Marketers Play by New Model in China

Ad Age Editor Abbey Klaassen Reports From Shanghai and Nanchang

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SHANGHAI ( – Advertising Age Editor Abbey Klaassen reported on key issues in China during a week-long visit to Shanghai and Nanchang, where she was a keynote speaker at this year's China International Advertising Festival.

Abbey Klaassen
Abbey Klaassen
Ms. Klaassen met with agency execs, marketers and general managers of the Chinese operations of Fortune 500 companies. In a series of columns posted on, she shares their optimism about China's potential as well as their concerns for managing that growth.

Despite China's economic dynamism and double-digit growth in ad spend, there is plenty to be concerned about, including competition from emerging local brands with high tolerance for risk, a severe shortage of talent throughout the industry, a lightning fast pace of development and a media market that plays by different rules than the West and is much, much more fragmented.

"We have to look at China differently," said Richard Lee, PepsiCo's chief marketing officer for Greater China. "What is happening here from an economic, cultural, political and business standpoint is unprecedented. We have to look forward and take risks--we can't adapt the same old model."

The topic of censorship came up during her visit, when the Chinese-language websites of the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal were blocked for the first time for a few days in mid-October.

And local companies aren't exempt from playing by the rules set by China's government. Gary Wang, the founder and CEO of the online video website Tudou, said he spends more time and energy screening for censorship purposes than rooting out copyrighted content uploaded by users.

"Content is a one," he said, speaking about the scale of time and investment he puts into particular issues and concerns. "Censorship is 1,000."

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