Besides Baidu and WeChat, to compete successfully in China, businesses need to consider other viable marketing channels and strategies in order to stand out in the increasingly crowded market. We spoke to Christina, founder of China Marketing Corp, for her views on different advertising strategies, including programmatic and cinema advertising, and their relative effectiveness.
1. Since you’ve had a lot of experience in Chinese search engine advertising, what types of businesses would you say are actually more suited to using search engine advertising as a first step instead of WeChat advertising?
The short answer is it really depends on a brand’s specific requirements and budget.
For brands that are completely new to the Chinese market, the priority is to gain exposure. Display-oriented advertising options on WeChat can help them achieve this objective. However, the precondition is to have eye-catching advertisingmaterials, such as videos, images and slogans, in order to make a powerful first impression. I would say this is a good starting point to create brand awareness and familiarise consumers with your offerings.
For brands that are already known in the Chinese market, the priority is to improve ROI and increase sales. These brands might see better ROI using search engines because people who search for related keywords are more likely to make purchases.
In an ideal world, it would best to use both social media and search engines. However, if a brand is limited by its budget, then we have to look at its marketing goals and the nature of the project in order to decide on a suitable marketing channel.
2. Given that Baidu is the biggest search engine in China, why should a business consider advertising on other search engines?
Baidu is indeed the largest search engine in China; however, it is important to take into account the size of the Chinese market. According to CNNIC, China has reached 772 million Internet users (as of Dec 2017), which is about half of the Chinese population. This means that a search engine with a 10% market share has access to 77.2 million Internet users, which is more than the UK population.
Moreover, different search engines have their own strengths. For example, 360 Search is supported by Qihoo 360, which is a tech giant with a strong ecosystem of popular apps. This has helped to fuel 360 Search’s development. Another example is Sogou. It is the default search engine for WeChat and also owns a popular Chinese input keyboard. It is important not to overlook the unique strengths of these smaller search engines.
We also have to remember that a smaller market share could mean less competition for keywords, which may lead to better ROI. For a pilot campaign with a limited budget, it may be wise to start with a smaller search engine to test the water.
3. How can non-Chinese brands make use of programmatic advertising to reach their desired Chinese audience?
Programmatic advertising is a great way for brands to discover a new market and get discovered by consumers.
It is increasingly difficult to rely on a sole marketing channel as people’s attention is divided between different apps and websites. Even search engines are introducing different types of advertising options, for example, native ads, news feed ads, and DSP ads, to maximise its reach. Brands need a smarter solution because using one single marketing channel is not enough for effective targeting anymore.
Programmatic advertising is the future of digital marketing, especially with the development of machine learning. There are many programmatic advertising options available in the market; however, results depend largely on the network reach and the technology behind it.
Regardless of the differences among different networks, programmatic advertising works by combining the following targeting options: demographic information, interests, online search behaviour, online browsing behaviour, apps usage, locations and purchase history.
If we have a very clear and detailed customer persona, we can combine these targeting options to segment the online audience into different stages of their buying journey and thus target them effectively.
I normally recommend brands consider local Chinese programmatic advertising networks as they have more resources than international suppliers when it comes to China. For example, we work with iPinYou, which is the largest supplier in the market with very powerful targeting tools.
If a brand is already running campaigns on local search engines and doesn’t want to commit to another channel, I would suggest it also checks out the search engines’ DSP products. For example, it is called ‘Baiyi’ on Baidu and ‘360 DMP’ on 360 Search.
4. What are the benefits of doing cinema advertising in China?
China is the largest film market in terms of screen numbers. It had 50,776 movie screens at the end of 2017. Chinese consumers are spending more time and money on entertainment. The average age of film audiences is 24 years old. On average, they visit the cinema once every 3 weeks. Over 86% of them have a bachelor’s degree and 90% of them are decision makers in the buying journey.
The beauty of cinema advertising is that it is harder for audiences to opt out of viewing or switch the channel. The impressive audio and visual effects also help brands send a powerful message. For example, I still remember the Audi cinema advertisement from 2 years ago. It did a great job and may influence my car buying decision in the future.
In terms of costs, if we target Qingdao (a 2ndtier city) with an estimated monthly admission of 218,800 people across 8 cinemas and 52 screens we work with, and advertise a 30-second video for a total 28 days, it will cost roughly £110,000. This means that the average cost per view is £0.50.
It is a good option for branding and exposure. Not only will you be able to target film audiences, cinema advertising can also boost online performance and drive more results.