Illegal file sharing is driving bad programmatic on pirate sites

Widespread illegal file-sharing is putting brands at risk of being linked to terrorist or criminal content in South East Asia because the large volume of traffic is triggering programmatic buying on unsafe pirate sites, the Singapore managing director of software company Integral Ad Science has claimed.

Niall Hogan, who heads up the global technology company’s South East Asia hub, has called for greater collaboration between marketers and media agencies as the regional prevalence of piracy threatens the reputation of many brands.

Markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia were said to be the most ‘unsafe’ – according to the recent IAS Media Quality Report. The report collected data from six South East Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The study analysed 20 billion ad impressions from 75 brands in the region, with the ‘brand risk’ measurement calculated according to how often ads appeared alongside offensive or illegal material such as adult content, alcohol promotions, hate speech, illegal downloads, illegal drugs, offensive language and violent images.

Indonesia and Vietnam were the least safe for video ads, with 15.3 percent and 13.2 per cent of ads appearing on unsavoury sites respectively. The global average is said to be 8.9 percent.

Malaysia performed the worst for display ads: as many 6.7 per cent of its ads were flagged for appearing on unsafe sites. Meanwhile, 7.1 per cent of the country’s video campaigns also appeared in risky environments.

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia, Hogan said: “In the US or Europe, we see that content related to sex or violence are causing the largest ad misplacement issues. Adult content and violence play a part in South East Asia, but the largest category for brand safety risk that we see is related to illegal file sharing sites. We might then assume, that the use of streaming sites peaks in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.”

“Many of these sites have been linked directly to criminal and terrorist organisations, and advertisers want to avoid being associated with such sites.”

The news follows Google’s decision to allow third-party verification on YouTube. One of the monitors will be IAS, which actually sells brand safety products. Asked whether Google needed to take even greater ownership for its role in brand safety breaches, Hogan said the issue needed “collective” action.

“Everyone has their part to play,” he said. “It starts with the brands and advertisers themselves. After all, it is their investment that is being wasted by ads appearing on the wrong sites or ads never being seen.

“Digital marketers need to educate themselves, so that they can ask their agencies, tech partners and media suppliers the right questions regarding media quality. Everyone else also needs to stand up and play their part, to ensure that the brand’s investment is being used in the right way.

“Agencies need to be brand guardians and advise the brand on the best tech, and media, to buy to avoid potential issues. Ad-tech vendors need to ensure that their platforms have media quality data available to screen out bad sites and to also optimise targeting. Suppliers should also be working with verification companies to ensure that the inventory that they are selling is of the highest quality.”


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