Thailand offers the most attractive online advertising environment in Southeast Asia, according to data published in a new report by the technology and data company Integral Ad Science (IAS).
The paper reveals not only that the 'Land of Smiles' is not only the least risky country in the region for both display and video advertising but also that its display ads achieve the highest rates of viewability and its video ads the second highest.
At the other end of the scale, Indonesia is currently the least safe country in the region for brands to place video ads, while Malaysia presents the least safe environment for display ads. Malaysia is also the only country in the report to rank below the global and US averages for both display and video ad viewability.
IAS’s H2 Media Quality Report, which collected data from six Southeast Asia countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) in the second half of 2016, is the first of its kind for the region and comes during a week when Google announced new collaborations with accredited third party firms—one of which is IAS—to better manage brand safety on YouTube following recent cases in which high-profile brands saw their ads appear alongside extremist videos.
The data in the H2 report was based on analysis of 20 billion ad impressions across 75 advertisers in SEA, with the ‘brand risk’ measurement calculated according to how often ads appeared alongside content that might pose a risk to the brand’s safety. IAS groups this content into seven categories or “buckets”, as IAS managing director Niall Hogan refers to them: adult content, alcohol content, hate speech, illegal downloads, illegal drugs, offensive language and violence.
Just 1.6 percent of display ads and 2.2 percent of video ads in Thailand appeared on such unsafe websites. Hogan speculates that this is a result of higher state control in the country, meaning that content is censored more thoroughly than in other places. In Malaysia, for instance, the level of brand risk for display ads jumps to 6.7 percent.
Indonesia and Vietnam perform significantly worse than the other countries in terms of video ad safety, meanwhile, with brand risk ratings of 15.3 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively, putting both countries significantly above the global average of 8.9 percent.
Southeast Asia as a whole is unusual in terms of the kind of content that poses risks to brands most frequently, said Hogan. “If you look at anywhere else in the world, of those seven buckets, the two that are always the highest are adult content, so pornography, and violence. But SEA, funnily, is the only region we’ve seen where neither of those two are the highest bucket. It’s always illegal download sites, so websites where you can go and watch the latest Disney film or premiership football games, content that is being streamed without the permission of rightsholders.”
A starting point for every company concerned about where its brands appear, he said, should be to look at the work that the Media Ratings Council (MRC) is doing in the USA to grant accreditation to companies that can help advertisers with ad misplacement.
While the report highlights that brand safety is clearly an area that companies need to work on, and not only in this region, it also shows that the regional SEA market is something of a success story in terms of display ad viewability. Four of the six countries assessed already rank above the US average of 53 percent, suggesting an organic advantage.
To provide context, Hogan says that when Integral started assessing ad viewability in the UK four years ago, the organic score was just under 40 percent. “In the course of the last four years we’ve managed to get the UK up to around 58 percent, a little bit higher than the US, but that took a lot of effort from companies like ourselves offering our services to agencies and advertisers and publishers and sellers and everybody working really hard to improve viewability. In SEA it looks like their organic score is naturally quite high so I think it’s positive for advertisers—but if you're not achieving that naturally, then you’re way behind your peers.”
The data also shows there are big opportunities for improvement in the region in the area of video ad viewability, given that Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore are currently falling short of the global average of 58.2 percent. Vietnam is the exception to this rule, with a video viewability score of 75.2 percent, which Hogan says could be explained by disproportionate investment in YouTube.
“YouTube is having lots of challenges at the moment around brand safety and these are well documented, but what not too many people are talking about is that YouTube actually delivers a very high viewability score,” he explained. “So when I’m looking at this number I'm thinking there is probably an awful lot of YouTube being bought in Vietnam compared to say Singapore, Philippines and Malaysia.”
Hogan added a cautionary note to the findings of this initial report, which IAS hopes to follow with a more detailed analysis later in the year. "I really do think that we are just at the very start of the brand-safety story or journey here in SEA. The whole thing that has happened recently with Mark Pritchard’s speech and then the YouTube news in the last two or three weeks has really heightened everybody’s attention on brand safety and more agencies and more advertisers are talking to us than ever before." More clients means more data in the pot, which also means more accurate analysis in the near future, he continued. "It wouldn't surprise me if these numbers shifted quite a bit over the next three to six months."