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Online Ad Credibility On The Rise In Southeast Asia

5 minute read | September 2013
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  • Word-of-mouth recommendations the most trusted source of advertising
  • Trust in traditional advertising remains strong

Singapore, September 17, 2013: “Earned” advertising in the form of word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends continues to be the most influential source of advertising among Southeast Asian consumers, according to research released today by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy. The Nielsen study also revealed consumers’ trust in traditional advertising remains strong, while the credibility of online advertising has improved in recent years.

Nielsen’s Global Survey of Trust in Advertising polled more than 29,000 Internet[i] respondents in 58 countries to measure consumer sentiment on 19 forms of paid, earned and owned advertising formats.

Across Southeast Asia, consumers placed the highest level of trust in word-of-mouth endorsements, with the Philippines leading the way (up 3 percentage points from 2007 to 89% and five points above the global average of 84%), followed by Malaysia (up eight points to 86%), Singapore (up seven points to 85%) and Indonesia (down four points to 85%). Thailand (down two points to 79%) and Vietnam (up two points to 81%) were the only Southeast Asian countries to fall below the global average. (See Chart 1).

Trust in traditional advertising still strong

Television, magazine and newspaper advertisements continue to be among the most-trusted forms of paid advertising for consumers in Southeast Asia. More than seven in 10 consumers in the Philippines (78%), Indonesia (74%), Thailand (72%) and Malaysia (70%) said they trusted television ads – well above the global average of 62 percent. Despite declining trust in magazine and newspaper advertising across the region in recent years, the majority of markets scored higher than the global benchmarks of 60 percent and 61 percent, respectively. (See Chart 2).

“Despite continuing media fragmentation and the emergence of new advertising platforms, television remains the platform of choice  for the delivery of marketing messages thanks to its ability to reach the masses, and this research illustrates that television advertising still holds strong resonance with Southeast Asian consumers,” said David Webb, Managing Director, Advertising Solutions, Nielsen.

Increased trust in online ads

Over the past six years, online advertising saw the largest increase in trust levels for Southeast Asian consumers. Sixty-eight percent of Indonesian consumers said they trust consumer-consented email messages (up 16 points from 2007 and 11 points higher than the global average), followed by the Philippines (down one point to 66%), Singapore (up nine points to 62%) and Malaysia (up 11 points to 61%).

Online banner ads also recorded a positive shift in trust levels compared to 2007 across all Southeast Asian markets, and reflected stronger trust levels than the global average; Indonesia up seven points to 48 percent , Thailand up 15 points to 47 percent, the Philippines up four points to 46 percent and Malaysia up 20 points to 44 percent.

More than half of consumers in Indonesia (57%), Philippines (57%), Thailand (56%) and Malaysia (52%) trusted ads in search engine results compared to the global average of 48 percent. Online video ads were trusted by around half of consumers in Indonesia (52%), the Philippines (51%), Thailand (51%) and Malaysia (50%). (See Chart 3)

“Online ad spend is growing rapidly and, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, is forecast to reach nearly US$34 billion in Asia Pacific by 2015, highlighting advertisers’ growing confidence in online,” observes Webb. “Strengthening trust amongst consumers will serve to further drive this growth.”

Improved credibility of content on brand websites

Southeast Asian consumers’ trust in owned advertising in the form of content and messaging on brand websites also increased since 2007 and, with the exception of Singapore, all markets scored well above the current global average of 69 percent. Filipinos placed the highest level of trust in owned advertising, with more than four in five (82%) believing brand websites to be credible (up 11 points since 2007) followed by Thai consumers (up 21 points to 76%), Indonesia (up seven points to 75%), Vietnam (up three points to 75%) and Malaysia (up seven points to 72%).  

“Rising consumer trust in brand website content is definitely a key advantage for marketers as it is an avenue where they can control the brand messages in a way that consumers consider credible. This perceived credibility is a key component in advertising effectiveness,” said Webb.

Ads that make the greatest impact

Advertising that used real-life situations was the most likely to resonate among Southeast Asian consumers, while ads that were value and family oriented, and humorous also fared well. (See Chart 4)

[i] While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration has not reached majority potential, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. Additionally, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.

“For advertisers, it’s vital that consumers make a memorable and meaningful connection with the brand,” says Webb. “Effectively reaching consumers is predicated upon having a message that favourably impacts consumers when making a purchase decision. Although market nuances exist, comedic relief, relatable situations, and ads that focus on family and health speak to the hearts and minds of consumers in Southeast Asia and generate the most positive response.”

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising was conducted between February 18 and March 8, 2013, and polled more than 29,000 consumers in 58 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or 10M online population for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Survey, was established in 2005.

About Nielsen


Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit


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