Staff Writer
Nov 27, 2019

Miaozhen Systems maps China’s complex digital marketing ecosystem

The Chinese third-party marketing data technology provider aims to help advertisers make the most of their digital ad spend.

Miaozhen Systems maps China’s complex digital marketing ecosystem

In 2019, global digital ad spend is predicted to rise by 17.6% to US$333.25 billion. In China, that percentage is even higher22%, translating into US$79.82 billion. Needless to say, all eyes are on the digital sphere. Yet, rising digital ad spend doesn’t automatically equate higher sales volume. According to an AlixPartners study, which surveyed 1,110 decision-makers from FMCG companies in the UK, US, China, India and Europe, a staggering 60% of spend on digital marketing goes to waste.

These days, it takes more than amassing huge amounts of data to succeed in the digital landscape. The ability to integrate and use data is also key.  Only by doing could advertisers more accurately predict trends and anticipate demands. In the last few years, there have been an uptick of technologies to help advertisers better collect, organise and integrate data. These technologies range from martech and adtech to big data, AI and blockchain. According to a Gartner study, Western advertisers are investing a third of their content marketing budgets on ad and martech development. In China, similar investments are underway, with companies focusing on three key areas: KPI evaluation process, data lakes and automated marketing. 

That’s not to say however, that China’s digital marketing landscape operates in a similar way to its Western counterparts. In fact, there are two key differences, per Yongyi Yu, head of Miaozhen Academy of Marketing Science (MAMS), a research-oriented organisation established by Miaozhen Systems. The first of these lies in the touch points. The Western digital landscape is essentially a duopoly, with Google and Facebook capturing 60% of digital ad spend in the US. In China, the split is pretty much equal among the four major players, Baidu, Ali, Tencent and Toutiao, more commonly known as BATT. While Google and Facebook are considered, for the most part, ‘publishers’, BATT are tech giants who dominate China’s search, e-commerce and social media scenes.

Yongyi Yu, head of Miaozhen Academy of Marketing Science (MAMS), a research-oriented organisation established by Miaozhen Systems

Miaozhen Systems is in a very good position to help companies navigate the Chinese digital marketing landscape and expand their digital ad spend in China. Since its founding in 2006, the company has sought to create workable business models for all players in the advertising and marketing industry, while simplifying operations at the same time. 

Its China digital marketing maps are the result of those efforts. 

Created by MAMS, the maps represent a consolidation of the company’s own internal and external resources.

“The China digital marketing landscape is an ecosystem with some 87 ‘resource chips’, from touch points to data and content. Not only are these chips connected, the connections themselves shift all the time. Whereas five years ago, advertisers were using single DSPs for re-targeting, precision digital advertising now have to include discussions about DMPs, web analytics, tracking, etcetera. Putting everything on one map shows how the various point connect and work with each other,” notes Yu of the rationale behind the maps.

First launched in 2018, the maps are updated every 12 months to keep up with China’s fast-changing digital landscape.

The company launched updated versions of the Subway Map and Topological Map, as well as an all-new Roadmap, at its Marketing Science Conference (MSC) 2019. 

With customer experience at its heart, the Subway May parses out the framework of digital marketing for the benefit of marketers themselves, helping to structure a number of execution routes that those in the field can bank on when building the blueprints for successful campaigns. The 2019 edition of the map differs from its predecessor in several ways. Second party data & artificial intelligence are added to the map, with other modifications including a simplification of data analytics-related categories. After the re-jig, the 19 resource points now includes business data, social API, eCommerce API, digital analytics, AI for creative, KOL/KOC and location based marketing, as evidence of Miaozhen’s effort to help advertisers build more holistic campaigns. 

Subway Map

There is also an update to the company’s Topological Map. For the uninitiated, the map teases out the intricate relationships between the various tools and technologies currently being used by advertisers to predict and measure the KPIs of their campaigns. The 2019 edition of the map blows up existing IT points, as a nod to the rising importance of technological innovation in China’s digital marketing landscape. The new map is divided into ten key areas, including data analytics hub, media programmatic buy and marketing content hub. 

Topological Map

Completing Miaozhen Systems’ portfolio of maps is the Roadmap, which provides guidance for companies who are looking to pivot their marketing strategy to a digital-first model. One blunder that digital marketing newbies often run into is the demand for immediate results. “Many people are making their foray into digital marketing, yet many are also at a loss as to how they should go about executing it. For example, we have companies who are building marketing data platforms after accumulating only a million data streams. Say, I’m building a digital marketing strategy for a company, I’m looking at five, or even 10 years into the future. It takes two to three years to build a marketing data platform alone,” says Yu. 


The Roadmap helps companies map their digital marketing strategy in a well-coordinated way. There are four different ‘routes’ data marketing specialists might take: data, touch point, commerce and content. 

In an ever-evolving world, Yu is already looking ahead to 2020, where he predicts three major shifts in China’s digital marketing landscape. Digital retail will play an even bigger role. “China has a huge population, so digital retail will play a more important role in sales conversion. There are already technologies that support consumer identification and personalised targeting. The investment in digital retail will continue to grow in early 2020,” says Yu.

Social commerce is another area set to experience growth in 2020. “Leading KOLs (key opinion leaders) and KOCs (key opinion consumers) are already proving they have that ability to convert social traffic into sales.”

The third is the race to build & strengthen ever bigger data platforms. “Since 2018, the top advertisers have been building their own DMP and CDP capabilities that have proven to generate substantial ROI. Marketing data platforms will continue to be a hot topic in the coming years.”

Campaign Asia

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