Humphrey Ho
Oct 4, 2021

China unblocks internet links: A big change for marketers

China is putting an end to internet giants blocking links to and from competing platforms. The move, according to a Hylink managing partner, simplifies matters for advertisers and agencies, but also requires a new focus on objectives and strategy.

China unblocks internet links: A big change for marketers

China has recently implemented rules and regulations for online tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent that prevent them from blocking each other’s links. The end of link blockage is causing a new cyber renaissance for advertising and marketing agencies focusing on China and its 989 million internet users.

In the recent past, the tech giants forced agencies to create content and allocate spending for all platforms to reach their desired audience. Tencent, for example, restricted users from sharing content from ByteDance-owned short video app Douyin on Tencent's instant messaging apps WeChat and QQ. Therefore, agencies would have to create content for each platform and have a budget for each. Some of these platforms had advantages and disadvantages, depending on how you wanted to execute your messaging. But now, we can link the different Chinese media platforms. For example, you can have a WeChat post with a link to Weibo, a Weibo post linked to Douyin, and so on. To truly understand the new possibilities, you must take into consideration four factors.

1. The power shift

Chinese social-media giants have previously held the majority of the media power by blocking links from specific platforms. When external platform links were permitted, there were strict rules about how and where they were placed. Power has now been given back to advertisers; they no longer have to follow the rules dictated by the tech giants. Advertisers can finally focus on their strategy and execution. Focusing on the quality of work will increase the competition and force the publishers to up their game.

2. Consumer experience

China’s consumer journey overnight has turned from three or four separate consumer journeys to one. The past link blockage enforced limitations that impacted both consumers and brands. Consumers often had to visit multiple platforms to receive, obtain or access different promotions to make a purchase. The lack of fluidity caused a loss in revenue and impacted brand credibility. The new regulations provide users with flexibility and the native experience that they want. Consumers do not want to be controlled. They want a seamless experience that feels authentic to their needs. 

3. China Advertising ID (CAID)

The new regulations will increase the adoption of the CAID, allowing a standard for advertisers. The Chinese government will be able to enforce the Personal Information Privacy Law (PIPL), which will protect users from some apps inside the existing multiple media platforms ecosystems. Effectively implementing CAID is a regulatory win for the government and consumers, who will enjoy simpler privacy settings.

4. Analyse the data

Global marketers, as well as those in APAC and China, will now be able to look at the data where consumers convert, transact, and engage the best and choose to spend their money on the best platform that helps them achieve their objectives. Analysing this data effectively requires a solid cross-linkage strategy. Processes like these will be used for the first time when marketing to the Chinese market. APAC marketers and global marketers will have to change their traditional thinking about China campaigns and instead focus on objectives. This would include going back to the campaign’s intention, having objective-based sourcing of the correct platforms, and applying the cross-linking strategy. This requires marketers to ask the right questions: Do we divert people to the WeChat chatbot, do we redirect them to mini-programs where they can buy the products, or do we allow them to continue to browse? 

This newfound freedom allows advertising agencies to create and implement marketing strategies focused on their objectives for success. It also requires agencies to shift their thought process. Although, agencies’ strategies will have to continue to keep the Chinese people, culture and trends in mind, they also have to include strong link strategies designed by agencies similar to those currently practiced on the global level.


Humphrey Ho leads Hylink’s Los Angeles and New York offices and focuses on domestic US, multicultural US, to-Asia, and from-Asia advertising clients.

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