Brands must build digital assets in a privacy-first world: Marketing experts

Advertisers need to build their own digital assets in an increasingly privacy-first world, said digital marketing experts as Apple rolled out its iOS privacy feature that prompts iPhone and iPad users to opt out of tracking in apps that monitor their behaviour and share it with third parties. Earlier, Google had also vowed to do away with third-party cookies tracking consumers.

Although, within India, Apple has a marginal share of the smartphone market so its decision may not have a far reaching implication here. Besides, digital marketing experts said barely 10 to 20% of digital spends go towards third party cookie- backed advertising from India’s 17, 000 crore strong digital advertising market.

Yet these policies are forcing advertisers to review their digital ad strategy by looking at building a direct relationship with consumers online through an engaging website or a direct-to-consumer (D2C) platform. This will not only help advertisers build first-party data but also secure them from technology giants’ monopoly.

So far, most companies have been perceiving maintaining first-party data as a cost and not an investment, which is a faulty approach to marketing, experts said.

First-party data is information—both online and offline —that a firm collects about individuals who interact with their brand. Third party data is often aggregated from different sources and sold to brands.

Brands owning a direct relationship with brands is how the business has been done since the beginning of the time, said Mihir Karkare, executive vice president at digital agency Mirum India.

“It is only in the last couple of decades these large tech companies became gatekeepers between advertisers and their customers. Owning a direct relationship with the customer is important like never before. Brands have to go back to build their own digital assets, for instance, creating an engaging website which will help them with user behaviour and details,” he added.

Owning data is key for advertisers. Karkare said that large e-commerce players are taking advantage of the large amount of customer data and creating products under their private labels at cheaper rates and making profits while also selling established brands.

“Today, every single brand we speak to wants to sell on the big aggregator platform but they much rather prefer customers to come on their own website and make purchases. They are willing to do discounting and offers to attract them to this platform so that they can build robust first party data beyond just email id and phone numbers,” he added.

Digital marketing experts suggest that targeting consumers by their interest through content or influencer marketing could further create deep engagement and deliver better RoI than re-targeting that tends to bombard users with ads all over the internet.

“Brands like ENO or Rasna are doing advertorials, content and influencer marketing. Such advertising formats will have no impact on the privacy first approach,” said Shradha Agarwal, strategy head and chief operating officer, Grapes Digital, a digital-first agency.

Many brands have also been using content marketing to target users based on their interest. For instance, direct-to-consumer (D2C) coffee brands connect with their target audiences (coffee enthusiast) who like to brew their own coffee using content to give tips on brewing techniques that also eventually become their paying customers.

Unny Radhakrishnan, chief executive of digital agency Digitas India said that such privacy first updates and policies is helping to bring context to digital advertising making advertisers think about the objective of their online promotions. “With such developments ‘context’ in media planning might be coming back as well,” he added.

Yet Agarwal said brands with no immediate budgets to build first-party data, continue to reach bigger potential customer base through platforms like Amazon or Disney + Hotstar which advertise on their behalf.

“Not only they have a huge user base but also granular data on customer’s behaviour that they track. Brand categories like food and beverage and fast-moving consumer goods sold through local kirana stores depend on third party data platforms. “This segment of advertising is becoming really big,” said Agarwal.

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