Advertising in China should aim for a bespoke approach, rather than 'one size fits all' strategies.

Media buying agency MindShare Asia Pacific, a member of the WPP stable, believes multinational advertising dollars would be more wisely spent if campaigns reflected China's vast geographic and cultural diversity.

Says managing director Arvind Sethà ­umadhavan: "In China ... it's always about creating a commercial that does equally well in Beijing as in the south. But China is changing so fast. You need to look at the different cities and then identify strategies which can be tailored to each of them."

Sethumadhavan suggests companies wanting to reach people in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai should gear adspend towards print media, while consumers in smaller cities respond better to TV commercials.

He adds: "We discovered that outdoor media was most effective in Beijing and least effective in Guangzhou. It's because of the characteristics of the media, the bus shelters. They are badly maintained in Guangzhou and are not cleaned very frequently."

Cultural differences can also impact on the effectiveness of advertising, he says: "A Hong Kong celebrity could be very effective in Hong Kong and south China and have very little relevance in the north of China."

According to Nielsen Media Research, adspend in China grew 20% year-on-year in the first half of 2005 to $17.7bn (€15.03bn; £10.13bn).

MindShare predicts this growth will quicken to 25%-30% annually until 2007, thanks to the economic boom and the Beijing Olympics. It expects China to be the world's second biggest ad market after the US by 2008.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff