According to Zenith Media's latest. forecasts, total television advertising expenditure in China will top US$1.7bn this year. Including Hong Kong, it will reach US$2.7bn. This combined figure makes China the second largest television advertising market in the Asia-Pacific and the ninth largest in the world.
In the August issue of CER, it was shown.that the Chinese television viewer is already a mature consumer of advertising. The challenge for marketers is how best to cut through the advertising clutter and get their own message through.
Many international studies on advertising recall have been carried out over the past few years. In particular, they have found that the key non-creative influences on how well people remember television advertising to which they have been ex-posed, include:
the number of different messages during the break
the length of the break itself
the commercial's position in the break.
Shandong holds the record
In a special analysis covering two years of television advertising data put together by Zenith Media, several startling observations were made. For example, between 5pm and midnight, CCTV-1 ?China's leading national television channel ?showed an average of 311 television commercials every day during the year to June 1997. This was 40 per cent higher than the previous year and equated to a staggering 44 spots every hour of the evening.
The record is held by Shandong TV. In the year to June, the station broadcast an average 54 spots an hour and, in May 1997 alone, 60 spots an hour. These 'spots' include both commercial advertising messages and programme trailers.
Many spots are only five seconds in length. However, the sheer number of commercial interruptions to the programming will undoubtedly take its toll on viewers' attention spans and on their ability to recall individual messages.
Another way of looking at it is to calculate the time taken up by advertising and promotional spots. In this case, CCTV-1 comes out at an average of just over 60 minutes a day between 5pm and midnight in the year to June 1997, up from 50 minutes a year previously. This equates to eight or nine minutes an hour ?only slightly higher than the figure in the UK.
Top cable-delivered station TVB Jade, in Guangzhou, was recorded as transmitting an average 96 minutes of advertising every day almost 14 minutes in every hour. However, CCTV-1's total is closer to the national average.
Placement is important
Among the most popular advertising categories, 317 hours of beverage advertising appeared across 126 monitored stations in China in June and 260 hours of pharmaceutical advertising.
The reward for all this is, of course, much firmer foundations for television stations in China than they have ever enjoyed before. CCTV's two leading channels, for example, earned around US$400m in advertising revenues in the year to June 1997, more than the total market size in Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and the Philippines.
The most-seen brands on Chinese television in June included Intel, Safeguard soap, Pantene shampoo and Crest tooth-paste. The top 10 brands ?all but number 10 being foreign or joint venture advertisers ?accounted for 35 per cent of total spending. The largest corporate advertiser was Procter & Gamble.
To be effective in this crowded environment, advertisers will need to ensure they are placed in the early or latter parts of the break, which countless studies have shown to be more likely to be seen and recalled than positions in the middle. It might also be wise to look at less popular breaks with fewer commercials rather than stampeding to the popular prime-time slots. And, of course, the message itself has to be strong to stand out amid so much clutter.
Andrew Green is Director of Strategic Media Resources at Zenith Media Asia, telephone: (852) 2582 3423.