zealand PM said tech giants and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online

LONDON: Tech giants like Meta’s Facebook and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019 after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch while live-streaming his rampage on Facebook.
This Christchurch Call initiative has been supported by more than 50 countries, international organizations and tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.
Ardern said on Friday the initiative had been successful in its first aim of establishing a crisis protocol, including a 24/7 network between platforms to quickly remove content, in response to events like those in Christchurch.
“We have had real world stress-testing of those systems and they have worked very effectively,” Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
“I am confident that we are operating more effectively than we have before,” she added. “The next challenge though, is to go further again.”
Asked what tech companies should be doing, Ardern replied: “much more.”
Ardern said the next step was to focus on prevention, looking at how people are finding or coming across hateful or terror-motivating content online and perhaps becoming radicalized.
“That’s where we are really interested in the ongoing work around algorithms and the role that we can all play to ensure that online platforms don’t become a place of radicalization,” she said.
A Christchurch Call conference earlier this year was attended by the United States and Britain.


MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
Updated 25 November 2021

MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
  • The 13th edition of the awards program celebrates marketing effectiveness

DUBAI: The MENA Effie Awards, the regional edition of the globally renowned marketing industry honours, announced its 2021 winners at an awards ceremony in Dubai on Nov. 24.

After a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, the awards made a comeback this year, recording a 40 percent increase in entries from 2019.

This year’s grand prix went to FP7 McCann Dubai for the “The Bread Exam” campaign for the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation. The Most Effective Advertising Agency Office of the Year title was awarded to FP7 McCann Dubai, while Omnicom Group’s PHD Dubai was named Most Effective Media Agency Office of the Year.

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards by far across its network of agencies, including McCann Health and Momentum.

“Firstly, it was so good to see the industry come together for the first time since the pandemic started. Secondly, this being the pandemic Effies, every piece of work deserved double the applause as it was made amidst terrific stresses and restrictions,” Tahaab Rais, president of SLC and regional head of strategy and truth central at FP7 McCann MENAT, told Arab News.

He added that the record number of awards at this year’s event, as well as securing Most Effective Advertising Agency and Network of the Year for the 8th consecutive year, is “a testament to how if we, collectively and consistently, outthink, outwork and outcare as brands, agencies, and people, you do end up coming out on top all things being equal.”

Luca Allam, CEO of PHD MENA, said: “Delivering marketing effectiveness for our clients is PHD’s priority. For the last few years, PHD has held a proud track record at the Effies. We are courageous enough to make leaps, we are not afraid to creatively push the boundaries, and this award validates this effort. We are thrilled to be consistently delivering growth for our clients through great and innovative work.”

Other winners on the night included Wunderman Thompson, which bagged 13 awards, TBWA\RAAD shone after picking up 11 trophies, and Havas Middle East and the BBDO network both won five awards each.

The full list of winners can be viewed here.