Speaking their language: Australian advertisers missing the mark with Chinese speaking audiences

A massive market is being overlooked, writes EternityX ANZ director Luke Bussell.

Australia is a multicultural country, made up of many diverse and thriving ethnic groups. According to the ABS in 2017, 21% of Australians speak a language other than English at home. Regarding Chinese-speaking consumers specifically, the 2016 Census found Australia is home to more than 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry, with around 68% of which speak either Mandarin or Cantonese at home. Yet, for the most part, our advertising doesn’t reflect this.

Thinkerbell’s recent ‘Tastes Like Australia’ Vegemite campaign, ran in conjunction with Harmony Week, bucked this trend and generated a bit of industry buzz as a result. And while it can only be a good thing to acknowledge and celebrate culturally diverse campaigns, they shouldn’t just be running during Harmony Week. They should not be the exception, but the norm. 

Cashed up and ready to spend

Our research indicates 75% of Chinese-speaking consumers in Australia are employed; 60% earn over $60,000 and 24% earn over $100,000, compared to the average Australian income of $49,805. While 59% identify luxury goods or beauty products as where they prefer to spend discretionary funds, with those earning over $150,000 spending an average $2537 a month on luxury goods or beauty products.

For many strategists these kinds of stats would generally put an audience into the highly desirable category, yet all too often Chinese-speaking consumers in Australia fall into the too-hard basket. Australian advertisers are missing out on an audience made up of over a million people with a high tendency towards discretionary spending.

Past preclusions

Part of the problem to date may stem from a previous lack of local Australian Chinese consumer knowledge, combined with a lack of transparency on media placements and campaign performance when running campaigns on China-based media. In addition, there can be issues with gaining live access to campaign insights and reporting via verified third parties. Fortunately, new platforms in the market are bringing increased levels of transparency and accountability consistent with the market’s expectations.

Know thy audience

A crucial part of tailoring campaigns to more culturally diverse audience sets is having a thorough understanding of their media preferences and attitudes towards advertising.

When it comes to Chinese-speaking consumers in Australia, recent studies show that four out of the five most regularly used channels by this audience set are Chinese media channels. To put this into context, Chinese TV streaming services have 82% more regular viewers who speak Chinese than free-to-air TV networks in Australia.

On top of this, it can take up to 20 years – yes 20 whole years – before Western media channels are favoured over Chinese media channels. This applies to both the traditional media channels of TV and print, along with digital, social and streaming channels.

Further findings reveal:

  • 60% of Chinese-speaking consumers say they appreciate the effort taken by brands who translate their advertising into Chinese (either Mandarin or Cantonese)
  • 57% say they trust brands who translate their advertising into Chinese
  • 2.4 times as many Chinese consumers reported being more likely to purchase from a brand who goes to the effort to advertise in Chinese on Chinese media platforms.

Future focus

In order for advertisers to meaningfully engage Chinese speaking audiences, they need to start speaking their language. Literally. They need to incorporate Chinese language campaigns on Chinese media channels, with localised content for e-commerce and social commerce channels being absolutely essential.  

Advertisers would also do well to educate themselves and stay up to date with the media habits, preferences and nuances, not just of Chinese-speaking audiences, but the wide variety of diverse audience sets that make up the Australian consumer landscape.

Luke Bussell is the director of EternityX ANZ.


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