The state of tracking and privacy in 2020: Praveen Rao, Motivator

Guest Column: Praveen Rao, Director, Digital Strategy at Motivator, decodes how the trend toward a cookie-less web impacts publishers and third-party ad-tech platforms the most

e4m by Praveen Rao
Updated: May 12, 2020 2:06 PM
Data Security

Of crumbling cookies and worried advertisers

Sometime in May last year, Google announced a crackdown on third-party cookies as part of its push for better transparency and giving greater control to a user. By 2022, it will withdraw support to third-party cookies.

Third-party cookies allow advertisers to follow users whenever they are online, understand customer behaviours online and their preferences. These cookies also help create user profiles, detailing sites visited during your normal online journey while browsing. Advertisers got key insights into a user’s interests and preferences. These allowed advertisers to target customers with their advertising efficiently. Smart consumers who are internet savvy had already caught on to this and started using ad blockers. The move by Google to downplay these cookies through Chrome has created the possibility for consumers to be “untagged” further. And with Chrome’s over 65% market share, this will create a dent for advertisers.

While from a privacy point of view, this might be good for someone browsing online, advertisers will get affected on their media front and they will need to secure alternatives to still target their consumers and sell their wares.

So, what does this mean exactly for an advertiser?

The trend toward cookie-less web impacts publishers and third-party ad-tech platforms the most. Publishers have been seeing ad budgets being shifted from their owned and operated properties to the big platforms. Many publishers are now offering subscriptions for users to make up for it. The Economist, New York Times etc., seem to be doing decently.

For advertisers, there is no specific and measured solution currently for alternative ways of approaching the consumer online with your ads. But some “not so bad” alternatives are available.

First-party data becomes superior in your marketing armoury

Be it a Google, Facebook or an Amazon, your first-party data will be critical to be used in these platforms to target at scale. Retargeting will never go from these platforms as these walled gardens stand to gain from this situation. Keep using this but ensure that your first-party data is robust enough.

Going around these walled gardens

Unilever is going all guns blazing in creating the Unilever Trusted Publishers network. The idea behind this was to ensure that Unilever’s targeting is done in a better and controlled way. Eliminating bot views, ad frauds and ensuring brand safety while offering a better experience to the consumer. This network is filled with global, regional and local online publishers and platforms. This could be another way to approach publishers directly and create partnerships that are subservient to the advertiser barring the higher costs.

Explore new publisher alliances

In the UK, a new alliance has been formed called Ozone - the project between the Guardian, The Telegraph, News UK and Reach (mostly news publishers). This alliance has been created to compete better with Google and Facebook that today is in some ways a duopoly. This alliance also promises to deliver a brand-safe, fraud-free environment for advertisers. This could be the future for publishers across the world and exploring these for your advertising would be worth it.

Although all this sounds a bit painful, the short term will see advertisers lose a very decent method to target consumers like they are doing at present. But in the long run, there will be more robust solutions that will help personalize communication to the consumer, which should be the ultimate goal in your advertising efforts. Till then, keep your ears to the ground.

(Praveen Rao is Director of Digital Strategy at Motivator, part of GroupM)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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