BEIJING: Advertisers are showing more interest in using social media to connect with consumers in China, a trend that is likely to gain further momentum in 2010, according to Nick Brien, president/ceo of Mediabrands.

Recent forecasts from both GroupM, part of WPP Group, and ZenithOptimedia, owned by Publicis Groupe, have predicted that the world's most populous nation will be among the main drivers of an uptick in global adspend next year.

Similarly, Brien argued that "China is a growth engine for many advertising companies domestically and internationally for the long term, so there is tremendous optimism here."

"As increasing numbers of international clients are making China their priority and expanding their business in China, numerous opportunities are being created for advertising agencies like Mediabrands, which makes China our priority, as well," he added.

More specifically, Brien said the popularity of digital and Web 2.0 platforms, particularly among young people, will attract more brands to these rapidly-developing mediums.

In evidence of this, some 62% of netizens in the Asian country now regularly visit social networking services, with QQ and Renren among the most widely-used portals.

As such, "we're striving to invest in new technologies, because this is where you will find our clients, and also where our clients can find consumers," said Brien.

While this trend is leading many marketers to transfer funds from TV and press to the web and mobile, Brien also warned they will need to adopt a different approach to communications.

"The information channel has become more personal with the emergence of social media,” he suggested.

“The way promotion and advertising works is going to be more about a conversation. So we require our advertising products to be more engaging and create a relationship with consumers.”

Zhou Haiquan, a senior analyst at Analysys International, cited Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and China Mobile as examples of firms that have directed more resources online since 2008.

Neil Ducray, managing director of Touchmedia, which places digital screens in taxis in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, added that return on investment has also now assumed a heightened level of importance.

"In tough times, when advertisers were feeling harder hit and reducing their budgets, we had more clients, and they were spending a higher percentage of their budget with us," he said.

"It is a huge opportunity for Touchmedia, since everything consumers do with their screens can be precisely measured," he added.

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by Warc staff