In-depth: How web browsers' move to restrict 'third-party' cookies affect brands

The blocking of third-party cookies by browsers means privacy for consumers but a loss for brands as staying connected to the consumer has become more difficult. speaks to brands and digital agency heads to understand the effects of the crackdown and the way out for them

Shradha Mishra
New Update
In-depth: How web browsers' move to restrict 'third-party' cookies affect brands

After browsers such as Firefox and Brave switched off third-party cookies by default, search giant Google also made it easier for people to block cookies that track them in Chrome. 

The world’s most popular browser with 60% of market share has forced advertisers to plan alternative ways to be in the minds of their consumers.

The third-party cookie crackdown from browsers is an acceptable setup for any advertiser that doesn’t buy vast amount of online media and doesn’t need targeting data, but for the larger ones that need both, the browsers’ moves are pushing them toward alternative ways of targeting online users.                                                                            

Google, however, has not switched off third-party cookies by default. speaks to brands and digital agency heads to understand the way-outs this industry has planned to stay connected to today’s consumer after third-party cookie crackdown by browsers. The brands also discuss the effects of the crackdown on brands.

Prabhakar Tiwari

Speaking on the third-party cookie blockage, Prabhakar Tiwari, Chief Marketing Officer, Angel Broking Ltd., said, “Change is the only constant, and our digital marketing ecosystem is no different. Responsible brands use third-party cookie towards personalised efforts in acquisition, retention and development efforts with focus on delightful consumer experience. We have developed smart strategies to reach and to engage consumers.”

Alisha Malik

“The fact that Google is optionally blocking third-party cookie means that a brand will not be able to target its customer as effectively during the consumer’s search,” said Alisha Malik, Vice-President, E-commerce, Metro Brands Ltd.

Malik thinks brands have a lot of options to stay connected to the consumers. “I am a firm believer that throwing money on browsers is not necessarily the best way to give brand recall to the consumers; rather a good-quality product and the service by the brand would be more effective to give consumer a brand recall,” she pointed out.

Rishi Sharma

Rishi Sharma, AVP and Head Digital Marketing, Liva, P and F Business, Grasim Industries, said, “This new privacy measure will directly impact personalised communication as the learnings about the audience would get limited. The brands will be compelled to explore other browsers.”

Sai Sangeeta Israni

According to Sai Sangeeta Israni, GM Marketing, Spykar lifestyles, “The adoption of cookie blockers is minuscule in the country, hence has not affected us as a brand.”

The brands are also picking multiple old and new marketing strategies to fill in the grey space caused between them and consumers after the cookie crackdown.

Metro Shoes invests 4% of its total sales on e-commerce website marketing. For the brand, it proves to be the most effective market type as it affects the purchase decision of the consumer.

“We interact with our customers at multiple touch points both online and offline. Remarketing and retargeting by third-party cookie is just one of the product Google offers. Brands should invest on ways that are relevant to the consumer’s search experience. The spent should be mass targeting rather than targeting one particular searcher,” said Malik.

According to Malik, Search Image ads and Google shopping network ads are a few products by Google that can be tapped for online advertising. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter are a few more touch points to stay connected with the targeted group by brands.

“We are looking at a 3% marketing spend of total sales and out of that we are planning 10-15% on digital and rest offline. We are going to keep our marketing strategy 360 degree,” Malik added.

According to Sharma, by providing a value-based model for consumers, the brand can fetch more value in return.

“The action of third-party blockage may not necessarily see an increase in the digital marketing spends but definitely see a shift in how the spends are allocated. We are now planning a model where taking information from consumers will benefit consumer in getting subscription, downloads, etc,” Sharma said.

However, in Angel Broking, the way out of the situation is in the hands of their digital ecosystem partners. “We agree that this situation is dynamic, and will be governed by sum total of responses from all digital ecosystem partners. Angel Broking is a big spender on Google ecosystem, and we keep fine-tuning our overall acquisition strategies across Google and non-Google channels. Currently, we don't foresee a big shift on digital marketing spends,” he said.

The brand is strengthening its analytics team and going for more sophisticated targeting and personalisation tools.

For Spykar, digital remains to be the key medium, as their target audience is millennials. The brand spends around 30% of marketing budgets on digital in content creation and amplification.

“Digital spends of Spykar has been growing Y-O-Y and we see it picking up further,” said Israni.

Sameer Makani

Speaking on the strategies of agencies, Sameer Makani, Co-founder and Managing Director, Makani Creatives, said, “With unavailability of third-party cookies, advertisers will need to quickly adapt to the new digital advertising space. There are multiple solutions available that abide by the new regulations in this era of transparency. Brands can actively look at re-engineering their third-party cookie framework so that they can operate in first-party environments. Login information and email address also has a huge impact on targeting ads. It will also provide an option to move operations to marketing channels. Since the third-party data is blocked, the retargeting becomes difficult. Brands would now have to find mediums to serve ads on different websites in contextual ways by focussing more on location, keywords, topics and various other channels that are relevant to their ad content. This will significantly increase the probability of reaching the targeted consumer.

Gopa Kumar

Gopa Kumar, COO, Isobar, said, “Brands would need to start developing their first-party data and focus on how they can see how they collect and activate the data and also use in context with relevant messaging. What this will mean is that brands will need to focus and collect more of contextual data and behaviours and start creating messaging that leverages that context around the same. Brands will have to continue exploring native ads and also try out branded video content as well.”

Is the move of Google, Firefox and other search engines on blocking the third-party cookies a good decision?

“From a consumer standpoint, this move will provide utmost transparency and create a more private environment online. However, brands will be forced to consider alternative first-party data, which will be controlled by Google and other such browsers. Although it is a manageable setup for advertisers that don’t buy vast sums of online media and don’t require targeting data, bigger players will need to find alternative ways of targeting online users. Blocking the  third-party cookie will  bring in many challenges with reference to current attribution models but in the long run it will improve the way brands look at overall digital advertising activity. This will initiate a framework that is less focused on cookie history from one device and more focused on the impact of the overall marketer’s media spend,” said Makani.

According to Kumar, it is imperative of Google, Firefox and other browsers to block third-party cookie to maintain user’s data privacy.

“This is a good move as this will install a much-needed trust in the digital ecosystem and also push brands and marketers to think out of the box to reach to their audience and not just depend on cookie-based data for their marketing efforts,” highlighted Kumar.

“The blocking of third-party cookie by browsers is good for customers; they won’t get bombarded with third-party cookie ads. Google can lead them a better search result on the basis of relevance to their search,” said Malik.

“We are prepared to deal smartly with current opportunities and challenges to ensure that we scale up our business cost-efficiently on both acquisition and retention fronts,” Tiwari concluded.

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