Ad Awareness Studies in Asia

The newest reports in the Asian series of examinations of advertising support for online piracy in selected markets have been published.

Warning: while the most graphic images have been blacked out, reports may quote pirate websites’ use of obscene language and images; sensitive users are duly advised.



The report on Thailand finds that piracy websites catering to Thais are financed largely by “high-risk” advertising, and specifically by a huge number of ads for pornographic websites. Some of the sites go so far as to place links to pirated childrens’ content alongside graphic porn images, displaying a complete lack of any ethical concerns.


The report on Indonesia notes that most of the ad support for pirate websites targeting Indonesian consumers seems to be coming from “high-risk” advertisers, and particularly the gambling industry. The report’s author notes that the values being propagated by these advertisers are hardly consistent with Indonesia’s professed social ethos!


The report on Malaysia found far less “high risk” advertising, and a lot more from mainstream advertisers. We theorise this may be because the Malaysian market, being more affluent, is more attractive to mainstream companies for internet ads, while the Indonesian online ad market is not yet well developed.

CASBAA, MPA, and some of our member companies have collaborated to stimulate examinations of the nature of advertising support for online piracy. The results have demonstrated that there are two pillars of support for piracy: mainstream, mass-market oriented advertising for major brands, and “high-risk” ads for internet bottom-feeders like porn sites, gambling sites, malware, scams etc.

Interestingly, the studies (completed in a few markets, but still underway in others) have revealed a substantial difference between the piracy ecosystem surrounding English-language “Hollywood-type” content, and Chinese-language content. Ads surrounding the “Hollywood-type” content are largely for “high-risk” sites, presumably because major brands and advertising agencies have taken some actions to eliminate or reduce the appearance of respectable ads in deplorable environments. The ads surrounding pirated Chinese-language content, however, are much more paid by mainstream companies.

This indicates a major problem facing us in Asia: it seems the Asian online ecosystem is even more supportive of piracy than the global internet (which is already pretty awful!).

CASBAA has begun to raise this issue with Asian advertising industry players. The solution is for the Asian players to come together to create guidelines or a “code of practice” to regulate placement of ads on illegal websites, as was recently recommended by the International Chamber of Commerce and World Federation of Advertisers.

Below, members can find more information on the research efforts in Asia, and what has been done about the problem globally thus far.


Asian Studies

carried out by the Internet Commerce Security Laboratory, at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand


Hong Kong


Asian Advocacy


to Taiwan advertising associations (bilingual English/Chinese)


to Singapore government agencies (MDA and ASA)


to advertisers identified in the report on Hong Kong

Global Precedents

Statement by the International Chamber of Commerce on Safeguarding Against the Misplacement of Digital Advertising

The most effective international approach

The UK’s Digital Trading Standards Group

Statement by UK Police on their Infringing Website List


Other international examples

United States of America

Best Practices Guidelines for Ad Networks


Charter for Advertising Best Practices for the Respect of Copyrights (in French)