China has the world’s largest television industry. The audience has grown from 80m in 1978 to 900m today. About 30m homes are also linked to cable stations, expected to rise to 100m by the year 2000.
There are more than 1,000 television stations, most of which are financed mainly from advertising. Total annual advertising income is nearly $2 billion and is expected to rise to $7 billion by 2005.
The government wants foreign finance and technology and some foreign programmes, but will block western cultural dominance.
The most popular programmes are not western ones but the new, outspoken, news and current affairs programmes. Sitting in the British-style City Pub in downtown Beijing, the media director of Saatchi and Saatchi (Greater China) was talking about his biggest worry-how to get Chinese women to buy Head and Shoulders. He need not worry. According to the first western consumer survey in China, Proctor and Gamble’s Head and Shoulders achieved the highest brand name recognition in women’s products. Of those questioned in China’s nine biggest cities 80 per cent had heard of it. The 1995 Gallup China Consumers’ Attitude Survey found that Johnson and Johnson came second with a 42 per cent mention and Avon third with 36 per cent. No Chinese brands were recognised by those interviewed. Saatchi and other big international advertising companies now operate in China on behalf of nearly all the world’s largest consumer companies.
It is through television that these multinationals are now trying to achieve the Holy Grail of instant brand recognition in what will be the world’s largest consumer market. As a result, the annual television advertising spend in China is projected to increase three-fold to nearly $7 billion by 2005, making it second only to Japan in the region. This huge advertising spend is driving the most extraordinary development in world media-the emergence of the world’s largest commercial…