In January 2020, when Google, one of the most used browsers globally, announced that it would begin deprecating its third-party cookies by mid-2023, the news came as a shocker to many. But looking at the mixed response it received from advertisers internationally, Google decided to push back the third-party cookie phaseout to late 2023 initially and ultimately implemented it this January 4 onwards.
As explained by Neil Patel in one of his blogs, third-party cookies are tiny pieces of data that a website stores on a user’s browser while they’re visiting and the same serve as a memory for the website, allowing it to recognise the user and remembering things like their preferences, what’s in their shopping cart, or whether they’re logged in.
Currently, third-party cookies created by third-party domains in the ad and marketing world have been used for retargeting ad serving, customer acquisition, creating an enriched profile, audience discovery used in Programmatic Ad delivery, suppression of audiences and marketing attribution, tracking consumer journeys on the web and much more.
With this phasing out of third-party cookies, Google joins Safari and Firefox who had blocked third-party cookies on their browsers long ago. But since the internet mogul’s plan of sunsetting third-party cookies as part of its Privacy Sandbox initiative isn’t sudden but gradual and is likely to ramp up from impacting 1% Chrome users starting January 4 to 100% Chrome users by the second half of 2024.
Advertisers have had quite some time to build first-party data lakes and partner with Customer Data Platforms to focus on contextual targeting and personalised targeting.
Speaking to Bestmediainfo.com about how would the cookieless world impact digital marketing, Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Director- Marketing and Sales, Maruti Suzuki, an automobile major and one of India’s top advertisers, emphasised that since consumers surely have become more used to personalised messaging and ad serving which is aided through the 3rd Party Cookies, marketing attribution models will be significantly affected by the changes to third-party cookies.
“Without the old methodology, it will become far more difficult to identify, target, frequency-cap and measure users and create consistent user IDs across the marketing funnel. It will also present a challenge for data management platforms (DMPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) that rely on cookies to identify, group and target audiences as well as reporting on user behaviour and conversions,” he opined.
That being said, both advertisers and publishers, in his view, will need to prepare for a world without third-party cookies and in future, may have to think of a model when third-party cookies go away, where a Universal ID replaces the role of the third-party cookie. However, associating impression and conversion events across different sites within the same browser becomes much more difficult. Both brands and publishers will need to integrate infrastructure for a Universal ID, the possibility of which needs to be seen in the future.
Furthermore, he also pointed out that Maruti Suzuki has been preparing for the cookieless world by working on strategies. These include partnered mapped data to first-party data using durable identifiers like hashed email and mobile number for greater accuracy which leads to richer insights and improved personalisation. The company is committed to marketing responsibly by honouring consumer consent and data sharing preferences and therefore setting configurable data usage policies, and preventing misuse alongside pursuing fewer but deeper data partnerships for audience enrichment including direct brand-to-brand and brand-to-publisher relationships in addition to working with third-party data partners.
“While we at MSIL have strong 1st Party Data, once the future arrives, we will take a call about data partnerships. Overall, the best strategy to measure marketing advertising campaigns in a cookie-less world is to collect and analyse first-party data, use contextual targeting, test incrementally, adopt privacy-focused tracking methods, and consider multi-channel attribution models. Alongside this, we are also testing several technologies and platforms including the use of Partner Data Framework, to navigate into this cookie-less world with minimum impact,” he highlighted.
According to Priyanka Sethi, Head of Marketing, Haier Appliances India, Google's phased deprecation of third-party cookies represents a transformative step, emphasising the imperative for brands to actively ready themselves for a cookieless future and this strategic shift not only aligns with stringent privacy norms but also empowers marketers to devise more personalised strategies.
“The marketing landscape of 2024 is marked by the cessation of cookies and the integration of advanced AI capabilities, marketers are compelled to embrace innovation, uphold new standards, and place heightened emphasis on factors such as brand trust, customer loyalty, and purchasing behaviour,” she said.
Sharing her take on the matter, Harmeet Singh, VP- Marketing, Product and Digital, The Body Shop India, also emphasised that given the fact that the brand’s business is very well attached to all the big online fish including the Googles of the world when there is a change in some of their policies, it does have an impact on advertiser’s performance marketing and search campaigns amongst others which are targetted to a particular audience.
But having said that, she also pointed out that since the brand’s reachability is quite far and high, even though there is dependence on digital mediums for obvious reasons, for The Body Shop the biggest weapon in its marketing arsenal continues to be the brand’s stores and the experience they provide which lead to a word of mouth publicity.
Similarly, another marketer associated with one of the prominent FMCG companies in India, on the grounds of anonymity, also pointed out that in his/her views, the third-party cookie phaseout is not going to pose a very big impact when it comes to strategising on how the brand can reach out to its target cohorts for it has already had the time to build its first-party data and continues to strengthen it in the coming times.
Also, because FMCG goods have a mass audience, the media mix isn’t just skewed on digital but a combination of traditional and new-age mediums. But for what it's worth, the brand is conscious of where its ads are eventually placed and it therefore focuses on contextual advertising and personalised communications.
In an earlier interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, Rohit Ohri, Global Partner, FCB Group, also mentioned that Google’s plan of deprecating third-party cookies will impact the data access of both brands and agencies and that the ecosystem will have to eventually build and leverage first-party data, which is a big challenge for a lot of brands and clients.
“One of the things that we have done to address this globally is that we have created our own hub called ‘FCB/SIX’ which is really about mining the first-party data for clients and using it in new, interesting and creative ways to stay ahead in the race,” he said at the time.
Similarly, Vishal Chinchankar, CEO, Madison Digital and Madison Media Alpha, also said, “We are invested in Privacy Sandbox technologies and testing ad manager tools before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome. With a strong 10-member tech team with experts in GA4, we are working closely with our clients on building their 1P (1st party) data.”
“Our AI/ML offering on personalised customer experiences, predictive analytics and enhanced decision-making processes have existed for quite some time, we are moving towards building customised AI products for our clients,” he added.
Speaking to BestMediaInfo.com, several agency leaders also emphasised that while Google sunsets third-party cookies, the trends in digital marketing which will be on the rise include of building and strengthening 1P data, mature usage of AI, building consumer experiences across touchpoints, neuromarketing and immersive tech utilisation