The 26 May deadline may have passed, but the debate rages on as to how website owners satisfy themselves that they have sought customer consent to use cookies, ‘implied’ or otherwise. Copy approaches to the task have varied widely, but here are 7 different cookie content strategies we’ve seen.

1. The UX-led approach

BT’s copy is simple, benefit-driven and leads on customer experience messages. It reaches its broad demographic by defining what consent for each cookie type means in plain, conversational language.

The bullets are all mapped to recognisable customer journeys through their site. By focusing on how cookies will improve each journey for the customer (‘This website will remember what is in your shopping basket’) and showing what customers can’t do without them enabled (‘This website will not allow you to comment on blogs’) the customer is left firmly in control and in no doubt as to the benefits of keeping certain cookies enabled.

2. Making it personal

Silktide’s copy seems to focus on how cookies affect individual users, such as enabling you to access your favourite social media sites. It uses very short, to-the-point sentences and it’s one of the shortest initial messages we’ve seen (although there is deeper content available).

The language used is jargon-free and confident: ‘Social websites need to know who you are to work properly.’ The overall effect is calm, positive and gives out a ‘nothing to see here’ vibe.

3. Trust us, we're the Beeb

The BBC’s low-key messaging has a reassuring gravitas. ‘We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience’, claims the Beeb, but doesn’t see the need to qualify this any further.

Beautifully written in that conversational-yet-authoritative tone it does so well, the BBC cookie copy even manages to squeeze the word ‘happy’ into a sentence. The message elegantly yet firmly encourages users to carry on browsing without changing their settings. (‘We’ll assume that you are happy…’) We also notice the clear nudge in the call to action: ‘Continue’ being in a much larger point size than ‘Find out more’, with a clever tick icon giving it extra positive reinforcement.

4. Look, everyone's doing it...

Interestingly, Channel 4’s copy is one of the few to explicitly point out that, as far as cookies are concerned, everyone’s doing it — kicking off with: ‘Like most websites, Channel 4 uses cookies.'

Someone has certainly applied some micro-content strategy to this copy as it is packed with phrases designed to normalise the practice and neutralise any audience fears. Channel 4 is characteristically candid about the key visitor fears about cookies, and succinct, clear and definite in its reassurance: ‘These cookies are safe and secure and will never contain any sensitive information.’

5. Don't set any alarms off

Barclays takes a warm, gentle approach, cosily confiding that cookies ‘help us to know a little bit about you and how you use our website’.

This is the only message we’ve seen that attempts to appeal to our altruistic side, reminding us that cookies improve the browsing experience ‘both for you and for others.'

This is copy written to be as non-confrontational as possible – there isn’t a strong call to action. In fact, it’s closer to a call for inaction: ‘continue browsing as normal’, and all will be well.

6. Too much like hard work?

The Financial Times appears tonally on-brand with its quite formal language ('you consent to our use of cookies on this device in accordance with…'). And at 96 words, it’s a longer landing message than most.

The message is certainly worded very clearly (‘by closing this message, you consent’) but you could argue they’re making hard work of active cookie management with multiple mid-copy links, ultimately meaning 5 separate points of distraction, and no policy details within the statement itself. Whether this is by accident or design is hard to say. Certainly one clever content strategy might be to make it all too much like hard work…

7. Kooky about cookies

Best Western shows us that life is too short to be serious about cookies, throwing in humour and tonal warmth with its slightly bonkers opening statement: ‘We love cookies – you can dunk them in your tea!’

But this is possibly a case of style over substance, as while it’s one of the longest approaches we’ve seen (112 words), very little will inform anyone who’s not already familiar with cookies. However, there is a useful link to a chocolate chip cookie recipe...

The copy suggests users can: ‘set your web browser to stop them downloading’ or ‘delete them from your computer’, but doesn’t explain the effect that blocking or deleting cookies will have on your use of this site.

There is also a strange, bracketed sentence at the end with a jarring split infinitive: ‘This message is intended to only appear the first time you visit our website each month.’ It’s hard to see the logic here: if the copy only appears once a month, then it’s unnecessary. If it appears each time (it has for us) then it’s potentially annoying.

Got to applaud Best Western for trying to take the dull out of the cookie law though, haven’t you? 

Cookie micro-content strategy

Don't have a cookie message yet? Still developing yours? See it for what it is: a micro-content strategy in the making.

  • Start as you would with any other key piece of copy: identify your audience, their needs, fears and the messages your insights and analytics suggest they might respond to.
  • Next, identify what you want those users to think, feel or do when they read your copy. What is the key purpose of your message? You must write to achieve this end ultimately, and not be distracted by anything else (recipes, perhaps?).
  • Work on the format that will make your cookie message most effective. Test a variety of formats and approaches if possible.
  • Once your copy’s live, monitor its performance and refine it based on how you see users respond.