Online Advertising Trends in China

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China’s advertising industry is fast paced and always evolving, thanks to the demands of the consumers. Unlike many Western and other countries of the world, television is definitely not the biggest source of advertisement in China. However, the huge geographical size of the country makes the task of reaching out to all the potential customers quite challenging.

While 86% of the advertisements by the leading multinational companies are done through the medium of television, more and  more advertising agencies are now targeting their Chinese consumers through digital advertising. According to a survey, the percentage of people who watch TV in China has remained at a stagnant rate of 3.3 hours per day over the last 10 years. On the other hand, we have seen a rapid increase in the usage of digital devices, this has increased from zero to almost 16 hours per day when compared to a decade ago.

Not just national but international markets are also showing a lot of interest in online advertising in China. This is why a lot of online advertising trends have emerged which are different from those in the rest of the developed world. The focus of this article will be on the online advertisement trends in terms of advertisement mediums At the end, the advertising trends in China in terms of products and services will also be presented so that you can find out what Chinese people are selling more vigorously.



Screens Dominate the World of Online Advertising in China

Whether it’s a 52” LED screen or a 5” smartphone screen, the Chinese are really fond of them. Surprisingly, in China, screens that are present in public areas, offices, malls, restaurants, etc. have become the best medium for advertisement. Even gyms, health clubs, and spas are considered to be among the best places to advertise through screens or digital media.

Even public transports have its own screens. This is a great way of reaching out to your potential customers as most people prefer public transportation in China. The good thing is that advertisers and marketers know how to take full advantage of this preference.

Since China is home to some of the tallest buildings in the world, huge screens are also mounted on them in order to run prolific advertisements.

One thing you will find while traveling in the taxis in metropolitan cities is that even these have got LEDs and LCDs installed for advertising purposes. The companies pay money to the taxi owners for running their advertisements, which is yet another smart move on the side of the marketers.

Many marketers are getting more creative with their advertisements. International brands like L’Oreal, Sony, and Procter & Gamble Co. fully utilize the various trends of advertising in China ranging from making online ad videos to showcasing their products on public buildings.


Chinese Advertising Trends are Experiencing Changes through Consolidation

Consolidation is an emerging trend in China which means that traditional advertising will become available to very few companies. However, this will allow businesses to advertise their products through the internet. The big organizations are all set to take advantage of this predictable rise in digital marketing. Nike and Unilever Co. are set to take the digital advertising world by storm with help from leading advertising platforms like Tencent’s QQ messaging. and are the two websites that are also a favorite among companies for their online advertising campaigns in China.

Apart from digital advertising through instant messaging, there are some key players in China which provide the services of video marketing to their clients. The clients are big names like P&G and Unilever Co. and are the two websites that provide the best online video marketing services in the Chinese digital advertising industry. Consolidation is not just going to increase the amount of advertising which is already being done through digital devices, but will also open up many opportunities for Chinese companies which provide digital advertising services to local as well as international brands.

In this way, China will emerge as a trustworthy market for advertising brands in the international market. This is also going to raise the level of customer relationship marketing in China.


Copyrighting has Become a Serious Issue in China

The Chinese government has finally understood the importance of copyright laws. Thus, advertisers and marketers will benefit from their efforts not being so outrageously plagiarized in the future. This protection of the rights of intellectual property has actually motivated local Chinese talent to emerge across the country. In this way, various musical bands, artists, and other related professionals are coming forward with their ideas. Consequently, the advertising agency is seeing a rise in not just their clients but an improvement in the quality of their advertisements as well.

Recently, American brands like Disney have started suing companies that replicate their ads. As a result, Youku has won 32 huge contracts for running piracy-free advertisements by some leading international companies working in China.


Advertising through Blogging and Bulletin Board Sites have become the Two Most Popular Online Advertising Trends.

Blogs and BSS (Bulletin Board Sites) have become the best online advertising tools in China. Not only do they work effectively but they are very effective for word-of-mouth advertisements where real consumers pass on their experiences to their readers and visitors. This trend is really the best in times of crisis, especially when a company wants to convey to its consumers that it is recalling a certain product, or when they want to passively any rumors are spreading regarding products.

Through this type of advertising, the consumers come to know about the latest updates on the product, any giveaways or competitions which are being offered and being held, as well as any news related to them.


Social Media Marketing is Really Popular

While Facebook and Twitter are generally considered to be the best social networks for advertisements, China has a game of its own. Almost half of the Chinese population uses one type of social network or another; however, they are not using Facebook or Twitter, since they are banned in China. Many Chinese blogs are playing a marvelous role in marketing certain products. These blogs are run by both companies as well as independent bloggers who charge a certain fee for running advertisements. The main issue in this country is that several social media websites are banned in most parts of the country. People usually use virtual private networks (VPN) and proxies to access western social media websites. It is limiting the scope of traditional social media marketing to some extent but still, social media is the most inexpensive way of promoting products and services, especially for small and medium businesses.

Just as discussed above, BSS sites are a great medium of advertising in China, however, some local social media websites are also gaining popularity and many companies have invested in running their advertisements on them as well. These social networking websites include,,,, and With so many social networking websites, we cannot say that there is any single social media company that has got a strong hold on the scene of Chinese advertisements. You will have to be present on all those social media websites to ensure that the maximum number of internet users in China get your message otherwise you will not be able to get appropriate exposure.

However, things never stop evolving and nowadays there are two major social media platforms that are absolutely crucial to marketing on the Chinese’s favorite instant messaging application, Wechat, and the most famous Chinese micro-blogging website/application, Weibo. No matter which industry you are from, no matter which segment of the market you are targeting, these two social media are the fundamental basis for any digital marketing strategy in China.


E-commerce is Finally Making Waves in China

There was a time when the Chinese general population did not have access to a lot of stuff available online. Even downloading movies and American series was done through illegal torrents. But now the Chinese are shifting towards online trade, thanks to the development of the e-commerce sector. This is the best way of shopping because it allows you to explore a wide range of diverse products within no time.

According to a survey, more than 64 million Chinese internet users have shopped online, out of which 25% claim it to be their only mode of shopping. The reason is simple – online shopping is extremely convenient and people actually prefer it over going to a physical store. $750 million in revenue was generated the previous year by online merchandisers only through effective advertising and marketing. These stats show the potential of the ecommerce market in China. You can sell almost any product to the Chinese people because there are customers for every product. You can even sell a simple wooden stick in this country through ecommerce if you know how to present your products.

The Alibaba Group has generated 80% of the total online earnings in the world through one of its sites It is a Chinese-run group that is considered to be the leader in B2B sales.

Chinese also prefer using life search websites to look for different retail stores and the sales going on over there. With Google being banned in China, Chinese netizens are all over Baidu as the reference search engine.

Since e-commerce has become quite successful in China, many companies now run their advertisements on these websites. These companies are clear about the preferences of their users and offer them the products and services in which they are actually interested. Many national and international brands are taking full advantage of this rising trend and using it to their maximum benefit. Mobile applications have taken this sector to a whole new level. Now people can buy anything from anywhere by just using their thumb on their smartphone screen.


Branded Content is Sought After

Branded content is highly popular among advertisers in China because of its high market value. Local companies as well as international giants like Sony Pictures Entertainment, Mexico’s Grupo Televisa, and Asia Television (ATV). The reason behind this popularity is that many Chinese are now moving towards urbanization. Also, most of the young millennials are well-established and earning better than the older generation; thus they have the power to buy branded goods.  Actually, branding the product and services is the best way to increase their value of that product and service. People take brands more seriously as compared to unbranded ones. Now even digital content is being branded to ensure that people know who is creating what in this enormous world of internet and entertainment. It also increases the revenue of the company but the real difficulty is creating brand awareness. It is not enough to launch a brand and start creating content under that brand name. One of the best and most inexpensive methods to advertise a brand is social media marketing which will be discussed later in this article.


The Internet is Creating Alternative Entertainment Solutions

And this is the reason why advertisers know that the best place to get their target market is through the Internet. Advertising on television is not the first priority of marketers and advertisers because of the massive use of the internet among the Chinese. A survey suggests that among 14 Chinese internet users, at least 10 out of them look for videos online. These videos mostly include drama series produced in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Television users follow reality TV as well as talent shows. The advertisers pick up these slots and advertise maximum during the prime time, instead of running their ads at odd times throughout the day.


Companies are Now Focusing More on the Quality of the Content

While there was a time when big advertising agencies used to spend a fortune on making program advertisements, this approach has changed now. Advertisers and marketers are now preferring to make good quality and creative advertisement to catch the eye of the target market. A combination of RTB and PDB advertisements is a popular trend these days and is likely to remain for quite some time. During the initial phases of social media, companies were focused on the quality of content to generate traffic but now the quality is the preferred option because people now use social media to see something unique and ultra interesting.


The endorsement in Reality and Talent Shows

Just as I have already mentioned in the article, the Chinese are really fond of reality tv shows and talent shows. Advertisers have taken this habit as a good way of marketing their products. You can now see many items placed rather subtly in many programs. Due to certain sanctions imposed by the Chinese government on advertisements, marketers are now presenting their products in very creative and innovative ways. Almost every celebrity tries to find a popular brand to endorse. It not only helps organizations to promote their brand but also helps the celebrity to stay in the limelight and earn significant sums of money. This advertisement trend in china seems very promising and it is not going anywhere for the next few years.


Advertising on Radio has become Obsolete

Radio has lost its popularity in urban China, thus many companies have lost their focus on using radio as a means of advertisement. In the year 2015, its popularity reached the lowest level ever for the first time in China. Now radio entertainers are focusing on running location-based services which will include running ads for such services and products which are popular among the residents of a certain area. However, it will take some time for advertisements to return to the radio. Meanwhile, companies are still using screens as their preferred mode of advertisement. Some old-fashioned marketers still believe that radio can be a very good source of advertisement because the competition is very low and Radio advertisement is inexpensive.  Moreover, lots of people listen to the radio while driving to their offices or any other destination. It can help organizations to promote their products but this advertisement trend is dying and Radio is mostly used for news, songs, and gossip.


Advertisers are Going for ‘To the Point’ Advertisements

Chinese are known for their busy schedules and the tendency of ignoring something which they do not like. Since they are always on the move and are mostly busy, many marketers are now going for advertisements that are creative yet to the point. They prefer creating such ads where the message is conveyed clearly with no need to read between the lines. Pizza Hut adopted this trend in an awesome way on the eve of New Year last year and ran a very successful ad campaign. One example of this type of advertisement is SMS marketing. In this way of advertisement, the company sends a small text message to a large number of people. Since the message is small so they only provide information about their main product and service. Lots of marketing gurus consider it one of the best ways of advertising because the chances of people reading text messages on their mobile phones are very high. Some marketing specialists are changing their opinion because they think that lots of companies are using the SMS advertisement approach and now it is bothering people. People don’t read advertisement messages and are most likely to block such messages. But, this advertisement method is still in trend in China and companies are benefiting from it at least in the sense that it increases their brand awareness.


More Focus on Local Market

China is such a versatile country that people belonging to different areas have certain preferences. Now advertisers are creating such advertisements with the locals can relate to easily. Thus, the concept of targeting the local market is a trend gaining a lot of popularity these days. With this concept, the advertisers comprehend what their consumers require and thus create their ad campaigns based on their analysis. Although the internet and information & communication technology (ICT) has allowed people to sell their products and services in international markets, still small and medium organizations are focusing on local markets. They are targeting domestic customers to keep the business operations simple. The population of China is enough to support small and medium businesses.


Advertising Trends In Terms Of Product and Services

Broadly speaking, when it comes to products and services the advertising trends have not changed significantly. People were looking for trendy fashion accessories a few years ago and they are still doing it. Soft drinks, fast food, and processed food items were popular a few years back and these products are still popular, especially in mainstream media. The number of fast food hotels, café, and bars is increasing and you can see their advertising boards and flyers all over the country. Only a few things changed and the prohibition of the advertisement of cigarettes is one of them. Now you will not see open advertisements for cigarettes and other such products. The irony is that other food items like soft drinks and fast food are equally dangerous for human health but their advertisement is not prohibited. The advertisement of smart mobile devices, laptops, and electronic gadgets is in the limelight on social media. You will see the promotion of such products from local and multinational companies on every other social media website. In the world of digital products and services; VPN, cloud service, and cyber security tools are at the top of the list of the most advertised products. Online earning guides are another highly promoted product, especially on social media.

All these advertising trends in China are indicating the advancement of this country in the field of information and technology. The people, organization and government is embracing the new technology and it is clearly evident from their advertising trends. The products and services in the advertising campaigns may not have changed a lot in the last decade but the medium of advertising has certainly been modified. It also shows that if a corporation wants success in China then it will need to come up with novel products and services with a modern, digitally-led advertising strategy.

We are an Advertising Agency in Shanghai


  • I think Brand should stop to invest in TV advertising and switch to online advertising in Chinese Market.
    What do you think guys ?

    • Olivier

      Oh yes you are right…. 😉 So right Online Digital is the Future of Advertising in China

    • OLo,
      You are 100% right, they should and most of them do. You have a switch from TV Budget to online TV, or other type of advertising in China.

  • Very Informative article. Thank you. As someone that is involved in Online Advertising, I can appreciate the impact of this on a country like China.

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