Educated, affluent Chinese bored by TV programming & ads

And other news in Greater China

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Chinese TV turns off affluent, educated consumers
BEIJING—Poor programming, boring ads and commercial breaks that last up to 20 minutes have lowered interest in television in China, particularly among viewers with higher income and education levels, according to a survey conducted last April by Horizon Research Consultancy Group.

Ominously for advertisers, 85% of Chinese stop watching TV during commercial breaks. More than half change the channel, while rest of them do housework, eat, chat or use the bathroom.

“It is a dirty little secret, but not surprising really. The behavior is consistent with common knowledge in the West and studies done in Taiwan and India. But 85%, even rurally, really surprised me,” said Larry Rinaldi, director of O.N.A. ad agency in Beijing, which commissioned the survey.

“If you ever watched Chinese TV, there are a lot ads, I can’t believe they always get up and do something else, but I can believe they do it on a regular basis. Chinese are big TV addicts. I wouldn’t say they’re adverse to commercials, mostly they still are not, but the impact of ads now is pretty low,” said Paul McNeill, Beijing-based general manager, China at Motivator, a joint venture between GroupM and Havas-owned Euro RSCG.

Door-to-door questionnaires about program viewing times and content preferences among 2,018 Chinese aged 16-60 in Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Xiamen, Xinxiang, Qujing、Shaoxing, Zhuji, Anqing, Tongcheng, Xianyang and Liping suggests nearly 63% of urban adults watch TV nearly everyday—including 66% of women. About 80% watch TV more than three times per week.

Female viewers prefer real-life drama programming and “young idol dramas,” which are particularly popular among younger viewers, while men prefer police dramas. Eighty percent of viewers tune in from 8-9pm. On average, women dominate viewing before 10pm, while men are more likely to watch TV after 10pm.

Income is also factor. Nearly 70% of consumers with a monthly income below $125 are daily viewers, but less than half of urban Chinese who earn more than $500/month turn on their sets each day.

Programming preferences also vary along education levels. Viewers with a junior middle school education or less prefer real-life dramas, those with a high school education opt for young idol dramas and those with a university background choose variety shows. Heavy viewers of Chinese TV overall tend have little education, while only 46% of Chinese with university and higher education watch TV everyday.

VW will produce two more Skoda models in China
SHANGHAI—Volkswagen Group (VW) will produce additional models of its Skoda Auto division in China, the world’s third-largest auto market after the U.S. and Japan. The VW subsidiary is based in the Czech Republic.

The German automaker has already signed an agreement with Shanghai Volkswagen, a joint venture between VW and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC), to produce Skoda’s Octavia model in China starting next year. That agreement has been extended its to include Skoda’s Fabia and Superb model ranges.

“The license contracts will set a new level of presence for the Skoda brand in China It shows we see China as one of the strategic markets for the brand’s future growth,” said Detlef Wittig, Skoda Auto’s board chairman in Mlada Boleslav.

All three models, which will be manufactured in Shanghai, are designed to help VW widen its portfolio in China to better compete against rivals, particularly General Motors Corp., which has won market share from VW in China in recent years with its three models produced in the mainland—Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac. Besides the upcoming Skoda cars, Shanghai VW manufactures Santana, Passat, Polo, Touran and Gol cars for the Chinese market.

Hong Kong leads Asia in mobile phone ownership
HONG KONG--Hong Kong has the highest mobile phone ownership in Asia/Pacific, according to a survey by Nielsen Media, while in mainland China, mobile phone penetration has surpassed the U.S. The Chinese territory has almost reached its saturation point with over five million mobile phones in the hands of a total population of 6.9 million, including children.

“With a mobile phone in the possession of almost every Hong Kong consumer, followed closely behind by Koreans and Singaporeans, the mobile phone companies are now looking at deepening usage of features and prompting brand switching,” said Helen Pemberton, director of the company’s Media Index division for Asia/Pacific in Hong Kong. “Korea and China gobbled two-thirds of the region’s advertising in the sector, accounting for nearly $476.9 million in advertising.”

The only Asia/Pacific market where Nokia is not the market leader is Taiwan, where Motorola takes first place with 29% share ahead of Nokia’s 26%. To maintain its market leadership in this competitive sector, Nokia spent close to $194 million in advertising across the nine Asia/Pacific markets, followed closely
behind by Samsung ($172.5 million) and Motorola ($125.8 million). The ad spending of these three advertisers combined has accounted for nearly 66 percent of the total ad spend for the mobile phone sector in 2005.

JWT wins bronze at Cannes for Nike campaign
SHANGHAI—JWT was the only Chinese ad agency to win an award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival earlier this month. The WPP Group agency’s Shanghai office picked up a bronze in the outdoor category for clothing, footwear and accessories for a five-piece campaign it created last year for Nike Inc. (Late last year, Nike moved its creative account in China to Wieden + Kennedy, Shanghai.)

The campaign was created by Lo Sheung Yan and Kevin Lee (creative directors); Joyce Lin, Anson Gu and Luo Kijin (copywriters); Kevin Lee, Roy Yeo, Dong Hui Jun and Huang Tao (art directors); Zhang Min Sheng (illustrator); and Edward Ha (account supervisor). The ads can be viewed at the Cannes Lions web site.

Synovate opens Hangzhou office
HUANGZHOU--Synovate has acquired one of its former key suppliers, Chun Qiu, whose staff will now work for the Aegis Group-owned research company. The operation is Synovate’s sixth office serving the Chinese market, following Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Guangzhou and a China division in Hong Kong.

The acquisition was based on “the consistent quality of Chun Qiu's output,” said Shanghai-based Darryl Andrew, Synovate’s managing director in China, and a desire “to control the access to quality resources” in Hangzhou, one of the fastest-growing second-tier cities in China and a key growth market.

"First-tier locations are becoming closer and closer to saturation in some categories. The more affluent second-tier cities will become increasingly important for categories targeting the 'middle class' as levels of affluence grow in these cities," said Mr. Andrew. “We're really excited about this. Not only does it give us strength in a very important location, it is also a very nice city to visit.” (For more information about the city, see the "City Snapshot" about Hangzhou in the December 13, 2005 issue of AdAgeChina.)
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