The Social Commerce Boom in SE Asia: Protecting Ad Spend & Brand Integrity in a Misinformation Age

Megan Reichelt examines Southeast Asia’s dynamic and rapidly evolving digital landscape of ad spending on social media.

In the vibrant digital landscape of Southeast Asia (SEA), social media advertising is not just a trend but a powerhouse marketing strategy. Having witnessed the seismic shift from traditional advertising methods to digital platforms, the challenge remains to ensure that the money spent on digital ads brings the highest possible return.

As suggested by the Southeast Asia Infrastructure reports, in 2023, 88.9 percent of internet users in SEA were also smartphone users – a rate higher than those in more economically advanced regions such as North America and Western Europe. This trend is driven by several key factors, including the region’s high internet penetration rates, growing smartphone usage, and the rise of social media commerce.

Brands increasingly seek secure and effective advertising environments to keep their campaigns safe on the open web and social media platforms to engage effectively with their target audiences and drive business results.


 

One of the primary reasons for the surge in digital ad spending on social media in SEA is the impressive user engagement on these platforms. According to the ‘We Are Social’ report, social media users have increased by 266 million over the past year—with Southeast Asians among the most likely to visit social media to learn about brands and see their content.

Indonesia (62.8%), Malaysia (61.5%), and the Philippines (60.0%) ranked second, third, and fourth, respectively, up against other nations globally for the percentage of social media users who visit social media to learn about brands and see their content. Thailand (53.7%) and Vietnam (52.5%) were also above the global average (48.9%).

The Rise of Social Media Commerce

Accounting for more than half of the world’s social media users, APAC is no stranger to social commerce. According to the Asia Pacific Social Commerce Market Intelligence and Future Growth Dynamics report, The social commerce market in APAC will witness a compound annual growth rate of approximately 10.6% between 2022 and 2028, with the market size expected to surpass $894mn by 2028.

This expansion is fuelled by the region’s rapid digitalisation and integration of e-commerce functionalities into social platforms.


 

Many social platforms have integrated shopping features that allow users to purchase directly within the app. This seamless shopping experience has proven highly effective, encouraging brands to invest more in social media ads to drive sales. In SEA, where e-commerce growth is booming, social commerce represents a significant opportunity for brands to connect with consumers and drive conversions.

“In SEA, where e-commerce growth is booming, social commerce represents a significant opportunity for brands to connect with consumers and drive conversions.”

Ensuring Brand Safety Within User-Generated Content

With the proliferation of user-generated content (UGC) on social media, brand safety has become a top priority for marketers. While reaching the right audience is crucial, ensuring that ads appear in a safe and suitable environment is equally important. Marketers are increasingly invested in protecting their brand’s reputation and allocating media budgets toward content that minimises the risk to their brand.

“The Southeast Asian market, with its diverse cultural and linguistic landscape, poses unique challenges in warranting brand safety. Misalignment with local values can lead to brand damage and reduced consumer trust.”

The Southeast Asian market, with its diverse cultural and linguistic landscape, poses unique challenges in warranting brand safety. Misalignment with local values can lead to brand damage and reduced consumer trust. For example, a family-oriented brand in the Philippines would find it detrimental if its ads were displayed alongside controversial or adult content.

IAS recently conducted a consumer study in Singapore revealed that 91% of Singaporean consumers feel it is important that content surrounding online ads is appropriate, and 83% hold brands accountable for the content surrounding their ads.

UGC can be a double-edged sword: while it offers authentic and engaging content, it poses risks if associated with inappropriate or harmful material. Brand safety on social media is crucial to protecting a brand’s reputation and maintaining consumer trust. Therefore, integrating advanced measurement and optimisation solutions helps maintain brand integrity and boost the effectiveness of digital campaigns by aligning them with appropriate content that reflects the brand ethos and audience expectations.

Mitigating the Impact of Misinformation

The rise of generative AI in digital media has marketers worrying that it may play a hand in expediting the creation and dissemination of misinformation across the open web and social platforms. False information can spread rapidly, leading to a negative association with brands if their ads appear alongside dubious content. With consumers holding brands accountable for their ad placements, marketers must adopt robust strategies to ensure their ads are placed in a safe and trustworthy environment.

Protecting Ad Spend on Social Media

Marketers should adopt a multi-faceted approach to protect their ad spend on social media. This includes using measurement and optimisation tools to ensure brand safety, leveraging data analytics to optimise ad placements, and continuously monitoring ad performance.

Multimedia classification allows advertisers to set up criteria that adapt to their digital campaigns’ needs and expectations. Cuing-edge AI/ML-backed technology can provide unique insight into content through frame-by-frame analysis of images, audio, and text and can even interpret semantics.

This granularity allows marketers to effectively monitor the quality of their media buys, providing confidence that their ads appear next to brand-safe content and are suitable to run the most effective advertising campaigns. For example, IAS’s Total Media Quality (TMQ) analyses video, audio, and text frame-by-frame to ensure ads meet quality standards and appear in suitable contexts.

This granular analysis helps marketers avoid placing ads next to inappropriate or misleading content, thereby protecting their brand’s image and integrity.

The current state of ad spending on social media in Southeast Asia reflects the dynamic and rapidly evolving digital landscape. By using advanced measurement and optimisation solutions, marketers can effectively navigate the challenges and maximise the opportunities social media advertising presents. Protecting ad spend and maintaining brand integrity will be critical for success in this vibrant and growing market.

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