This is a faster pace of growth than in 2012, when the industry registered a 26.9 per cent year-on-year increase over 2011.
Online videos (36 per cent) and industry verticals (20 per cent) will lead the way with the increase, as this will mean that China's marketers will allocate nearly a quarter of the total marketing spend to digital in 2013.
Eighty-four per cent of marketers expressed overall confidence in their digital communication outcomes for online video and search, but social media is rated poorly. Just 8 per cent said they are happy with the ROI of their micro-blog marketing activities—well down from sentiment last year (34 per cent satisfied).
Both PC- and mobile-based sites of iQiyi, PPS, PPTV, SOHU video, Tencent video, Youku Tudou are ranked as the top digital media platforms among 280 digital marketing professionals from both international and domestic brands.
The results come from the third annual China Digital Media Survey jointly conducted by consulting firms R3 and AdMaster in March.
"Digital is not ‘new media’ anymore. It’s firmly mainstream," said Fora Liu, senior consultant for R3. "Ramping up digital expertise, both external and in-house, is now a big priority for marketing teams. We’re seeing the demand for digital grow faster than some marketers can keep up."
An average of US$3.74 million (RMB 23 million) will be spent on digital, funded partly from an overall increase in marketing budgets and from squeezing traditional offline media dollars.
As a result, the integration of offline and online platforms has emerged as a major challenge, Liu said. Apart from cross-platform integration, measurement of cross-platform efforts is becoming essential for marketers to stay ahead. According to the survey, 44 per cent already have cross-media measurement tools in place, and 36 per cent have better evaluation on their agenda this year.
Half of those surveyed pointed to inflated and hyped-up site traffic figures as their biggest headache. "Some portals, which monopolise almost half of the market, overstate their actual traffic," said one marketer. "We're not sure if their buying prices are competitive or not, and this makes it hard to choose the best options."
According to Vincent Yan, AdMaster CEO, there is always a discrepency, ranging from 2 to 30 per cent, in data provided by third-party tracking companies and the websites themselves.
Some main causes are: network transmission lags, IP (internet protocol) libraries and NAT (network address translation) routing, and differences in the definitions of tracking mechanisms and metrics.
Different ISPs in different Chinese cities report varied site impression numbers: The northwest, southwest, south, and northeast have larger differences than the north (aside from Beijing/Tianjin), east, and central areas. China Mobile also has a larger difference compared to China Telecom and China Unicom.
Bennett Hong, AdMaster's CTO, said the agency is able to reduce network transmission lags through its intelligent deployment system among multiple IDCs to shorten request paths, hence minimising delay errors.
Another solution against click fraud is utilising flash SDK technology to overcome browser limitations. Data abnormalities of advertising content on websites according to six major dimensions (page URL, time, location, frequency, clicks, and HTTP information) can be identified and analysed, said Hong.
Marketers are still figuring out how best to use mobile, with just 24 per cent of respondents saying it is ‘very important’ to their marketing mix. Nonetheless, this year more than 40 per cent of respondents plan to make significant investments in WeChat, the fastest growing mobile app in China.
The iOS platform is preferred by Chinese marketers as they see clear differentiations of it from alternative rival systems like Android. 76 per cent cite the iPhone as the most popular mobile platform.