Marketers are tasked with creating user personas and providing personalisation across marketing channels, devices and other online and offline touchpoints. In the panel discussion moderated by Paras Mehta, business head, Matterkind, panelists Amit Kumar Rai, head of media operations at Car Dekho, and Nitin Sethi, vice president – digital, IndiGo, shared their thoughts on a ‘cookieless’ world.
The moderator began the discussion by setting the context with the news of Google Chrome doing away with third party cookies. This is significant as the browser shares a large chunk of the market and will affect the current ecosystem undoubtedly. With this background, Mehta invited the panelists to share their views on a system free of third party cookies which enable advertisers to target highly specific audiences.
Bringing the audience up to speed, Rai started with the fundamentals – What is a cookie? A cookie is a text in your browser dropped by a website. What purpose does a cookie serve? First party cookies help for better user experience. While on a website, you select a language and browse a few items. Once the session is over, you want the language and item preferences to remain the next time you log in; this is provided by first party cookies. Third party cookies track the user behaviour and its performance across sites and gives context to the ‘parent’ or creator of the cookie, who are mostly advertisers.
Typically, there are four partners in the ecosystem: a publisher, an aggregator which is the Supply Side Platform (SSP), an advertiser, and a tech partner which is the Demand Side Platform (DSP). Most publishers work with Google for ads, and it plays the role of an SSP as it allows publishers to sell digital ad impressions via automated auctions.
In a ‘cookieless’ environment where third party cookies are absent, advertisers will be unable to target audiences like they used to, thus they will affect audience monetization. As a result, publishers who give free valuable content to users will be affected. Ad tech companies who store data in a non personally identifiable way also stand to lose money. This happened when Safari disabled third party cookies with its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in 2017.
Sethi, VP digital at IndiGo, illustrated that “The site says ‘accept to continue’, what if the user does not give consent? Brands have to take more responsible ownership.” He explains how most brands have a registered framework, if one doesn’t register, some functionality will not be accessible. Thus, the guest user phenomenon becomes a requirement after the third party cookie goes away. “Users come for content, not to be bombarded with irrelevant ads and offers. For users, this is very meaningful because I am the owner of my data, not the brand, the brand facilitates. For example at Indigo, we don’t have any third party cookies, and the second party play is with a select few partners, and is intent and consent driven. Communication is sent only if the user is interested, based on factors such as click-through rates.”
He opines that the idea is not to spam the users and respect their privacy. Publishers and aggregators will face challenges if third party cookies are done away with, but the whole ecosystem needs to shift. Not all the players have infrastructure to create big databases or customer masters and one fit for all will never work.
“Once you use an integrated marketing cloud be it Adobe or Google, most things are integrated so you don’t need to share your data with second or third parties, legally you own the data. This is not one fit for all, not available for every brand, therefore we have to respect the personal space and provide trustworthy experiences. We also need to differentiate between good and bad cookies,” said Sethi.
For publishers, it is most important to not be dependent on only third party cookies, and to create an environment that gives a personalised touch to every customer in its communication. For example, an airline company uses location data from Google Maps or Uber to communicate their offerings specific to the user for that city. With collaboration between two parties or tie ups with other data providers, a second party cookie ecosystem may flourish.
The real challenge would lie with publishers whose main source of revenue is advertisements. With SSPs and DSPs in place, the heavy lifting of identifying target audiences will be available from the SSP side.
Rai points out that IndiGo has an online business which is the enabler, the offline business is the real money maker. Typically for a publisher whose bread and butter is an online business model, advertisement is important. Most publishers have created their first party DMP and have collected data over time. They also have other data sources. Publishers can thus merge all of this data and can make their first party cookie a ‘super cookie’.
This is possible with big brands, but not all have the bandwidth – for whom there are data onboarding partners which will become a big trend in the coming days. These partners help publishers organize their data and create consent based data collection: a central database with encrypted email IDs. “Brands in the future will enrich their data, centralise it, partner with a data onboarding partner and make it suitable data for advertisers. What happens is, data which is with the advertiser goes to a central secure place, this repository helps everybody,” said Rai.
Once third party cookies are disabled, marketers will start looking at alternatives to interact with customers. This will push marketing strategists to invest in dynamic content optimisation (DCO) in terms of delivering the ad, using the same concept but with consent in a more meaningful manner. Brands must build confidence with their consumers and provide them with trustworthy journeys.
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