China bans primetime TV ads

Rob Schmitz Nov 29, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Now to another interesting decision from China’s government. It is banning all advertisements during primetime dramas and movies on Chinese TV starting January 1st.

Marketplace’s China bureau chief Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai.

Rob Schmitz: Advertisers in China are a lot like advertisers in the U.S. — they choose to fund programming that sells.

But what sells in China, says marketing expert Tom Doctoroff, is starting to make government officials uncomfortable.

Tom Doctoroff: I think that the leadership has come to the conclusion that advertisers — they’re triggering a significant increase in the unacceptable content that is spilling into a traditional family’s home.

So far, unacceptable content has meant dating shows and shows like American Idol that asks viewers to vote. Earlier this year, China’s government pushed networks to toss away entertainment programming in favor of what it called “morally edifying” shows.

Doctoroff, who heads marketing firm J Walter Thompson in Shanghai, says these new rules will cause issues for his clients.

Doctoroff: I think that people are really going to be panicking, first: when do I get my money back? And second: how do I reallocate my budget?

A few weeks ago, foreign and domestic companies like Volkswagen and Nike paid a record $2.3 billion for the rights to advertise on China’s biggest network. It’s not yet known whether they’ll be able to get that money back.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.