The push to create a viable publisher-driven alternative advertising exchange has gained momentum with the formation of a new Malaysian alliance.
Five of the country's biggest media companies are behind the Malaysia Premium Publishers Marketplace, which announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding last week.
The signing follows a similar announcement for Singapore - where Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp have linked up to form the Singapore Media Exchange - and Indonesia, where Premium Indonesian Publisher members "pulled the plug" on Google last year.
In New Zealand, KPEX (for Kiwi Premium Advertising Exchange) is also thriving with a reported 30 per cent of the real time bidding market , its alliance offering inventory from founders Fairfax Media, MediaWorks, NZME and TVNZ, plus ten others.
The new Malaysian MPPM exchange initially offers the inventory of 11 brands - New Straits Times, The Star Online, The Edge, Berita Harian, Utusan Malaysia, Harian Metro, Kosmo, Sin Chew Daily, China Press, Nanyang Daily and Guang Ming Daily - from the five publishers, united in a promise to enhance brand safety, establish regulations to protect the interest of the advertisers, provide better transparency and improve viewability.
With global concerns about brand safety, the group also aims to remove the risk of reputational damage in programmatic online advertising.
The five publishers are Media Prima, Star Media Goup, Utusan Melayu Malaysia, MCIL Multimedia and The Edge Communications.
At the announcement in Kuala Lumpur, Abdul Jalil Hamid who is chairman of the Malaysian Newspaper Publishers Association as well as chief executive of New Straits Times Press, said the exchange would provide a better solution to simplify and improve the ad buying process.
"MPPM offers premium ad inventories which will not be made available on the open exchange," he said, adding the promise of "more creative ad formats that can further reach a wider range of audience.
"Advertisers will be able to choose their preferred platform to advertise their services or products and they can be guaranteed that the ad would not end up in any other unhealthy websites."
Acknowledging that digital advertising market globally had been overshadowed by digital giants including Google and Facebook, he said MPPM would ensure better viewability, transparency and brand safety. For publishers for which advertising is still the main revenue stream, it is a response to a changing landscape in Malaysia. There has also been the risk of advertisers losing control of where their ads are placed, in some cases leading to placements in "undesirable, irrelevant or even fake websites".
MPPM's first focus will be to grow the revenue of current members, but plans to add further local online publishers in future. A third party company is being appointed to manage the advertising inventories for the platform, which members to have live by mid February.
Some of the MPPM brands - including Media Prima, Star Media and Sin Chew Online - were among those included in a "by invitation" Malaysian exchange called AMP, launched by marketing tech company CtrlShift in August, and it is not clear how (or whether) the two will work together. CtrlShiftdid has not so far responded to requests for comment.
The company, which has offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpure, Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila, earlier said it planned to roll out AMP in other markets including Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. The AMP model provides a "private virtual auction" platform where members offer their premium ad inventory with data on the interests, intent, habits and demographics of audiences. The inventory goes to the highest bidder. Another player is startup Atomx Media Exchange, which launched in Malaysia in 2015.
Kompas Gramedia's Andy Budiman says the Malaysian experience has parallels with that in Indonesia, where publishers were trying to build a true publisher audience exchange earlier this year. "Our Premium Indonesian Publisher (PIP), where premium publishers agree to work with Ambient (digital agency) to market certain inventory, is more like AMP," he says.
"MPPM seems to be the more strategic alliance among Malaysia's top publishers, while AMP is a way for premium publishers to sell premium inventory using CtrlShift data management platform through CtrlShift supply side platform."
He says that to be effective, an alliance cannot just appoint third party to manage inventory for them. "What publishers need to do is to actually form a new entity through a joint venture, hiring proper employees and a technology partner."
Budiman says the need to form an alliance is getting urgent for a lot of publishers.
"Google is now approaching big brands directly; big agencies are also bringing technology into play, and using their strong bargaining position to force publishers to embed their data management script into publishers' websites to track and profile publishers' audience.
"In short, Google is moving to agency space, agencies are trying to be more technological, while publishers are squeezed in the middle if they don't get their act together.
"The differentiators for premium publishers are their brand-safe environment (which Google is having a lot of problems with this year) and viewability (real humans, not bots, where 37 per cent of ad impressions out there can be viewed by bots)."
According to a study conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and WhiteOps in 2015, up to 37% of ad impressions were created by automated software programs known as bots. Budiman says Kompas Gramedia is responding to the situation its own KG digital ad network, called VCBL (see www.vcbl.id) which was launched at AdAsia Bali last month.
Pictured: Abdul Jalil Hamid (third from right), with representatives of other MPPM members Yazid Ahmad (Utusan Media Sales), Loh Yee Wei (China Press), Calvin Kan (Star Media Group), Sharon Teh (The Edge Communications) and Keu Tien Siong (MCIL). Picture: NSTP/Mohd Yusni Ariffin