The Crumbling Cookie of Web Measurement

When it comes to ROI, marketers think the Web is the “It Girl” for advertising. But 6/23  panel discussion at the ARF AM 4.0 conference told a different story “as the cookie crumbles.” Literally.

“Up to half of all Web users delete their cookies at least once a month,” says John Lovett, a senior analyst at Forrestter Research. Although Forrester’s results are at the high end of several studies, the 30 percent estimate at the low end of syndicated study results still troubles researchers and advertisers.

Lovett says that 21 percent of users delete cookies for no particular reason. And 55 percent kill their cookies because they mistakenly believe that keeping cookies will slow down their PC’s behavior (please tell your Aunt Gladys the truth: deleting cookies won’t make your 386 Windows 3.1 PC run any faster).

But deleting cookies does affect publishers’ unique visit counts and calculated conversion rates. For advertisers, it distorts reach estimates and frequency capping algorithms.

Gian Flgoni Chairman of comScore, cites different estimates, but agrees with the trend the frequency of monthly deletion is increasing.

Fewer persistent cookies — and the inability to identify the same user on multiple computers or platforms — inflates unique visitor counts. Doubleclick Product Manager Sean Harvey says his company models these data to adjust for deletions. The IAB has worked to address this industry issue through education and best practices guidelines.

Concerned that cookies are becoming an endangered species — whose life and death affects advertising — panelists urged researchers to write their representatives in Congress about the value of cookies and offer a tutorial on their benefits.

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