Chinese consumers are emerging as a sophisticated audience, raising their current expectations of advertisers in their choice of brand messaging and strategy execution. This group is now well-versed in the innovative work of foreign ad agencies since their onset in the 1990s, has adjusted their standards for both local and foreign television commercials. They insist on higher production quality and unique message-delivery to captivate their attention and win over their approval.
A television spot produced by Heng Yuan Xiang Group (a leading Chinese wool manufacturer) received national criticism and rejection which forced the company to stop running the advertisement. The 60-second commercial, which was intended to promote Heng Yuan Xiang’s sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics, failed to interest Chinese viewers, who responded negatively to unadorned message, a result of the elementary production. Not only were viewers unimpressed, but also offended, believing the ad to be so terrible to the point of intellectually-insulting.
No longer accepting of basic, repetitive television spots, Chinese viewers now express intolerance for overly simple, cheap advertisements. The Heng Yuan Xiang Group appeared to take a “caveman approach” to their marketing strategy: employing a technique designed to beat consumers over the head with your message. Such simplicity does not fly with the now, sophisticated Chinese consumers, who possess greater expectations for the marketing efforts targeted at them.
With the addition of foreign ad agencies playing a role in the raising of the bar, these foreign marketers typically take a more experienced approach to targeting the Chinese market, although not with a perfect history. China was forced to ban Nikes 2004 TV ad which illustrated basketball star LeBron James fighting a kung fu warrior. China claimed the ad was an insult to the dignity of the nation.
Some criticism of local Chinese TV advertisement blames these overly simply, repetitive ads on their cheap production. In reality, the production value on many China ads matches that of either the US or Europe. China’s ad market, highly valued, is predicted to overtake Japan as the second largest in the world, in terms of spending. This results from the higher standards placed on US Domestic Chinese brands. Heng Yuan Xiang simply did not meet the raised bar, demonstrating a lack of growth.
Chinese consumers have grown wiser to the advertising methods of the industry, more critical of the ads themselves. Advancement in technology, especially the internet has designated consumers with more control than ever before-in terms of when they are exposed and the how they perceive ad messages. As a result, this experienced, empowered market is increasingly particular about the brands they choose to accept and, ultimately upon which, to bestow brands loyalty.