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Decoding China: Advertising Tips and Tricks

August 12, 2016

Lately it has been hard to avoid reading about how important advertising in China is for states and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs).  Yet planning and buying media in China is very different to the countries tourism brands typically buy in, such as the UK, Australia, and Canada.  China’s economy can be complicated to navigate and volatile at times; and with additional complications ranging from governmental restrictions to differing media consumption trends, navigating China can be complex. 

Understand the Chinese Economy

Within the past 12 months, the Chinese economy has made headlines numerous times.  In July 2015, the Chinese stock market collapsed, driving the government to pump billions into the marketplace and giving cause for concern about the impact on international travel.

Alleviating the cause for concern are a few key facts: 

  • The Chinese stock market crashed previously in 2008, yet the two sectors that saw significant growth post-crash were travel/tourism and real estate.  
  • The Chinese stock market is a strong reflection on the country’s overall economic health.
  • Chinese consumers continued to travel internationally - 2015 had an estimated 16% increase in visitation to the United States, according to the Pacific Asian Travel Association.

The economy is important for advertisers to understand because it can impact market entrance or alter a media plan.  It’s crucial to know what aspects of China’s economy to monitor and when to pull back or push on forward. 

Know Your Audience

Though the Chinese luxury traveler is still prevalent, the new influx in Chinese travelers are millennials.  They are college educated, middle class and spend a significant portion of their salary on travel.  Millennials are concerned with airfare and hotel prices, and they have a short book to arrival life cycle. Shopping is still a large factor when selecting a destination, but “having fun” and experience-based travel is becoming more prevalent as a key travel driver, especially as the demographic shifts to younger visitors.  Understanding the Chinese traveler is pivotal when crafting creative messages and media placement to ensure proper targeting. 

Mobile, Mobile, Social

It is no secret that the Chinese are obsessed with their mobile devices.  There is a significantly higher media consumption rate on mobile versus desktop devices.  In fact, 75 percent of social media users in China do so through their mobile device.  Knowing that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all blocked in China, the main social network is WeChat.  WeChat has over 700 million users worldwide and more than 80 percent reside in China.  Beyond just a messaging app where brands can buy mobile banner ads, WeChat has “moments” advertising, which is a native placement that appears in timelines.  More than half of WeChat users spend over an hour a day on the app, making this a prime placement for advertisements.

Plan Ahead

For both digital and traditional campaigns, leave plenty of lead time for approvals.  The Chinese government censors advertising campaigns, meaning it can take over a month to receive creative approval.  

Overall, buying media in China can be difficult, but for DMOs and other tourism organizations, the payoff can be exponential.  Chinese tourists, no matter the age, spend more while visiting the United States than most other international tourists.  Keeping a pulse on their technology and media consumption trends, understanding the economy, and giving your team enough time to buy and place media could mean millions of dollars in economic impact for opportunistic organizations willing to make the effort to target the new middle class of millennials.