Expert Raises Concern over Plan to Phase out Third-party Cookies

Elo Umeh

By Emma Okonji

The Founder/CEO of Terragon, an enterprise marketing technology company, Mr. Elo Umeh, has raised concern over the planned phase out of third-party cookies by Google, Apple and Mozilla.

According to him, the move would create serious challenge on data analytics and digital marketing.

Cookies are small pieces of data stored on web users’ computer/device and enable the domain/webpage to store information and preferences about that user in order to facilitate smoother user interactions.

In January 2020, Google announced that it would phase out third-party cookies on its chrome internet browser over the next two years, joining other internet platforms like Safari by Apple, and Firefox by Mozilla who phased their out since 2013.

The development came amidst the growing agitation for stronger user privacy and security on the internet.

The Director of Chrome Engineering at Google, Justin Schuh, had said: “Users are demanding greater privacy-including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used-and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.”

Google’s browser app – Chrome, constitutes over 60 per cent of the total users of internet browsers as of Q2-2020, according to StatCounter, making it the most impactful in the digital advertising space by any web browser.

Concerned about the development, Umeh said marketers and advertisers alike had become weary as to what the future of targeted advertising holds for them given the domino effect this will have on their business.

According to Umeh, “In today’s Ads ecosystem, marketers are inclined to depend on third-party cookies in order to design and execute marketing strategies for Ads-retargeting, Pop-up Advertising, and laser-focused user campaigns to enhance efficient marketing resource utilisation of the advertisers.

“We are led to wonder at this point how marketers who depend heavily on third-party cookies for Ads retargeting to drive their top-line would cope with the new development. This phase out is extremely significant in the digital advertising industry for all stakeholders especially because Google remains the overwhelming market leader in the web browser segment, hence, everyone from the advertisers who depend on the marketer’s ability to track and execute user-tailored Ads, to the publisher who enjoys the monetisation of their platform, and the marketer who derive their major revenue sources will all have to adjust to the new reality.”

Google however made it known that the alternative to the third-party cookies will be, “Privacy Sandbox,” which it claims would enhance user privacy and actually be a fine balance between user privacy and tracking.

Disturbed by the development, Umeh said the major element in the privacy sandbox was Google’s plan to migrate the user’s data into Google chrome where it will be stored and processed, adding that in essence, marketers and advertisers will inevitably become more dependent on Google for advertising, or find ways to better leverage the first-party cookies instead.

“Right now the key stakeholders in the digital advertising ecosystem will have to stay close to the coming updates with regards to this development as it unfolds. It portends a market that will be controlled by leading global technology platforms, such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and a few others.

“This is also a wake-up call, for marketers and advertisers locally, more specifically in Africa to be open to other innovative ways in knowing who their customer is, engaging with them, executing advertising initiatives, which make them less-dependent on third party cookies.

“There is now an urgent need to build internal capabilities to make them more agile/better responsive to the risk of regulatory/monopolistic policies that might radically affect their businesses like this in the future,” Umeh said.
He further explained that COVID-19 had enforced an acceleration of digital capabilities across several industries, insisting that the outcome will be an increasingly low touch business environment where brands will need to rely more heavily on digital channels.