Last week Campaign Asia reported that major brands Vinamilk, Vietnam Airways and Mead Johnson have suspend their Vietnam YouTube ads due to a government probe. We sat down with our Vietnam Managing Director, Ben Waters, and Digital Media Expert, Rohit Sridhara, to look into what happened, and how brands can protect themselves when advertising on YouTube.


YouTube – A Critical Inventory for Online Advertisers

YouTube has come along way since its launch in 2005. It currently has a jaw-dropping one billion hours viewed everyday, and is without a doubt, the most popular platform to watch videos online in Vietnam.

This means that the platform is able to bring about a massive audience reach, one which Google has been quick to capitalise on. From pre-roll ads to promoted videos, YouTube is able to monetise its 2-billion weekly views – and it isn’t stopping there either. Video is currently the fastest growing content medium and many predict it will make up 70% of all internet traffic by 2017!

In Vietnam, 52% of Internet users are watching videos online everyday and 92% are watching videos weekly. YouTube’s popularity and usage is only exceeded by Facebook. With such a vast and increasing audience, this is a marketing channel that Vietnam simply cannot ignore.


With Fast Growth, it’s Easy to Get Into Trouble

All that potential reach comes with its own set of risks. Without proper planning, strategy and execution, your ads can easily be associated with unsuitable content, risking brand reputation, image and consumer’s confidence.

We believe there are three main reasons ads appear in the wrong place:

  • Advertisers and brands pushing for wider reach – When the goal is to gain maximum exposure, it’s easy to optimise campaigns towards maximum reach and hit those numbers, which puts brand safety at risk.
  • Increasing media buy via poorly implemented programmatic – Strategies like “Run of Exchange” targets everyone irrespective of behaviour and interests. This type of broader targeting method will ultimately place your ads in the wrong places if brand safety features are not implemented correctly.
  • Relying too heavily on brand protection technologies – Assuming that modern technologies will completely protect you is a very risky move. It’s really important to apply that human touch when executing campaign strategies and design.


5 Simple Ways to Prevent Unwanted Ad Placements

Unlike TV buying, digital media comes with an array of advertising options – one which seems like it needs a PhD just to understand it all! But when campaigns are implemented correctly, you can minimise or eliminate the risks of being caught out. Here are our top 5 recommendations for keeping your ads in the right place:

    1. Use contextual targeting vs. broad interests – Most of the time when advertisers use broader interest targeting ads, there is a high chance of ads served across multiple placements that are completely irrelevant to the business. On the other hand, contextual targeting allows advertisers to serve ads on videos you want to focus on. For example, when you target the “Automotive” topic, your ads will appear to people watching videos about cars – hence improving the quality of placements where your ads will appear and reducing the risk of following a car enthusiast around YouTube no matter what they are watching.
    2. Build your own blacklist of placements for campaigns – You can save spending on irrelevant placements and preserve brand safety when you build and evolve your own list of blacklist channels. You can then reuse this list for future campaigns. Even though brand protection technologies such as ad verification tools are not completely reliable, they can be a good start to reduce the manual effort in building your list.
    3. Make use of content exclusion options provided by platforms – Another vital option that most DSP’s and YouTube have is to exclude content categories that are sensitive in nature. By excluding categories such as “Adult content”, “Content not yet rated”, “Sensitive social issues” and “Tragedy and conflicts”, you will be able to minimise your ads being displayed on content that may be damaging to your brand.
    4. Use pre-verified “authorised” channels and placement targeting – For brands that need 100% protection on brand safety while targeting audiences on YouTube, we recommend targeting specific öpt-in” channels and placement lists instead. Your ads might not reach as many users, but they are served to your targeted audience instead. However, if reach is your primary focus, choose the top trending videos and most subscribed channels in a particular country instead.
    5. Buy into YouTube’s bespoke reservation buys – Prime Packs – Ad buys through reservation can help you buy placements on a daily basis, or based on the number of impressions at a fixed rate. You’ll gain more control, higher visibility and wider reach compared to auction buys. Prime Packs consists of channels specially selected around a thematic topic or interest. The minimum-spend requirement is currently USD8,000 per order in the Vietnam market, which allows you to run ads such as in-stream skippable and non-skippable ads – at that investment you can also often take advantage of value adding options such as Brand Uplift surveys as well!


Our Take

We have found advertising on YouTube to be effective and a great way to reach your consumers where they are spending much of their free time today. The tools YouTube have built to plan, buy and optimise are for sure capable of delivering efficient and effective advertising whilst protecting your brand, but to achieve that it is often critical to work with a qualified practitioner. At Lion & Lion, we pride ourselves on data-driven strategy and business results for our clients – that means brand safety is always at the core of any ad placements we execute.


If you would like to discuss how we can help you more, or have questions on the above, drop us a message or give us a call.



About the Authors

Benjamin Waters, Managing director for Lion & Lion, Vietnam.

Ben’s previous background includes delivering innovative digital marketing strategies for several successful businesses in Asia and Europe. With deep insight into what marketing strategies deliver real business results for clients, he stays at the forefront of media spend strategies and best practises for the region.


Rohit, Team lead Performance Marketing and Analytics for Lion & Lion.

Helping brands across South East Asia to develop cross channel marketing strategies that relate to business objectives, Rohit manages a team of specialists who plan, place and optimize advertising campaigns across Social, Search and Programmatic Display.