Digital Reshapes China, Aids Booming Ad Economy

GreatWall-of-ChinaThe digital media revolution is reshaping Chinese society to help make it one of the fastest-growing advertising economies in the world, according to a new trend report from WPP’s MEC China.

According to MEC parent company GroupM, measured media expenditures in China will grow 15.2% in 2011 to approximately $54 billion. Larger growth is expected in 2012 when expenditures will reach $63 billion, up nearly 17%. Most of the major advertising holding companies are vying for a greater share of those growing expenditures.

Driving that growth in part is China’s new Me Generation, according to the MEC report. Unlike the past, the report states, “The Chinese of today have come to see individualism as something to be pursued and developed. They no longer live by the principle of ‘the bird that shows its head gets shot.’”

Contributing to this new outlook is the rise of personal media, such as blogs and social media like Weibo, a Chinese service akin to Twitter. Blog writers have increased 12% in the last four years, and Weibo users have doubled in the last quarter, per the report. More generally, the social media conversation is expanding. The report indicates that people who participated in discussion on the Internet in China rose from 2.8% in 2009 to 9.4% in 2011. 

Just as technology has altered consumer behavior elsewhere, it is doing so in China, and on a huge scale.

“There are all kinds of indications that technology integration is becoming a major trend,” the report states, noting as an example that mobile phones can now be used as remotes to control TVs. “In the future, consumers will not be dealing with stand-alone high-tech devices, but will find science and technology penetrating every facet of their lives.”

Another consumer trend on the rise in the country is what MEC termed the “Zhai Lifestyle,” which was first identified in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago by trendspotter Faith Popcorn. She called it “cocooning,” when she observed that consumers were spending more time at home or at the office, becoming more reliant on technology to accomplish tasks via e-commerce and home delivery. 

MEC says the new consumer trends suggest marketers need to bring Chinese consumers “into their brand communications [and] tap into their creativity and innovativeness and let them participate in the development of products and services.” Much as in the  U.S., marketers need to start building stronger one-to-one relationships with Chinese consumers. The report states: “Become a friend of the consumer in the digital world, and help them to lead a healthy yet colorful Zhai lifestyle.”

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