Digital media buying is changing dramatically all over the world — traditional buying models have been displaced by new programmatic buying models. China, the world’s largest and fastest-growing digital market, started later in programmatic buying, but is catching up quickly. However, China’s ecosystem is less mature, with hundreds of players competing fiercely in different sectors. My latest report, The World’s Largest Digital Market Goes Programmatic, provides an overview of the landscape and key features of the programmatic buying market in China.
Programmatic buying is gaining momentum in China because:
- Chinese consumers are addicted to online media. Metro Chinese online adults already spend more time on online media than offline.
- Spending on online display ads is increasing rapidly. As a result of skyrocketing online media consumption, China is now the second-largest online advertising market in the world. Metro Chinese online adults are also more open to online display ads than online adults in the US.
- Advertisers are eager to improve buying effectiveness. China’s digital advertising market is more fragmented than those in Western countries, and it’s more challenging for Chinese marketers to achieve a positive return on their digital investments.
The programmatic buying market in China has grown dramatically since it first appeared in 2012, and different types of players in the ecosystem vary in maturity (see figure):
- Ad exchanges and demand-side platforms (DSPs) are particularly mature. Beginning in 2011, both large media and independent players have flocked to invest in them and expect good returns. Now they are the most mature and competitive sectors in the ecosystem.
- Data management platforms, data providers, and agency trading desks are emerging. Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent dominate China’s digital world, making it very difficult for third-party data players to find their niche in a data-related business in the ecosystem. Agency trading desks, mostly owned by large global media agencies, have only entered the region in the past year or two — relative latecomers to the ecosystem compared with local DSPs.
- Interactive attribution vendors are nonexistent. China’s programmatic buying is at a very early stage in terms of measurement; the market still lacks enterprise-level interactive attribution vendors.