In a previous article on how the Chinese consumer media, I omitted one important element of looking at this vast territory ? the fact that China is a multitude of different markets. Cities and provinces vary substantially in terms of geography, ethnicity and cultural identity. As a result they need to be considered both separately and as a whole in any marketing or media planning campaign.
At the simplest administrative level, the country is segmented into 31 provinces ? now including the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong ? and the four municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing. Populations range from just 2.4 million in Tibet to 113 million in Sichuan. In area, the provinces vary from Hainan, which is smaller than Switzerland, to Tibet, which is half the size of India.
Climate-wise you can expect temperatures below 5?C and 425mm of rainfall in Harbin, the capital of northern Heilongjiang province. In southern Guangzhou, temperatures average 22?C and rainfall will be nearer 1,800mm.
Income levels also vary dramatically. Shanghai residents enjoy the highest levels, up to eight times higher than the poorest provinces.
Ethnically, China is a remarkably homogenous nation, dominated by Han people. However, within China many provinces are dominated by minorities ? including Tibet, Xinjiang and Yunnan.
While Mandarin is the official language and dominates broadcast media across the country, there are a variety of dialects in regions and cities. There are Cantonese outlets in southern areas, Uighur programming in Xinjiang and a smattering of Shanghainese programmes in Shanghai. All advertising must be in Mandarin or Cantonese.
Below the provincial and municipal level the Chinese administrative hierarchy ranks prefectural cities (210), county-level cities (427), districts and. danwei (work units). In practice, most of the larger marketers are beginning to organise distribution as far down as the 640 or so 'big' cities.
Media measurement for television audiences now covers 57 cities. Independent monitoring of commercial transmission ? which verify that commercials actually appear as booked ? has reached 70 cities. More general measurement of media consumption habits is restricted to the 12 largest cities.
Even among the largest cities, media consumption levels tend to vary. Overall, 66 per cent of adults in China's 12 largest cities read a newspaper on an average day. But readership is much higher in the central-eastern cities of Hangzhou (93 per cent), Nanjing (84 per cent) and Shanghai (75 per cent) than it is in the northern cities of Dalian (41 per cent) and Shenyang (46 per cent).
For weekly titles, a different picture emerges, with Beijing and Shanghai topping the rankings while Guangzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu trail other cities with less than 45 per cent of adults reading a weekly on average.
Radio in China reaches far fewer households than television, in contrast to other countries in the region. With a relatively low penetration in households and few people yet owning cars (with the opportunity this brings to listen to the radio), less than half the population listens to radio on a typical day. Hangzhou, for some inexplicable reason, again tops the ranking with 69 per cent of the population claiming to tune in daily. In Wuhan, just 23 per cent of adults tune in.
In marked contrast, more than 84 per cent of adults watch television on an average day, a figure that is virtually uniform across all cities. The figure tops 90 per cent in Guangzhou and Xi'an and falls below 80 per cent in Wuhan and Chengdu; however all other cities exceed 80 per cent levels.
Different markets mean different propensities to consume goods and services and different media landscapes. These differences are yet to be really exploited by advertisers. China needs a multi-market approach in the same way that Europe needs a country-by-country approach.
Andrew Green is Director of Strategic Media Resources, Zenith Media Asia, tel: (852) 2582 3423.