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Digital World – Global Digital Marketing News: Thursday 17 September 2015

Digital World is Oban’s regular series aggregating recent interesting news about, and research into, global markets. In this week’s update: China levies significant fines against the use of superlatives in advertising; Google found guilty in Russian antitrust action; Marketers reveal weaknesses in attribution model in APAC; Yandex hands out severe penalties to link sellers; and a US-based data services company partners with Alibaba.

New Chinese advertising guidelines ban “best” brands

Due to changes made to the Chinese government’s advertising guidelines, it will be illegal for brands to advertise products and services with common superlatives (in Chinese) such as “supreme”, “best”, “highest” and “national level”. The new rules levy a fine of between 200,000 and 1 million yuan ($31,000 to $157,000 USD) for use of the words, though in typical state style, a comprehensive list of forbidden terms has not been provided.

Tolerance for such terminology differs from market to market. The US actually permits unsubstantiated superlatives as “puffery” (arguing that “no reasonable person would take them literally”). By comparison, in the UK, marketers are expected to substantiate such claims and hold documentary evidence. Nonetheless, the Chinese implementation has seen a wave of disproportionate reactions from under-prepared brands. As the Wall Street Journal reports, ecommerce site Dangdang.com was allegedly asterisking all instances of the term “supreme” – including references to China’s Supreme Court. Similar blanket bans accompany searches for affected terms on JD.com, and Taobao.com.

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Russia finds Google guilty in antitrust proceedings

In the latest of a string of actions being taken by governments arguing that Google unfairly favours its own products, Russian competition regulators, the FAS (Federal Antimonopoly Service), have found Google guilty of abusing its dominant position as a market leader. Several Russian-based companies, principle among them being search-market leader Yandex, filed a complaint earlier this year focussing on the pre-installation of Google search apps and its app store on Android devices.

Details of the fine Google faces are to follow in two weeks, with the figure expected to be in the range of 1 to 15% of turnover. This amount may be applied based on Google Inc. or Google Ireland revenues, rather than the company’s smaller Russian entity, however.

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Marketers identify biggest attribution hurdles in APAC

A new Econsultancy report into the State of Marketing Attribution in Asia Pacific has surveyed 400 individuals working in the region, and has some intriguing statistics about how companies and agencies use attribution. Asked what they felt the greatest barriers to using attribution were, 41% of company respondents cited disparate tech platforms and data sources as the single biggest issue. Agency respondents singled out complexity of data instead. Technology, data and skills are identified as the overarching problems.

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Hundreds of sites penalised on Yandex over link selling

Yandex has penalised hundreds of websites it has judged to be guilty of selling links to those seeking higher rankings in organic search listings. A major update to the AGS link penalty has been applied to such sellers and negatively affects the search engine visibility of the site and its pages. It also reduces their Yandex TIC score (considered analogous to Google’s PageRank) to zero, making the site unappealing to potential buyers.

The AGS penalty has been active in one form or another since 2009. The action is separate to the engine’s Minusinsk algorithm, which targets link buyers (as we have previously reported).

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Foreign website access in China may get quicker, though still restrictive

Techinasia.com reports that Baidu has formed a new partnership with US-based internet services company CloudFire that could lead to massive speed-boosts for foreign websites accessed on the Chinese mainland. The new partnership, allegedly active in secret since late 2014, will see CloudFire’s content delivery systems integrated with Baidu’s networks.

Currently, loading speed is a major issue for foreign websites – because of various laws and other factors, hosting a website within the country is often not an option, but hosting outside China’s borders results in painfully slow loading. Brands already benefiting from the service – called Yunjiasu – include American Apparel, Gilt Groupe and TechCrunch. The service will not, however, affect the strict censorship laws that apply to the content of foreign websites.

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Image credits

New World Department Store photo by Flickr user Yuya Sekiguchi

Sergei Burkov, Google Russia (Moscow) photo by Flickr user Yuri Syuganov

Pacific Ocean photo by Flickr user Zbigniew Braniewcki

Back in the USSR photo by Flickr user frankieleon

View out the train window at 431 km/h photo by Flickr user Lars Plougmann