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China: Smaller Ad Players Gaining on BAT for Programmatic Share

More than 50% of video ads will be bought programmatically in 2019

December 12, 2018 (New York, NY) – Smaller ad players in China are nipping at the heels of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) as programmatic ad spending grows faster than expected. According to eMarketer’s latest programmatic ad forecast for China, category spending will increase more than 33% to ¥208.55 billion ($30.86 billion) in 2019.

The BAT companies currently control about 80% of programmatic ad spending in China. But that share is expected to drop in the coming years, as other digital properties grow in prominence there and begin building out their own programmatic offerings.

“Not only is the sell side becoming more dynamic, advertisers in China are growing more receptive to programmatic ad buying, as they are more educated about the process and see the benefits of using audience data for ad targeting,” said eMarketer forecasting director Shelleen Shum. “Furthermore, the establishment of brand safety and viewability standards will improve trust among ad buyers and sellers.”

Video advertising, especially short-form video, is a major driver of overall programmatic spending in China. Next year, programmatic will make up 50.0% of all video ad spending in China, equating to ¥44.64 billion ($6.60 billion).

“Having built up their own programmatic video trading platforms in recent years, large video players such as Tencent Video, iQiyi and Youku Tudou are propelling programmatic video ad spending in China,” Shum said. “Newsfeed apps and short-form video apps like Toutiao and Douyin, which have more user-generated content, are in the earlier stages of commercialization. However, they are expected to contribute strongly to programmatic video growth in the coming years.”

Next year, total programmatic ad spending in China will reach 71.0% of all display spending and will swell to nearly three-quarters by 2020.

China still lags behind the US in programmatic ad spending but is closing the gap. For comparison, US programmatic ad spending will grow more than 21% next year to reach $57.35 billion. Programmatic will represent 84.5% of all display ad spending next year in the US.


eMarketer’s forecasts and estimates are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies. Data is weighted based on methodology and soundness. Each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of available data means the forecasts reflect the latest business developments, technology trends and economic changes.


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Posted on December 13, 2018.