Chinese consumers in the United States and Canada are a mysterious segment. The media habits of this ethnic audience in North America are less studied and understood, and so promotional strategies tend to miss the mark. For years, brand marketers and agency planners have applied broad tactical brushstrokes using Google and Facebook as the paint and primer – and it simply isn’t working.

By not recognizing the distinct media habits of Chinese consumers in North America, brands risk missing a $190 billion dollar market.

But marketers are learning.

In 2017, Michael Kors invested in multiple WeChat campaigns to drive Chinese tourists to stores in the United States. The campaigns were timed for peak travel periods like Golden Week, the first seven days of October when 7 million Chinese outbound tourists spend $13 billion US worldwide. WeChat, and not Facebook or Google, enabled the reach into this ethnic audience.

And earlier that year, Buick Canada announced that they were the first automotive brand in North America on WeChat. To learn about China’s love for Buick, click here.

There are two reasons why doubling-down on Chinese media platforms is a good idea. Firstly, Chinese audiences demonstrate strong content preferences which lead them to walled garden Chinese platforms. Secondly, the market justifies it: Chinese-Americans spend $158 billion dollars every year. Chinese outbound tourists spend upwards of $33 billion dollars in the United States and $1.5 billion in Canada.

We’ve identified the three mistakes that brand marketers and agency planners make when they attempt to reach Chinese consumer audiences in the US and Canada:

1) Ad Networks Lack Chinese Media Inventory

Ad inventory on the most popular Chinese online platforms cannot be purchased through normal trade desks and programmatic DSPs. This is because those websites exists behind China’s Firewall, making their inventory off-limits to Google, Facebook, Rubicon, AppNexus, Smato… the list goes on. This means your GDN or programmatic campaign isn’t reaching Chinese audiences in the best possible way.

To buy placements on the Chinese platforms highly indexed by Chinese audiences in the US and Canada, special permissions with the Chinese Censor need to be achieved. Eastward Media has those permissions, and makes our ad network available to agencies and brands.

2) WeChat is King, Not Facebook

WeChat is a massively popular social media platform with over 900 million daily-active-users. It’s China’s premier social media app, and users retain WeChat use when they move to abroad. Facebook adoption by Chinese newcomers is slow, without a driving network effect.

As a tightly-regulated platform, it’s often difficult for brands and agencies to use. At Eastward Media, we help advertisers succeed on WeChat.

3) Lack of Cultural Fluency

Without language and cultural fluency, brands can miss the mark with ad copy, promotional offers and PR stunts. See the recent Dolce & Gabbana’s PR faux-pas in China this year that has already cost the company millions. Eastward Media is a trusted advisor for marketing campaigns tailor made for the Chinese audience.


If you’re an agency planner or brand marketer looking to reach Chinese audiences, then we’re the right partner for you. Our turn-key campaigns offer incremental reach into the Chinese consumer audience segment. Contact Eastward Media today to learn more.

Phyllis Siu
Digital Marketing Strategist for Eastward Media
A Division of Glacier Media Group
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