The soul of Sichuan

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If industrial Chongqing represents the brawny side of Sichuan, a province slightly larger than France, then nearby Chengdu is its heart and soul.

“There are a lot of reasons to love Chengdu. It has the best tea houses in China. It’s close to nature, artistic, kind of enigmatic and it’s the gateway to western China. It’s also the last big city on the frontier en route to Tibet,” said Jeremy Sy, associate planning director at TBWA Worldwide in Beijing.

“People from Chengdu pride themselves on having a high quality of life and a slower pace than cities like Beijing and Shanghai. They do expect their lives to get better, but they are in no rush to get there.”

The 4,000-year-old city is praised for its pleasant, laid-back residents, lush landscaping, designer boutiques, cozy tea houses, and, most of all, mouthwatering restaurants dishing up the spicy cuisine Sichuan province is known for worldwide.

With a population just over 10 million and a GDP worth $23 billion, this prosperous city is gaining credibility among marketers: “Chengdu is one of the most important cities in southwest China,” said Gayle Cunningham, executive director, Nielsen Media Research, Hong Kong/China.

“It has a more consumer-oriented population than Chongqing, they really know how to live,” added Quinn Taw, Beijing-based managing partner in China for MindShare and Maxus.

At the end of this year, MindShare will become the first multinational media agency to open a full-scale office in Chengdu, to oversee operations for existing clients like Motorola and Unilever, improve its market intelligence about western China and get closer to local media venders.

The WPP media agency also hopes to tap new business from important provincial divisions of state-owned “red chip” companies like China Mobile and China Telecom as well as Sichuan’s famed producers of a Chinese white spirit called bai jiu.

“Our clients are going more towards Sichuan these days, so we need an anchor office there to be closer to the market,” said Mr. Taw.

Like many Chinese cities, local advertisers dominate airtime in Chengdu. “Six out of the top ten advertising brands are local advertisers. The fourth largest [brand] is a culinary school and the fourth largest category is school/education, which shows people in Chengdu are very keen to establish a professional skill for their living,” added Ms. Cunningham.

Besides hot pot restaurants and tea houses, the ancient city also prides itself on fine lacquer ware, gold, silver, embroidered silk (not surprising since Chengdu was a major stop on the old Silk Road) and--that most quintessential image of old China--giant pandas.

Population: 10.60 million
GDP (2004): $26.33 billion (218.57 billion RMB)
Adspend (2004): $0.81 billion (6.70 billion RMB)
Adspend (2003): $0.61 billion (5.07 billion RMB)
Year-on-year increase*: 32.0%
Adspend as a percentage of GDP (2004): 2.3%
No. of TV households (2004): 773,000
Avg. min. viewed per day per viewer of all channels (aged 4+): 162.7
Basic cable subscription cost (per month): $1.20
*Based on published rate card

Average cost of 30” spot during prime time on Sichuan TV 5 - Movie & Art, the city’s most-watched local channel (based on rate card value):
18:55-19:55 - $512
20:00-20:50 - $554
21:00-21:55 - $530

Top 10 advertised brands on TV* (2004):
1. Gai Zhong Gai - Tonic/Vitamin
2. Rejoice- Hair Care
3. Sanan – Skin Cleanser
4. Chengdu Bayijun Cooking School - Education/ School
5. Pantene - Hair Care
6. PuXue Pharm - Tonic/Vitamin
7. Head & Shoulders - Shampoo & Conditioner
8. Yipingtang Pharm - Tonic/Vitamin
9. Oil of Olay - Skin Care
10. Arche Ariar - Hair Care
*Local channels only, based on rate card.

Top 10 advertising categories on TV*(2004):
1. Tonic & vitamin
2. Hair care
3. Professional services
4. Skin care
5. Education/school
6. Cough & cold remedies
7. Stomach medicine
8. Oral hygiene
9. Skin cleanser
10. Chinese OTC
*Local channels only, based on rate card.

Top 5 Local Channels by Ad Revenue
1. Sichuan Satellite TV
2. Sichuan TV - Public
3. Sichuan TV 3 - Economic
4. Chengdu TV - News & Variety
5. Sichuan TV 5 - Movies & Art

Sources: Nielsen Media Research & AGB Nielsen Media Research, China
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