TV Sweeps Razzamatazz, People’s Republic Style

03 December 2004

It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice, opined the late commissar of all China, Deng Xiaoping, back in the early 60s.

Which axiom is indeed true of the latest Chinese take on selling upfront TV advertising time - a spectacle that makes America's quarterly sweeps razzamatazz seem akin to a church coffee morning in Poughkeepsie.

The Economic Olympics is a live, three-day auction, more akin to a gameshow, in which companies bid to win TV advertising slots, thereby making a multibillion-yuan fortune for state network China Central Television.

This year's annual three-day event, the eleventh of its kind, saw business, media and advertising executives mingling with pop stars and Olympic athletes, commencing wiith the firing of a starting pistol. No medals were on offer: instead the prizes were opportunities to address the three hundred million Chinese households that own a TV set.

But this year's event was fundamentally different from its predecessors. No longer were ad slots offered at fixed prices; instead they were put up for auction to the highest bidder. Over three days, thirteen hours of public bidding for ad time generated around £330 million ($636.8m; €478.5m) in revenues for CCTV .

And in the all-pervasive spirit of showbiz, the mighty Procter & Gamble was not only crowned 'Bid King' with an aggregated investment of $46.5m , its senior local media manager, Lai Liangrui, was coaxed into a broadcast karaoke duet with Taiwanese pop star Jiang Yuheng.

Can we now expect Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake to reprise their mammary-flashing number at the finale of America's February sweeps? It would certainly rate higher in the entertainment stakes than a triumphalist speech by Leslie Moonves.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff