Need to safeguard brands against rampant online advertising frauds

Sharing insights: (from left) Menezes, Loreal Malaysia consumer and market intelligence director Carol Ng, Kadri, Tune Group head of marketing and media Margaret Au-Yong and Khoo at the forum.

PETALING JAYA: Efforts must be taken to safeguard brands against the rampant online advertising frauds and there is a need for the ad industry to self-regulate.

These are some of the suggestions by a speaker at the The Malaysian Advertisers Association’s (MAA) latest forum on “Behind the Curtain”.

DoubleVerify managing director (Asia-Pacific) Jordon Khoo said although there is no available data on how much Malaysian brands are hemorrhaging on fraudulent advertising due to the low number of activities to produce an adequately strong sample size, the practice was rampant.

“We know it’s prevalent and a lot of money has been lost to fraudsters. If you look at advertising fraud, it’s a financial crime and people should go to jail. But it’s so advanced that what is happening in Malaysia may not be perpetrated by Malaysians but could be committed by a syndicate based in Russia.

“The policing aren’t effective because it’s cyber crime. The way forward is for the industry to self-regulate rather than wait for regulations to be imposed by the government, or the government to engage its counterparts to combat the threat, ” he added.

A case in point, he said, is the sense of hopelessness that accompanied the government’s action in solving the haze issue.

This situation showed that any government-to-government cooperation in overcoming online crimes, which is certainly below its to-do list, as highly ambitious, Khoo noted.

Another issue that Khoo highlighted is brand safety. It is quite hazardous for brands to be advertised on sites or pages that are not “brand-safe” and the matter is further compounded by the inability of agencies in placing brands based on content, he said.

“A page or content on swimsuits, for example, would be acceptable to (a beer brand) and will not be acceptable to a food and beverage brand. A milk product can never surface in a non-family site and a story on obesity could never feature an ad for fast food.

“Consumer experience is the source of truth. If consumers say that they saw the brand’s ad on this particular page, then they would see that the brand is indirectly endorsing this type of content and therefore will not support it. That’s a PR disaster, ” he said.

DoubleVerify provides agencies and brands a feel-safe mechanism that prevents their advertisements from appearing on non-desired content. The company constantly scans and categorises different content, reviews certain news pages and tags these pages to gauge their suitability for the brand and use them to fit their client’s needs.

“As the world becomes more politically correct and people are more sensitive, these mistakes get played up a lot more and although they are honest mistakes and in the environment that everyone is operating in now, you have to be a lot more careful about how you manage it, ” Khoo cautioned.

MAA president Mohamed Kadri Mohamed Taib reiterated the desire of the organisation to equip members to build strong brands and businesses in a digital landscape that is becoming more complex as the industry continues to develop.

“There is much concern in the industry to understand and verify digital metrics as well as the need for brands to leverage on e-commerce to stay connected with consumers, ” Kadri, who is also the public affairs and communications director of Coca-Cola Far East Ltd (Coca-Cola Malaysia), elaborated.

He hopes the association’s members and other marketers now have a deeper understanding that would help them make better informed decisions related to digital advertising and e-commerce to create a more conducive environment for businesses and brands.

Meanwhile, Rene E. Menezes, the executive director (South-East Asia) of SimilarWeb, stressed the need for market intelligence solutions to empower brands to optimise digital effectiveness. He extolled the virtues of business intelligence platforms in determining up-to-date successful strategies that edges a brand ahead of their competitors.

As a former marketer himself, Menezes used to rely on marketing secrets and old-school research data to measure how his clients are performing against their rivals and counter their moves.

Unlike traditional research and marketing intelligence, the idea that the client could know what happened yesterday without having to appoint a research agency and wait for a couple of weeks or months for results is powerful.

The tool that his company SimilarWeb extends to marketers flattens all pre-conceptions on data as it eliminates guesswork. Clients now have a believable gauge of how their competitors or the industry is performing against them.

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