Ashwini Gangal

“Contextual targeting is essential for marketers": Maruti's Shashank Srivastava

What will marketing look like in a web without third party cookies?

India’s leading auto brand Maruti knows how many times a user brakes, accelerates, whether the driver is dozing off behind the wheel, driving on a near-empty fuel tank, and other such specific information on how the product is being used. Technology and AI have made it possible to collect this sort of granular, seemingly invasive, information about people. This is all first party data, that belongs to the company that gathers it directly from those who use their products.

The question Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India, is asking himself is, “How can we use this data for purposes beyond product improvement and consumer experience? Can it be used to communicate with them, influence them in a marketing sense?” He was on a panel, at the IAMAI’s 17th Marketing Conclave recently, about a future without third party cookies and the data they provide marketers with.

The absence of third party cookies, Srivastava conceded, will affect marketers in many ways, especially those that rely on cookies for their brand performance measurement – for example, post view attribution, multi-touch attribution, granular audience reporting, cross channel reporting, AB testing, etc.

“Data management, consumer consent – these are all new concepts marketers will have to build systems and technology around, hereon,” he said, “The most important aspect from my perspective is audience activation – behavioural targeting, display retargeting, reach and frequency management. We will have fewer opportunities for ad personalisation, we’ll lose cross platform frequency capping. We’ll need to modify the way we measure ROI, and re-look our marketing KPIs. Even the legal compliance process changes.”

He spoke about Maruti’s first party “data lake” comprising transactional and interactional data. The team is building its own customer data platform (CDP) and consent management platform (CMP) and working with a data protection officer (DPO).

Srivastava also spoke about the need for marketers to have active second party data tie ups. For an auto maker, for instance, such relationships can be created with mobile service providers, financial institutions (banks have a lot of data about car buyers), two-wheeler companies (because many people upgrade from two to four-wheelers), used car platforms, and petroleum companies.

“Contextual targeting is essential for marketers,” Srivastava added.

Shubhranshu Singh, vice president, marketing, domestic & IB, Tata Motors, wrote in a recent essay on (October 27, 2021), "Loss of measurement data such as 24-hour conversion windows, loss of view-through conversion data on Safari, and the loss of some user-level conversions in iOS apps is already making it harder to precisely measure the business impact of paid advertising. This data loss is likely to accelerate further.”

Srivastava’s co-panelist Tejinder Gill, GM, The Trade Desk, a tech company that helps marketers make better buying decisions, said, “We as an ad tech ecosystem have never done a great job of explaining the value exchange of a cookie to the user. The value exchange is – targeted advertising funds free content. If cookies disappear, targeting will become less effective, which means the efficiency of media will go down, and marketers will have to pay more for the same inventory, eventually.”

"Targeted advertising funds free content"
Tejinder Gill, The Trade Desk

The panel agreed that standardisation across multiple id providers will become necessary, in the days to come. In this context, Gill spoke about Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0.

They were joined on the panel by Alex Cone, VP, privacy and data protection, IAB Tech Lab, who pointed out that it’s not user tracking per se that’s the proverbial bad guy here, and that, instead, it’s the cross site/cross app tracking of users – that is, tracking the same user, across sites, over time – that big tech companies like Google and Apple are looking to put an end to. He also spoke about Microsoft’s counter-proposal to Google’s privacy sandbox. Google's tech funnels, he reminded the audience, tend to disproportionately empower its web browser Chrome.

At the same event, I asked Anant Goenka, executive director of The Indian Express Group: Given Google’s decision to do away with third party data, and everything that will ensue, is the gap between big tech and the open web increasing? He responded with, “I think this ‘open web’ is a bit of a misnomer. It’s really just four companies controlling the entire web. Because it’s so big it looks open. There’ll be smaller walled gardens in this web, and that’s the demand of the consumer; the concept of creating slices in the open web is a trend that’s going to stay.”

I tossed the same question to this panel from the audience, to which, IAB Tech Lab’s Cone responded: “I don’t think the open web is a misnomer but operating systems and browsers are the gatekeepers to the open web. Will these gatekeepers make rules for the open web that will suffocate innovation? That’s the question.”

Shantanu Sirohi, founder and COO, Interactive Avenues, who moderated this panel, raised the question of whether a cookie-less future will stifle creativity, innovation at scale, and further empower the already powerful walled gardens of the internet.

As Scott Galloway, author and professor of marketing wrote on his blog on October 8, 2021: “Google’s Chrome (which commands 60% of the browser market) will block third-party cookies altogether by 2023. Although that cloud has a dark lining: Google is replacing cookies with its own proprietary system that will centralize ad tracking under its exclusive control. What could possibly go wrong?” (The sarcasm is not lost on us).

Watch the session below:

Photo of laptop taken from Pexels, shot by Caio.

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