Top tips for programmatic success in China

Marketing to Chinese consumers presents global brands with an unprecedented growth opportunity: one billion people are now connected to the internet, China is home to the world’s largest middle class, and Chinese tourists are the global leader in international tourism spending. The list goes on… 

The same is true for programmatic. The average adult in China spends between four and five hours per day with digital media, the most of any media channel. Marketing budgets in China follow suit. In 2020, 76% of total ad spend in China was digital, forecast to grow to 84% by 2024. And digital is synonymous with programmatic in China, now a $50 billion a year industry and tipped to represent almost 80% of digital display ad spend in 2021.

Moreover, just earlier this year P & G’s Mark Pritchard said: ‘If you want to see the future of marketing, look to China. It’s where a lot of transformation is happening in terms of our use of data and digital technology in order to drive our business through programmatic’. The world’s largest advertiser is a good barometer of the direction of travel, a signal that programmatic in China will continue to grow and grow.

But finding success with programmatic in China is not always straightforward. The ecosystem is different, the digital advertising players are different and consumers are different. It can leave many agencies and marketers at a crossroads: knowing that programmatic in China is a huge growth opportunity, one they fear missing out on, but in equal measure apprehension of getting it wrong. But we think you’ve got to be in it to win it.

Whether you’re looking to scale in China with programmatic for the first time, or seeking a fresh approach in the market, here are some of our top tips to make the most of your programmatic investment in China.

  1. Local works better than global

Technology giants Google, Amazon, Facebook and many others aren’t prominent in China, instead replaced with local players, engineered to meet China’s exact specifications. For unfiltered access to the best inventory, data, ad verification and measurement solutions in China, ensure you have local partnerships at the heart of your programmatic activation. This way you’ll be close to the ground even if you’re far away.

  1. Be mobile first

China is a world-leader in time spent on mobile. Since 2018 adults have spent 20 minutes more per day on their mobile than they did the year before. By 2023, 60% of all media consumption will be on mobile devices, 25% more than consumers in the UK or US. In China mobile is king, programmatic planning should reflect this. Access to premium, multi format mobile app inventory is the key to reaching Chinese consumers on their terms, on their device of choice.

  1. Audience targeting is all-important

With one billion people online and a diverse range of consumers, audience segmentation is essential for making your programmatic investment work as hard as it should. Choose a partner who curates audiences using data sourced from China’s most popular apps, and transparently discloses the taxonomy of your audience before campaign launch. It’s important to have audience targeting at the forefront of your programmatic activation, and for you to know you’re targeting who you think you are in such a vast market.

  1. Ad Fraud is an issue in China, but don’t let it be your issue

Reports outline more than 80% of the world’s ad fraud originates from China, other local vendors indicate a third of all online ad traffic in China is invalid. You can’t skirt the issue but solutions exist. Select an ad verification partner that has post-bid and pre-bid measures in place, and is independently verified delivering to global standards. If you don’t receive this from the get-go, 30% of your programmatic investment might not go where you need it to.

  1. Measure quality, not only quantity

Success measurement in China is different from the West, with 27% of global marketers citing measurement inconsistency as their top concern in China. Programmatic KPIs in China can often be governed by cost-efficiencies and bottom-funnel metrics such as CPM, CTR and CPC, it can be a numbers game. Look to partners that go-beyond, to translate your business goals into authentic programmatic results and insights to better inform future strategy.

  1. Creative that tells your story

Creative specifications are yet to be standardized in China, publishers and apps often develop ad placements native to their environment. This leads to fragmentation, but also higher user engagement – a trade off. To tell the story you have to tell in China, work with a partner that can help you understand and build creatives to China’s requirements. Doing so is often the difference between accessing inventory from China’s premium publishers and apps or not.

  1. Work with a trusted partner

61% of global marketers who make decisions about their programmatic investment in China identify a lack of local market knowledge as a major roadblock. 52%, meanwhile, are worried about their reputation if they get it wrong. Working with a partner that understands China’s programmatic ecosystem and your marketing objectives in equal measure is important, and that’s the partner we aspire to be. A safe pair of hands in a complex market.

We know programmatic success in China doesn’t come overnight, it’s a journey. We’ve spent more than three years in the market and are still learning its intricacies. But we’re passionate for what the future holds, to help agencies and marketers turn China’s huge growth opportunity into huge programmatic addressability.

Discover how we can help you connect with one of the largest markets in the world from anywhere in the world. 

Get in touch.