Advertising in China: Western or Chinese Agency?

You’ve bit the bullet – you have decided to take your products to China. You have done the research, figured out the logistics and it looks great on paper. Now you need to hire a marketing company to get the word out about your product. Who knows the Chinese market better than a Chinese marketing company, right? When it comes to advertising in China, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing an agency. This much is true even when looking for an agency to promote products at home. When you look for an agency in a foreign country, the variables can multiply really fast – especially in a country as different as China.

In China the big agencies are busy

In China the big agencies are busy helping super huge clients.

The Cold Reality of Advertising in China

When working with a marketing agency in China, there are several factors that impact the quality you can expect to receive as a small to medium sized client. First of all, the best companies are almost always going to be really busy. There are several international marketing and advertising firms that operate in China, but these firms are only interested in really big contracts. Although your maple syrup export might have huge potential in the Chinese market, they probably wouldn’t be willing to take you on unless you can pay top dollar.

The reality is will only have a chance to work with smaller firms. Unfortunately, these are some seriously dangerous waters to dive into. Advertising in China is already treacherous enough, imagine managing your products and having to worry about an unknown agency operating in another timezone? The fact is that these companies may know the market, but they don’t speak your language. By that, I mean that they don’t speak English and they don’t speak the language of wester business. The approach to marketing is vastly different in China and these companies may not be able to adapt your brand effectively.


Good at communicating through hand signals? Too bad even these have different meanings in China…

Advertising in China – Do They Speak Your Language?

Speaking of language, does anybody on your staff speak Chinese? If you work with a Chinese agency, you will need somebody who can. A lot can get lost in translation if you work with a Chinese agency. Not only that, but communication moves at a different speed in China altogether. It might be hard to tell whether people are avoiding you or if they are just a terrible communicators. If you bet on a local adverting agency in China,  you may be dealing with an unknown company. A company with no web presence beyond a simple website. So there won’t be any accountability if the projects don’t go down as planned.

Working with a local agency based in the west is going to give you the best of both worlds. You’ll be working with people who speak your language and understand your business. At the same time, they will possess a deep knowledge of the Chinese market. People who will work with you and keep you up to date as projects progress. Not only that, but a local agency has the skills needed to “translate” your brand as effectively and cleanly as possible so that you get the best results possible for your expansion in China.

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