Staff Reporters
Apr 22, 2024

Media pitches in China decline in 2023: Ebiquity

TOP OF THE CHARTS: The latest analysis from Ebiquity on COMvergence reveals media pitch trends in 2023 and predictions for 2024.

Carlsberg and Huawei were large new and retainer media accounts respectively in China.
Carlsberg and Huawei were large new and retainer media accounts respectively in China.

Ebiquity newest research indicates that media pitches in China saw an 11% decline in 2023 year-on-year. However, a substantial recovery is anticipated in 2024 where a 20% to 30% surge in media pitches are projected.

Among agencies, Publicis Media Group and Zenith Media stay on top, securing new business net values of RMB2, 173 (US$300 million) and RMB1,533 (US$212 million), respectively. Omnicom Media Group's Hearts & Science followed closely, achieving a new business net value of RMB1.3 billion (US$183 million).

Carlsberg (Carat took over the business from Initiative), Junlebao (H-Line Ogilvy clinched the contract from iProspect), and Jaguar Land Rover (Hearts & Science from OMG triumphed over iProspect and Mindshare) lead the ranking of the top three new wins, with values reaching RMB740 million (US$102 million), RMB630 million (US$87 million), and RMB600 million (US$83 million) respectively.

When it comes to new business net value (excluding retention), Publicis Media rose to the top with RMB 2,173 million (US$300 million), marking a 10% rise the previous year. GroupM followed with RMB1,127 million (US$155.7 million), securing a substantial growth of 67%. OMG landed in the third spot with RMB681 million (US$94.1 million), marking a significant decrease of 71%.

Stewart Li, Ebiquity China’s managing director, attributed the reduction in pitch billing in 2023 to a shift in media budgets towards sales-driving channels like social KOL and ecommerce. However, given the usual two to three-year contract cycle, Li expects a resurgence in pitch activity in 2024.

In the first quarter of 2024, six media pitches were concluded, with a total billing of RMB3,291 million (US$454.5 million). PHD is a star performer so far. The agency renewed its contract with SAIC Volkswagen, including brands like Volkswagen, Skoda, and Audi, with a total billing of RMB2,933 million (US$405.1 million). Additionally, the agency snatched the China UnionPay business from Wavemaker, with a billing of RMB260 million (US$35.9 million).

Other key findings include:

  • 80% of pitches in 2023 were locally led, reflecting a robust domestic focus
  • The overall number of pitches decreased from 122 to 108.
  • The top 10 pitches saw a decrease of 32% in average billing, plummeting from RMB1,540 million (US$212.7 million) in 2022 to RMB1,040 million (US$143.6 million) in 2023.
  • The largest retained pitch was by Wavemaker, which secured Huawei’s buying business worth RMB2,100 million (US$290 million). The agency also renewed its contracts with Perfetti, Prada Group, and China UnionPay, accumulating a total billing of RMB1,100 million (US$151.9 million). 
  • In 2023, there was a noticeable drop in both the total value and the number of renewals by incumbent agencies. The total volume of renewals experienced a decline of 32% compared to the previous year, while renewal cases dropped 20%.
  • Several agencies witnessed declines in their new business net value. For instance, Initiative faced a deficit of RMB967 million (US$133.6 million), and iProspect marked a fall of RMB771 million (US$106.5 million). PHD also experienced a decrease of RMB633 million (US$87.4 million). 
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