Beginner’s Guide to Advertising your Business in China

David Henriques

From the printing press to digital ads, advertising has changed with the times especially when marketing to China. Advertisement spending will continue to increase as the middle classes’ purchasing habits continue to fuel the market, but many foreign companies often fail to understand that the digital advertisement industry in China differs from the West. When advertising your business to the Chinese market, there are three important factors to remember: the digital landscape is fragmented, China is dominated by mobile, and Chinese consumers change quickly.

How your brand appears and communicates its message to your target audience goes far beyond its content. Advertisement here is all about having an understanding of the Chinese consumer and the different channels used to connect with them. The platform that you use for your campaign just might form the basis of the relationship between consumers and your brand. Where your brand messaging is placed influences a user’s impression and here are some categories and platforms to be aware of when advertising your business in China.

 

Chinese Search Engine Advertising (SEM)

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Just like in the West, SEM and SEO marketing is one of the most effective ways to bring you conversions and customers with Baidu being the king of search in the country.  When it comes to search engine marketing most companies entering China should focus on Baidu PPC. It still maintains the largest SEM market share and works straight forward just like Google Ads. But there are other search engines that might even be more effective for advertising your brand and reaching your target audience.

 

SEM platforms you may not know about

Haosou

Haosou is backed by Qihoo 360, which is one of the largest internet companies in China. Haosou offers a wide range of services including news, websites, images, videos, Q&A, images, music and other services. It was revamped with mobile in mind and can be a cheaper alternative for running advertisement campaigns. Haosou is often used for the workplace due to its security features and can be an ideal channel for B2B marketing.

WeChat Search

WeChat is one of the most important parts of online marketing in China. As you likely know it gives users access to a range of different features from payment to taxi services. But many brands are unaware of how WeChat has the potential to become a major player in the search engine market. WeChat implemented a search function in 2017 and allows users to search WeChat Moments, Mini-Programs, Articles, Stickers, Official Accounts and more. This is a key opportunity for brands to invest in multiple search results and allow users to shop for products directly through WeChat.

 

Social Media Advertising in China

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Weibo and WeChat are two of the most popular social media channels in China. For branding on Chinese social media, Weibo and WeChat are should definitely be your top picks. However, there are a ton of other social medial platforms with their own unique niche to market your brand.  Chinese social media platforms concentrate on attracting mobile users, which means that sites are geared for instantaneous sharing. Since the Chinese social media landscape is more dynamic, platforms can rise and fall at a much faster rate than in the West. It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and social media outlets.

 

Social media platforms you may not know about

Douban

Douban is a unique community site based on user generated content that many consider to be the equivalent to Reddit. The platform is used to share views and ideas on topics users are interested in such as book and movie reviews, music, events and hobbies. Douban offers interest-based advertising to target audiences and has a deep understanding of its users. It is an underrated platform with huge potential and can provide more in-depth and integrated marketing options for your marketing efforts.

Mafengwo

Mafengwo is the most influential travel social platform in China. It has over 1 million user generated travel guides and it favors data from user-generated content including travel guides and blogs. It has become the go-to platform for anything travel related and has a big impact of the decision making of Chinese travelers. It’s an attractive platform for marketing your brand if you are interested in doing a travel or tourism related marketing campaign.

 

Programmatic Advertising in China

The programmatic advertising landscape in China has seen gains in recent years. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) are playing a role in China that is similar to the one that Facebook and Google play in America. Each of these tech giants have formed their own closed ecosystem, taking around 90% of the programmatic advertising market share. Therefore, ad campaigns cannot be fully optimized due to the sharing restrictions that each platform has with one another. This type of advertising does provide advanced targeting and some of the most desirable ad placements for foreign companies.

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The major players in programmatic advertising

Baiyi: The Baidu Display Ad Network

This platform can enable your brand to run campaigns and be exposed to consumers through PC, Mobile and Television gateways. Your brand can receive targeted advertising on 600,000 third-party websites and software providers that are partnered with Baidu. You can target users based on interests, keywords, device type and many other categories. Baiyi is great choice for targeting users on desktops.

Tencent Social Ads

Tencent ads cover a wide range of platforms and might be the most popular ad network in China. It can easily place ads and gather data on WeChat, QQ, Tencent News and Tencent Video, and offer deep insights into customers’ personalized demands. These are some of the most popular social media networking apps, making Tencent ads a very attractive opportunity for brands to market their products and services.

Alimama

Owned by Alibaba, Alimama focuses a lot on e-commerce and is widely known for Train Advertisements and Diamond Display Advertisements. These Alibaba products enable brands to place ads at the top of Taobao or T-mall searches, or a wide range of apps like Weibo, Netease and IQiYi. Alimama is a great platform for brands that want to focus on Alibaba owned platforms.

 

These are a few of the many ways you can get started with advertising in China. The facets of Chinese digital advertising are much more vast and interconnected than simply just posting an ad on a platform. But you shouldn’t be deterred from exploring different channels and platforms as long as you have an in-depth understanding of each. Getting creative and keeping your customers in mind is one of the best approaches to start your advertisement journey in China.

 

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See the French version of the article here.

David Henriques
David Henriques

Digital entrepreneur and co-founder of Sekkei Studio, a digital marketing agency in Shanghai, Paris and Hong Kong. More than 10 years of experience in helping the communication of foreign companies in China.

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