City in Beijing's shadow

By Published on .

TIANJIN--A large, brisk city in northern China, Tianjin should have everything going for it.

An ancient seaport located on the Bohai Gulf, it is one of the cradles of China's modern industry, thanks to the industrialists who went there in the 19th century to build shipyards and textile mills.

Many of them were Europeans who occupied the city from 1860 to 1940, after China's defeat in the Opium Wars, and turned Tianjin into a thriving international commercial center. Their presence is still felt in vestiges of western architecture found in many parts of the city.

Flourishing trade led to further investments during the last century in machinery, electronics, metallurgy, petrochemicals and eventually automobile manufacturing and high-tech pursuits like bio-engineering and pharmaceuticals.

China's first TV set, bicycle and wristwatch were produced in Tianjin decades ago, but today, many of the city's factories churn out products for multinationals like Motorola, Toyota, Samsung and LG.

Tianjin is also one of four municipalities directly controlled by China's central government, like Shanghai, Chongqing, and Beijing, which lies just 140 kilometers northwest. Although Tianjin, a major metropolis, ranks 15th among the largest cities in the world, its proximity to China's capital has hindered its development.

Lucy Zhang, MindShare's Shanghai-based director of insights--and a Tianjin native--observed that the city "lives in the shadow of Beijing. Because prices are lower there, for example, Beijingers regularly shop and eat out in Tianjin to save money, despite the drive."

Tianjin is "too close to Beijing to ever really develop an important economy of its own. It's very dependent on Beijing for its industry and jobs and a lot of marketing and consumption habits in Tianjin follow its whims," said Jeremy Sy, associate planning director of TBWA Worldwide, Beijing.

Like their influential neighbors, Tianjin residents are "more thoughtful? in their purchasing decisions, questioning whether brands reflect their values, compared to consumers in other parts of China such as Shanghai where brand preferences depend more on style.

Despite the city's advantages, he added, "it's surprisingly undeveloped, a lot of which has to do with the fact that it's within Beijing's gravitational axis."

Tianjin has tourist attractions beyond its colonial buildings, including the Great Wall (the Huangyaguan section), fortified during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) when the city was one of China's most important military fortresses, and pleasant seaside resorts.

An easy day trip from Beijing, its picturesque locales and temperate climate make it a popular place for the capital's couples to get married, according to Stephen Drummond, Nitro Group's general manager and head of planning in Shanghai. "You could call it the 'Atlantic City of China' as a weekend getaway for a bit of fun by the shore, at least for people in Beijing."

International chains Hyatt, Sheraton, Renaissance and Holiday Inn all have hotels in Tianjin. Reflecting its colorful past, the city's cuisine fuses seafood, regional specialties of Sichuan, Shandong, Huaiyang and Zhejiang brought by traders and later immigrant workers and also French, English, Italian and Russian food. One local snack made of braised creamed cabbage, Goubuli stuffed dumplings, reportedly became a favorite of former U.S. president George Bush while he was the American ambassador to China.

Fast Facts: Tianjin

Population: 9.39 million
GDP (2005): $44.14 billion (366.4 billion RMB)
TV households (2005): 1,479,000
Ad spend (2005): $0.88 billion (7.34 billion RMB)*
Ad spend (2004): $0.91 billion (7.56 billion RMB)
Year-on-year increase: -2.9% (based on NMR's media coverage expansion)
Ad spend as a percentage of GDP (2005): 2.0%
Average minutes viewed per day per viewer of all channels (aged 4+): 184.4
Basic cable subscription cost (per month): $1.20
*based on published rate card

Average cost of 30? spot during prime time on Tianjin TV 3, the city's most-watched local channel (based on rate card):
19:00-19:25 - $,1205
19:25-20:00 - $1,446
20:00-20:55 - $2,066
21:02-21:28 - $2,813

Top 10 brands by ad spend on TV (2005)
1. Oil of Olay (Procter & Gamble)
2. Colgate (Colgate Palmolive)
3. Crest (Procter & Gamble)
4. Tianjin Huabei Hospital
5. Tianjin Leyuan Hospital
6. Rejoice (Procter & Gamble)
7. Tianjin Huaxia Hospital
8. Lux (Unilever)
9. Safeguard (Procter & Gamble)
10. Pond's (Unilever)
(Local channels only, based on rate card.)
Top 10 advertising categories on TV (2005)
1. Professional Services
2. Skin Care
3. Shampoo & Conditioner
4. Toothpaste & Oral Hygiene
5. Tonic & Vitamin
6. Chinese OTC
7. Soap
8. Laundry Products
9. Fast food
10. Communication Equipment & Service
(Local channels only, based on rate card.)

Top 5 Local Channels by Ad Revenue
1. Tianjin TV 2
2. Tianjin TV 3
3. Tianjin TV 1
4. Tianjin Satellite TV
5. Tianjin TV 4

Sources: Nielsen Media Research & AGB Nielsen Media Research

In this article:
Most Popular