There is still some time before a cookieless future, but APAC marketers have a lot of ground to cover in the region’s complex, privacy-led landscape, says Yahoo’s Dan Richardson.

“Deprecation of cookies is like postponing my post-COVID diet – there might be another variant out there and another lockdown, so I may not need to start right now! It doesn’t matter what the end date is. We need to get in shape because change is coming.” Sarla Fernando, Head of Regulatory and Advocacy Advisor at ADMA, had this irrefutable message for marketers at a recent industry event.

So yes, while cookies won’t be phased out right this minute, there is no room for complacency. The news of Google delaying cookie deprecation to 2024 comes as regulators turn up the heat to protect consumer privacy and ensure a level playing field.

Data governance legislation is evolving swiftly in APAC, as it is across the world – Gartner estimates that 65% of the global population will have its personal data covered under modern privacy regulations by 2023. These developments only confirm what we know – the next era of the internet will be driven by evolving consumer expectations, especially when it comes to their privacy.

This opens up a much larger conversation of how we can and should respond as an industry to understand good data governance as “doing what’s right by consumers, which is (also) what regulation wants to achieve”, as Sarla points out.

Seen through this lens, the delay gives marketers the leeway to fix what’s broken without a deadline looming, putting us on the path to an open, fair internet. If anything, we need to move faster.

APAC continues to lag behind other markets when it comes to readiness for a cookieless identity future. A 2022 report shows that while 83% of consumers feel companies should only use first-party data, 78% of companies in APAC depend on third party-data, with 63% not ready for a cookieless world.

Navigating APAC’s complexities to a sustainable future of identity

For marketers and publishers in the region, putting the consumer front and centre while providing a fair value exchange will be pivotal to creating a sustainable post-cookie identity strategy.

Central to this will be respecting consumer choice at every turn. The industry has already made encouraging progress in this direction with identity solutions that work in the absence of third-party cookies.

Identity-based solutions have emerged for when marketers know their audience through a direct consumer relationship, relying on first party data. Next-generation identity-less solutions have also broken through for when identity cannot be resolved and consumers choose not to share data.

1. Bridge knowledge gaps in APAC’s complex landscape

APAC has a complex landscape with its distinctive cultures, diverse consumer preferences and dynamic privacy landscape. From a regulatory perspective, how data is being used and treated, and how consumers can be reasonably identified is being refined at a much faster pace in APAC markets.

India recently withdrew the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019 and is working on a new draft that aims at safeguarding data and making platforms accountable.

Australia is considering reforms to its current privacy act. Singapore’s recent Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act and Indonesia’s regulation for foreign private electronic system operators are aimed at safeguarding national interests.

With countries actively scrutinising and regulating the data landscape, marketers have an added, always-shifting layer of complexity to navigate.

2. Localise audience segments and break down identity considerations

While staying on top of changing regulations, advertisers also need to invest in learning the make-up of their target audience, from what browsers and operating systems consumers are using in different markets, to how much first-party data they can expect to activate in the cookieless world, and what percentage of their audiences sit within non-addressable environments.

Cultural differences will require strategically localised campaigns. Since APAC consumers cannot be grouped under a single umbrella or audience segment, a tactic that works in India might not provide the same relevance in the Philippines.

Marketers must also break down identity considerations across markets based on factors like choice of operating platform, browser and device usage. In Singapore, 74.3% of the population uses Android mobile phones, while in Australia 56% use iOS, where user opt-outs for tracking are already in place.

Depending on the market, the impact of user opt-outs and the absence of third-party cookies is already being felt, with advertisers and publishers needing alternatives now. While 30% of inventory is currently without IDs, that number will increase to a significant 75% by 2024.

3. Prepare for non-addressable environments where identity is unavailable

Marketers facing constraints with first party data – especially in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore where a number of users are already within non-addressable environments – have to double down on alternatives.

Innovative solutions based on advanced contextual targeting that go beyond content, powered by machine learning and real-time data signals, can help brands infer audience characteristics in real time, allowing advertisers to remain connected even without identity.


Ultimately, as marketers begin to understand the breakdown of audiences within addressable and non-addressable environments, they will have a clear way forward with solutions when an identity is present and when it is not.

Notably, in APAC, cookieless solutions will need to be able to work across web and app environments, and not be limited to specific browsers or operating systems.

While any delay in cookie deprecation gives the industry more time to test, adopting solutions today will give marketers a head start and allow brands to demonstrate their commitment to user privacy. There is no end date or pushing back on this. With sustainable identity solutions for growth that put consumers at the centre, marketers can get a head start while fixing a broken internet. It’s time to give users what they have asked for – better control over their data and identity.