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The impact of cookie matching on publisher websites

Cookie matching has been, in the past 10 years, the method the industry has used to share user-level information in the advertising value chain. Cookie syncing is a system that has worked relatively fine in a small, lightly regulated ecosystem but it’s no longer sustainable in today’s privacy-first, crowded programmatic industry.


With the fast expansion of the Internet, digital advertising investments have grown rapidly, and with them the number of ad tech vendors helping publishers to monetise their inventory – and dropping cookies on their pages.

Today the cookie matching process has become unbearable for publishers. Their websites are overpopulated with dozens of advertising and tracking pixels. Multiple cookie synchronisations take place every time a user lands on a website or moves from one page to another.


Cookie matching creates a number of issues that have become hard to ignore. In order to assess the scale of the problem, ID5 commissioned a report by RedBud to understand the impact that cookie matching pixels and other third party redirects have on publisher websites, with regards to:


  • privacy compliance
  • data security
  • website performance


RedBud extracted a subset of 20,000 scans of top news and magazine website in the UK, Germany and France using their proprietary tool, DIAGNOSE. The eye-opening results of the research were presented by RedBud’s Co-Founder, Chloe Grutchfield, at ID5’s Identity 2020 event in November.


The key findings of the research have been collected in the infographic below.


“One of the biggest privacy vulnerabilities we see across our clients’ websites stem from cookie syncing pixels and other third parties triggered via redirects.” said Chloe Grutchfield “Non-GDPR compliant vendors, sometimes 3-4 steps removed from the actual publisher, are dropping cookies on EU users, whilst providing no value or demand to those same publishers. We’ve also noticed a “graveyard” of cookie syncing pixels that no longer work because the companies have gone bust or the pixel isn’t present on the vendor’s server anymore. So much wasted bandwidth. As an industry, we must do better for the user and for the publisher.”


According to Mathieu Roche, Co-Founder & CEO at ID5 “Identifying users is mandatory for digital advertising to work, so it is a key concern for publishers. Until now, publishers have had to deploy imperfect solutions to do that, relying on platforms matching cookies with each other, which has many negative side effects as the Redbud study clearly illustrated. With the growing limitations to 3rd party cookies and the new privacy rules, publishers have the opportunity to enforce the redesign of the system and improve identification capabilities while at the same time getting rid of the negative impact of cookie matching.”