China’s Advertiser-Unfriendly Digital Media Ecosystem

There is one profound difference between the digital media landscape in China and everywhere else. The two key players who control most desirable digital advertising inventory / publishers in China do not depend on advertising for their revenue.
China Digital GiantsThis simple fact makes it easy to understand why, unlike Google, Facebook, Twitter or ad-exchanges elsewhere in the world, Ali and Tencent don’t really have any interest in giving advertiser or agency associations any say in how they do business.

Most large publishers / sites / apps in China do not allow 3rd party ad-serving, which means advertising material is on the publishers server. Tracking codes are therefore also on the publishers server which means that ad-tracking is not really 3rd party data – it is based on data from the publishers server to the ad-tracking company.

This opens the door for unscrupulous publishers (or other players in the system) to create fraudulent proofs of ad-appearance. Publishers in China don’t generally accept external code to help in ad-verification, completion rate or viewability measurement.

This means that a lot of the information on impressions, target audience composition and so forth are not worth the paper they’re written on. Given how the market works, relying on these kinds of KPIs is effectively giving your agency and partners a blank check – there is no market where setting KPIs that you can independently measure and verify is more important.

All these problems can be mitigated, even if they cannot be completely solved. The key steps to doing so are:

  1. Take control of your data – subscribe directly to tracking and verification rather than letting your agency mark their own homework
  2. Explore the ad-verification solutions that are relevant to your buying model
  3. Set KPIs that you have your own data for and which are hard to game.

With over 30 years experience managing agencies, ad-tech startups and consulting Sriram has a deep understanding of how media and ad-tech services work, especially in China. Reach out to him for more information.