The CCTV auction sets overall market rates for the year and provides a fantastic barometer for how the market will play out. It's also a fair way for the broadcaster to sell prime inventory.
"Everything is out in the open, so no one can accuse them of playing favorites," said Shanghai-based Philip Beck, CEO of China Media Exchange, the holding company for Publicis Groupe's media divisions in China.
On the minus side:
The auction can be tedious-it takes up to 14 hours-and marketers have to pay for airtime on the spot. (Payments are now handled through electronic banking but a few years ago, marketers turned up with boxes of cash and armed guards.) There are no refunds, unlike in the U.S., where marketers can cancel some bookings and just pay a penalty.
Also, the "forced openness means everyone knows exactly what each marketer paid for airtime and how far some people went over the odds to get the particular airtime they're after," added Mr. Beck. That can jeopardize the secrecy of upcoming campaigns or product launches.