The Cookie is Crumbling

Authored by Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO, Mirum India.

Cookies are to digital advertising, what water is to fish. And cookies have existed right from the time that the Internet came into being.  A web cookie is a small bit of data stored as a text file by the browser. Each time you perform some action on a website, the cookie on your browser can keep track of all the things that you did on the website (what links you clicked, what content you viewed, which PDF files did you download and so on). On one hand, this helps the website owner to provide the user a better browsing experience by showing content that is more and more relevant for that user. On the other hand, the same data can also be used by marketeers, to create an anonymous profile of the user and using sophisticated tools,  promote their products  and services to the user.

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However over the past few years, there has been a strong focus, both from the regulator and the tech giants, to recognise and respect consumer privacy, and build systems and processes that give greater right to the consumer on how the data can be used. In 2018, Apple released ITP 2.0 (Internet Tracking Prevention) with its Safari browser, that started blocking third party bookies in browsers (the kind which are used for marketing) . The introduction of GDPR, later in the same year,  involved user content for tagging and use of consumer data, and was the first of the many big steps in this direction. And most recently, in January 2020, Google  announced its plan to phase of third party cookies over the next two years period.

So what does it mean for the future of digital marketing?  I my opinion this means two things.

One ,that marketers will need to find newer and more privacy compliant vehicles to understand consumer behaviour and do marketing. Some of the newer techniques that are under discussion in the industry are around the use of device finger printing; pixel synching, creation of Universal ID and use of blockchain.

The second big change will be greater power to the consumer in terms of privacy. While in the short run this may look like an impediment to marketing, which has long depended on ambushing customers (whether print or TV or digital) to communicate a brand message. But eventually if consumers have the choice to receive communication from brands about stuff they are genuinely looking for, it will make the world of digital marketing much cleaner, reduce wastage and generate better ROI for businesses, which was the original promise of digital marketing.


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