McKinsey Quarterly

Taking the pulse of China’s ad spending

A big shift in Chinese advertising spending is under way.

China already is the world’s third-largest advertising market, and it is poised nearly to double, reaching more than $70 billion by 2016. In China—as in the world’s two biggest ad markets, the United States and Japan—television remains the largest single category (roughly 40 percent) of ad spending.

There are some interesting differences as well. Chinese companies spend relatively more on the Internet, and relatively less on print, than their counterparts in the United States and Japan do. In fact, our research suggests that by 2014, the continued steady decline of spending on print advertising will place it behind out-of-home channels—billboards and posters—in China. As a result of the country’s relatively light regulation of these ads, they mostly occupy public spaces inside commercial buildings, especially in and around elevators. In Japan, by contrast, out-of-home channels are also popular, but predominantly in outdoor and transit contexts (exhibit). Mobile ads will grow significantly in China but remain a small part of overall ad spending, since it is still a challenge to make money from them.

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