There are literally thousands of agencies in every major Chinese city, ranging from every major advertising network to homegrown local agencies of every stripe. We generally classify them into these groups:
Big network agencies
The big guys – WPP, Omnicom, Publicis agencies, and other networks are all well represented, especially after a decade of acquisitions of hundreds of major local agencies. Many of the players are taking global work from their networks, so if you are a small or medium brand, you may not have the budget, or receive much attention from senior staff.
Local Chinese agencies
Covering a wide range of size and capabilities, many Chinese agencies are absolutely massive – such as BlueFocus Communication Group (BFCG), a listed company that was founded in Beijing. Local agencies may be better suited for local brands, as they typically have a better reach and understanding of 3rd and 4th tier cities. However, many of their staff speak little or very limited English, which means that your local colleagues may be the only ones who would be able to communicate or liaise with them directly.
International independent agencies
Somewhere between these two types of agencies are the independent, foreign-owned or managed agencies. These include agencies such as Mediaman, Labbrand, and Brandigo China. While not part of large networks, they typically work with international brands and have deep specialization.
Regardless of the type of China Marketing Agency that you prefer, there are some basic questions to ask each agency:
- Which marketing services do you provide directly? Which are outsourced?
- What industries do you cover? Do you have expertise or past cases in your industry? What were the results?
- Is my budget realistic to achieve my goals? If not, please recommend or indicate what kind of budget would be realistic for a 6-12 month campaign with regards to:
- Social media
- Content localization
- Other marketing services
- Who will be in charge of my account?
- How long have you been operational in China?
- What’s different about the market in China as compared to (where we usually operate)?
- Do you have staff that speak English (or your native tongue) and can communicate with us directly?
- China is a huge place. Does the agency cover the areas you are marketing in? If no, which areas or cities does the agency operate in?
- How do you handle third party fees, such as media purchase?
Service specific questions
- Regarding social media in China: What kind of documents are required from my company in order for us to set up a WeChat / Weibo account? How long does it take for the application to be processed, and what are the relevant fees? What are the account type differences in WeChat?
- Regarding PR in China: What is the media landscape like in China? How is it different from the rest of the world? What do we need to consider when pitching to the media, or getting journalists to attend our events?
- Regarding advertising in China: We understand that there are certain restrictions regarding wording or claims that can be placed in advertising in China. Could you provide us with more details regarding this topic? What are some of the things that we need to be aware of?
- Regarding Pay-per-Click (PPC) in China: What requirements are there to do SEM/PPC on the popular Baidu platform?
Content: How can we retain our international brand but make it relevant for our Chinese target audience?