Malaysian agency accuses Google of poaching a client

Search engine giant accused of manipulating advertising to take business

KUALA LUMPUR — A small Malaysia-based digital advertising agency has alleged that Google's Singapore and Malaysia office has tampered with its AdWords account and attempted to steal its clients, writes technology business site Digital News Asia.

According to Digital News Asia, which broke the story this morning, Google has told the news site that it is investigating the agency's claims but had no further comment. 

Campaign Asia-Pacific also reached out to Google but did not hear back as of press time. 

Based on interviews, correspondence between the agency and Google employees and further documentation, DNA has published a piece that alleges Google employees suspended the agency's AdWords account and contacted the agency's client, recommending they deal with Google directly:

Previously, agency accounts for Asia Pacific were handled out of Google Ireland Ltd, but these have since been transitioned to Google Asia-Pacific. Worse, just after this Singapore-based executive began engaging with the client directly, the agency’s AdWords account was suspended because of an alleged payment issue—despite the fact that the account still had credits accruing to it. Within hours of the account being suspended, the Singapore-based executive emailed the GLC advising the client that its agency’s account had been suspended, and urging it to deal directly with Google instead, saying that resolving the agency issue would be a long, drawn-out affair. 

Even after the account was reinstated, it was discovered that the agency's AdWords campaign for the government-linked client in question had been modified, without the client's or the agency's knowledge, according to DNA. The campaign was now "optimized" at CPC rates that were 80% higher than the rates the agency had originally set for the client, DNA reported. 

The author of the piece, Asohan Aryaduray, executive editor and co-founder of DNA, assured Campaign Asia-Pacific that the article was thoroughly researched and backed up with documentation. He shared that the article had withheld the name of the agency in question because the agency feared having clients question its discretion. 

He added that the actions taken by Google's employees currently benefit its sales representatives personally in the short term but would ultimately benefit Google itself in the long-run because it gains higher margins when working directly with clients. It has yet to be determined if the Google employee allegedly involved is based in Singapore or Malaysia. 

DNA's article also cited a similar incident in Kenya as well as hearsay on several forums

If you've had a similar experience and would like to get in touch, either on or off the record, please write in and share your story.

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