Staff Reporters
Apr 28, 2016

Data haves and have-nots: Chinese internet giants sweep the field

MEDIA DEBATE: With the industry’s emphasis on big-data collection and analysis, data partnerships are growing in China. But are they creating an uneven playing field that cannot continue?

L-R: Biglione, Porter, Chen
L-R: Biglione, Porter, Chen

Shann Biglione

Head of strategy
ZenithOptimedia China

The focus on data in China is now clear and well established. We’ve seen advertisers and agencies partnering with data giants such as Baidu and Alibaba. The growth of programmatic has also put emphasis on data collection.

To fully realise its potential, data needs vast amounts of indexed data points, often stacking multiple databases. This requires us to store huge amounts of data, far beyond most companies’ capabilities. A lot of brands will wake up to the reality that data is not as ubiquitous as they’d like it to be (and often behind paywalled gardens owned by the data giants).

What will define the winners is not just the ability to think strategically about it, but the tactical ability to deliver on it. Big-data players are aware of this and building monopolistic empires around it. So the increasing number of partnerships, with the only companies who have a real trove of consumer data, will likely create inequalities in terms of access to data. As these data providers incentivise brands to use their data within their own ecosystems (for example, use Tencent data to buy on Tencent ad networks), data may become more available, but not necessarily more accessible.


David Porter

Media director
Unilever North Asia

Data attracts increased attention from marketers as China mobilises. Mobilisation is both a blessing and a curse: it gives us personal channels where people pay attention to incoming messages, but people have a lower tolerance of ‘push’ ads delivered via the most intimate of devices. Data will help us make our messages relevant and useful. 

Large Chinese digital players are uniquely placed because of their diverse touchpoints with the public and commercial relationships with the industry. They have sophisticated the capability to manage databases responsibly. We work hard on the data side of our joint business partnerships and exploring creative opportunities enabled by programmatic technologies.

Of course we want great data partnerships that give us competitive advantage. But if only a minority of brands find the secret sauce that makes their paid communications welcome on mobile devices, they will have a great, but strictly short-term, advantage. The big win for paid communications will come from industry-level change. It is in everyone’s interests to collaborate to set industry standards about data. We should adapt collectively to the new media realities and use data responsibly and creatively to make communications relevant to the people who buy our brands.


David Chen

Managing director
Vivaki China

China doesn’t have third-party data providers due to the local market immaturity.  DMPs, such as Bluekai, don’t have China presence. Major Chinese internet firms have quality data but maintain data-isolation policies because of business discretion.

If China were to prosper its data market, it needs an open mind in data exchange. In 2015, we observed a new wave of data partnerships, including ours with China Unicom, Babytree and Alibaba to access their data and provide an audience profiling service.

I don’t think data partnerships are a battle for business. In fact, they are the only ways to build a meaningful market in China considering the existing challenges. New data partnerships show the players having open and sharing mentalities — crucial for the market to evolve and mature.

It is a healthy path for the industry to be involving more companies into the fields of data exchange and DMPs to support the vision of programmatic advertising. Effective data partnerships will invest more in the integration of mobile, ecommerce and social data, in order to consolidate a holistic data source to facilitate precision targeting.


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