How can marketers maximize return in China’s fragmented TV landscape?

June 2, 2015


Yingqi, who is currently studying at Peking University, lives alone in the Beijing central area. Every weekend, she travels two hours to visit and stay with her parents who live in the suburbs. During the weekdays, Yingqi catches the latest popular TV show, Empress of China, on her computer or mobile phone and sometimes watches reality shows and national news on TV with her friends. She is frequently exposed to various types of TV commercials featuring well-known Chinese and international brands. Over the weekend, Yingqi watches other types of TV shows and infomercials from local TV channels along with her parents.

Yingqi’s complex TV viewing patterns are representative of today’s younger generation in China. The extremely fragmented TV landscape along with the rising importance of streaming TV such as LeTV, PPS, BaoFeng, Youku,iQiyi, Tudou, etc. have made every marketer’s job extremely challenging.  It is increasingly difficult to track the effectiveness and the efficiency of a brands’ TV and digital advertising. Such advertising investments are often in the hundreds of millions of Yuan every year.

Given China’s media landscape, how can marketers maximize the efficiency of a brand’s TV media spending and, at the same time, continue to build the long-term equity of the brand?

Based on analyzing hundreds of brands via hierarchical statistic models in China over the last several years, Analytic Partners has identified four principles for marketers to think about when it comes to optimizing TV spending in China:

1. Mirror TV strategy with the distribution / launch strategy – While this should go without saying, it is sometimes neglected by marketers due to the complexity of the TV landscape and the challenging distribution network in China. Far too often, there is a disconnect between media strategy and distribution strategy, resulting in partial wastage in media spending.  For example, one of our clients recently asked us to identify the issues that were causing some sales under-performance for a new product. The company had launched the new product in the top-tier cities across China, with a stronger presence in the Southern areas. Upon investigation, we found that there was not enough TV support in the South to generate awareness of the new launch. Furthermore, the timing of the advertising and the availability of the product on store shelves was out of sync.

2. Strike a balance between Local and National CCTV channels – National TV (CCTV for example) is expensive but when compared to local TV, which is always very fragmented, National TV can often still generate better ROIs due to its broad reach and the popularity of its TV shows.

3. Create synergy impact between TV and streaming, online TV platforms (i.e. computer and mobile):

a. Leverage online TV for longer thematic TV copy to drive home the emotional benefits and the value proposition of the brand. Build up the brand story – Although the cost of advertising on online TV has been rising every year, it is still much cheaper than TV.  Also, results show that online TV drive better engagement amongst targeted audiences which results in high ROIs.


b. Leverage broadcast TV channels for shorter tactical TV copy to communicate functional product benefits, and to showcase temporary in-store promotions – While TV and TV sponsorship can be helpful in building long-term brand equity and awareness, it can be quite expensive especially for longer copy, suppressing the ROIs for TV spending. Short, but effective copy is frequently the wisest investment.

4. Avoid a one-size-fits-all policy when leveraging celebrities for TV copy – These days, there are a handful of superstars in Greater China, and they are employed as spokespersons for various brands. A celebrity who is really popular in Taiwan / Southern China does not necessary guarantee success and appeal to all consumers in China. A deep understanding of the various different sub-markets in China allows for creative that can be customized to achieve maximum impact and ROI.
Of course, each product, brand, and offering will be unique. However, at Analytic Partners, we have found that these general rules are consistent. The rapidly evolving TV landscape and Chinese viewing habits can seem chaotic.  However, as Sun Tzu once observed: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

Let's transform your business.

Analytic Partners can help your business adapt.

Talk to an expert