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Rise in users is 'prime time' for interactive ads
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-11-23 15:01
With 123 million Internet users and growing, it is now "prime time all the time."

More digital media firms are coming into China to grow the pie of interactive advertising as the burgeoning number of digital-savvy users presents new opportunities for businesses and innovation.

Multinational media agencies are importing their interactive expertise to add to their offerings to marketers in China, many of whom are eager to cash in on the publicity generated by the 2008 Beijing Olympics and World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.

AKQA, a San Francisco-based online ad firm whose clients include Coca-Cola and Nike, will begin operations in Shanghai this month.

"Our global clients are looking for greater coverage in Asia and China in particular," said Tom Bedecarre, chief executive officer of AKQA. "With the rapid approach of the high-profile 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, AKQA will be on the ground for our clients, many of whom are Olympic sponsors, such as Coca-Cola and Visa."

In January, Agency.com will beef up TBWA Group's portfolio in China. The interactive agency, whose clients include British Airways, recently raised controversy when it posted a video of its staff preparing to pitch for an account of sandwich chain Subway on YouTube.

Earlier this year, OgilvyOne Worldwide, a marketing unit of the Ogilvy Group, launched its re-branded global digital media division Neo@OgilvyOne, which handles digital and direct media, including digital advertising, search marketing, blogs and vlogs.

The large base of increasingly digital-savvy users in China is who they are after. Already, there are 123 million people wired to the Internet in China, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, or CNNIC.

With just merely more than two decades of opening up its market, the Chinese have been able to leapfrog to the latest personal computers and mobile phones, downloading MP3 music to listen on the go while many of their peers in the developed world are still weaning off music CDs.

According to CNNIC's report released in July, Chinese netizens spend an average of 16.5 hours per week on the Internet, a much longer time than people in some developed countries, and the time has increased by 17.9 percent compared with the same period of last year.

"War of Warcraft has more than five million registered players worldwide, out of which three million came from China. The game was developed by Blizzard in the US, but it is the Chinese (players) that gave it a God-like status, " said Ho Chee Yue, AKQA regional director who will oversee the Shanghai operations, citing the popular role-playing game.

To inch closer to these game players who reportedly spend as long as 11 hours per week playing online games, Coca-Cola teamed up with War of Warcraft in a TV commercial featuring Chinese celebrities such as Olympian Liu Xiang, all-girl pop group S.H.E, and singer Will Pan as computer generated avatars slashing monsters in the game.

The nature of the Internet, which offers avenues for self-expression with communal acknowledgement, has also inspired as many as 34 million bloggers.

Capitalizing on their desire for individuality and communal spirit, Tequila, TBWA's direct marketing arm, created the Chivas Life Wesbite which shows its target audience partying with the Scotch whiskey. Members of the Website can upload and vote for their favorite party pictures, or sign themselves up as Party Babes as part of a socializing network.

"Marketing online is a two-way conversation and brands have to learn to involve their consumers to build on that relationship, rather than just broadcast advertising to them," said Eugene Chew, Tequila's associate account director.

Homegrown Meng Niu Dairy, which catapulted to become a top milk brand in China with its sponsorship of Supergirl Voice, has created a portal featuring all things related to the female singing competition, including news, ringtone downloads, flash music videos created by users.

"In the past we look at TV consumer pattern by the viewership of a TV station. But now we look at the individual consumer and how they make use of different media," Jennie Fan, president of OgilvyOne China, said in an earlier interview. "It's now prime time all the time."

The coming-of-age of the Chinese digital users presents an almost open playing field for the interactive marketing industry, much to the delight of industry players, who are more excited about the potential for innovation than competing for businesses.

Riding on the increasing popularity of uploading self-made videos on the Internet, Mentos is holding a competition in partnership with Chinese media portal Sina.com for youths to submit fun videos using the candy as a prop.

"It is necessary to grow the category. The key task is for all of us to band together to actually evangelize interactive and digital (ads). We need to grow as a bunch of people to create awareness of digital other than traditional ads," Gavin Heron, CEO of TBWA Group, said.

Source:Shanghai Daily 
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