Ann Winter
Ann Winter

Member Article

Kino Creative on EU Cookie Directives: part 5

The EU directives cover all kinds of electronic data storage, not just cookies, but cookies are causing the biggest noise. The law requires informed consent from site visitors before cookies are set, potentially stalling traffic to the site. Newcastle-based web design agency Kino Creative have commissioned a series of articles suggesting ways for SMEs to comply while explaining the cookie laws, which Ann Winter has summarised for Bdaily.

Easy options for SMEs: do marketers really understand the EU cookie directives?

According to Econsultancy 61% their 700 strong sample of marketers say they have ‘no understanding’ of the options for maximising cookie opt-ins. This is partly due to strong resistance within the industry to the new law; survey respondents assume site users will choose to opt out, thus “killing sales”, or making them “disappear”. Some businesses talk of open defiance to the law, claiming “strength in numbers: who will they sue first?” or citing the small staffing numbers at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), responsible for enforcing the law, and the impossibility of blanket surveillance. One respondent went further, suggesting a pop-up saying “click here if you want to damage the economy, make the UK less competitive and risk unemployment and damage the UK’s position as a top digital economy.” Clearly, panic has set in…

On the other hand, these fears may be misplaced. Marketers are assuming the worst case scenario while openly admitting they don’t understand the options for compliance. Most cookies are set with an intention of improving a service to the client or consumer, even tracking cookies generating advertising revenue.

SMEs and advertising revenue

Advertising revenue is crucial to the business model of most online SMEs, as are tracking cookies. If this revenue was seriously under threat the consequences would indeed be disastrous for the UK’s digital economy. However, there is no evidence that this is the case. The fact that SMEs – and indeed many large enterprises – advertise to survive is no news to the consumer. If cookies have an alarming reputation, it is largely down to press reports and viral rumours of malicious spyware, as well as a general lack of understanding of the technology. In the same survey, 93% of Econsultancy’s respondents thought web users would not understand the purpose of the cookies and instinctively
opt out.

The options…

As we’ve seen from my earlier posts, site users care less about the use or function of cookies than they do about the speed, ease of access and reliability of their online service. Transparency is only successful when it doesn’t hamper that process. After all, if your customers lose interest, who cares how straight up you are?

Cookies are essential for online business, so informing consumers of their existence is also informing them how they benefit. Take the example of BT, who turned the permissions problem on its head, describing how cookies are used on the site, and asking if visitors wanted to change the settings, rather than asking them to accept cookies. The vast majority of visitors also clicked “no” – except this meant “no – don’t change”, and thereby accepted the cookies. See my posts on maximising opt- in requests and compliance strategies for more analysis.

The easiest option is of course to do nothing, and hope the others aren’t bluffing and we don’t get prosecuted first… The second easiest option is to download a free pop-up plug-in, such as Kino Creative’s plug-in for Wordpress, and add it to your site with a clear, brief message about the cookies you are setting, including an option to change the website settings for each visitor. Like BT you’ll find customers opting for speed and performance over poorly understood software controversies every time…

Coming up next: The future of display advertising

Previously in this series: audit your cookies; maximising opt-in requests; compliance strategies; are
the EU cookie directives out of date?

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ann Winter .

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