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China Marketing

China's advertising laws and what it means for China marketing

China’s advertising laws continue to become stricter – while this may scare some marketers, in reality it is helping level the playing field and protect consumers. New laws on the table will protect children and reduce false advertising. This is especially evident in consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, education, financial services, food ingredient and related industries. What are some of the laws and how will they affect China marketing for these industries?

  1. Use of celebrity endorsement & spokespersons

Marketers in China love to use celebrities. Phones, cars, food, travel…if you’re not sure how to market it, find the nearest celebrity, pay them a fortune, and have a signed poster with their signature on it. Everyone knows Jackie Chan with his special hair formulation and Canon camera endorsements. But it seems like celebrities are everywhere and representing everything.

New laws mean that the celebrities, at least, must have used the product first-hand. For food ingredient, pharmaceutical and related B2B brands, this may also effect the way that “celebrity doctors” are used in advertorial and advertisements. Any claims should be well documented, researched and proven. The wild west of saying that a kitchen blender helps cure cancer are quickly coming to a close.


  1. Unlawful claims

Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC) is tasked with supervising the advertising industry, and with new laws coming into place they are becoming more rigorous towards investigation of advertisements.

Typically in practice the publication or media will require submission of all proof of any claims in an advertisement, including trademark documents and business licenses. We’ve even seen this enforced for paid advertorials – a common practice in the China PR industry.

  1. The Internet

The big question moving forward is how social media and the internet will be policed and if “key opinion leaders” – who often act as a type of media – can be enforced under these rules. Typically these are moving too fast for local regulators – so the main targets of these laws are TVC and print ads in major newspapers.

As mentioned in previous blogs, we've talked about the requirements for hosting your website in China and why this is important.

As always, any form of competitive advertisement is not allowed in China – no mention of competitors. No use of images or names without consent, and no denigration of other company’s services or products.

All of this serves to take many Western advertising approaches off the table, and also drives many companies to consider focusing on digital means: social media, inbound marketing, SEM and other approaches that skirt the major media channels.

As China marketers it is imperative that we follow the new laws, but it is also a good time to consider which channels are really most effective for our target audiences – especially considering the high cost of advertising on TV and in major print.

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