Staff Writer
Nov 23, 2018

Bangkok roundtable: Tackling tough issues on brand safety

Event sheds light on the state of ad fraud, viewability, and how brand marketers in Thailand are dealing with change.


Social media scandals, muddled metrics, perilous ad fraud—over the last year the conversation on brand safety issues has ramped up considerably. Spurred on by the rise of programmatic advertising, brand risk across all media buy types in Thailand specifically has topped 8.6 percent according to Integral Ad Science (IAS) research—much higher than both the global and SEA average.

With these trends in mind, brand marketers from diverse industry backgrounds sat down in Bangkok on 14 November to discuss the simmering brand safety environment.

Grappling with ad fraud

Beyond brand risk, Thailand also clocks in at 9 percent ad fraud. The stat is lower than the global average, but as Niall Hogan, managing director, SEA at IAS points out “it’s still not to be sniffed at. If you’re spending 1 million dollars, you’re putting US$100,000 straight in the bin, because obviously if you’re serving your ads to bots, bots can’t buy your products or services.”

Perhaps a snapshot of the future, the World Federation of Advertisers estimates that by 2025, ad fraud will be a US$50 billion dollar problem globally. Hogan offered a pointed take on the matter, “when we think about ad fraud we think about it like doping in athletics: unfortunately the forces are so well-incentivised by the amount of cash available, the perpetrators are always two steps ahead of the people catching them out.”

Despite the doomsday forecast, the issue of brand safety still often sits on the backburner of brands who are putting resources elsewhere. As Sethipong Anutarasoti, head of marketing at BMW puts it, “to be honest, for us now the priority is not too high. We’re dealing more with how to deal with the right target groups.” Among the stacks of concerns on advertisers’ desks, it’s understandable that the responsibility falls in the hands of an agency. “For us, especially in the digital world, a lot of media purchase is done by the agency itself. It’s typical for bigger companies with long-term reach,” said Anutarasoti.

With the chain of responsibility lengthening, the concern might be not on the nature of ad fraud itself, but the dedication, credibility and transparency of the agencies successful brands rely on for upholding reputation.

Patthawee Apiwatcharoensin, senior digital marketing at Chang Beer explained, “we need to work with a trusted partner, an agency or third-party who can track the programmatic system. After that we set our own definition of brand safety, and for me, it starts from the bottom. Every piece of content that we release needs to be safe. The messaging, the wording, the small details from all content, we need to be aware of everything.”

Where the dollars are going

Also on the conversation docket was the issue of ad viewability, which was top-of-mind for Ekachai Petchthaevee, team head of retail marketing management at TMB Bank, “we’re rather concerned with programmatic when our ads pop up in the wrong position. For example, if I’m an audience and I’m reading an article and an advertisement pops up, there are two problems: if the advertising is all over the page it can easily create negative feedback; and if you’re faced with an ad in the middle of an article, you’ll scroll through very quickly. The impression counts, we have to pay, but it’s not useful.”

Media Rating Council’s readily-accepted definition of viewability is viewing 50 percent of an ad for one second. Although many programmatic agencies are latched onto this metric, it simply doesn’t deliver when it comes to conversion.

Hogan brought some perspective from the programmatic side, offering some frank words on this skewing of profits, “everybody involved in the buying and selling of ads makes money apart from the advertiser who spends it. I have to hold my hand up as the verification company, then we have the media agency, the seller, all the tech involved, they all make money. The only one who’s losing—if there’s an issue with brand safety or fraud—is the advertiser.”

This glaring matter deserves to be part of the conversation for any brand marketer dealing in programmatic. It has to be confronted, and it’s unnecessary to dive headlong into the uncertain seas. Jong Hann Fan, assistant general manager, digital customer experience, Asia and Oceania at Nissan summed up a sensible approach nicely, “the easiest way for us to develop now is to be honest about the numbers.”

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