Advertising in China can bring huge rewards in terms of traffic and sales. But advertising regulations in China can make the prospect seem daunting, particularly for an international business.
Here we’ve compiled everything you need to know about Chinese advertising regulations and how they apply to a variety of industries.
The state of advertising in China
The first things you need to know about advertising in China are that it’s a closed ecosystem and a highly regulated market.
Penalties for brands who don’t stick to China’s advertising regulations can be severe.
Fines range from 100,000 RMB (around 15,400 USD) to 1 million RMB (154,000 USD). Repeat offenders can expect to pay even more and you may have both business and advertising licenses revoked.
The channels you’re advertising on will also enforce advertising standards. If you don’t keep to Chinese advertising regulations, sites like Baidu or Tencent may blank parts of your ad content or reject your ad outright.
Understanding advertising regulations in China is hugely important for brands who want to stay on the right side of the law.
How is advertising in China different from in the US?
When advertising in China, regulations have to be uppermost in your mind. In contrast to advertising in the US, advertising law is strict and the language you use is incredibly important.
Chinese advertising law prohibits superlative phrases. For example, you can’t claim that your product or service is “the best in China” or that you offer the cheapest version of a particular product.
You also can’t claim to be the first company to do something, to be unique or to have the most advanced science or latest technology.
Slogans that confer authority, such as “exclusively for” or “recommended by experts” can’t be used.
You can’t be vague about time. “Lightning deals” and “today only” offers need to provide a specific time frame.
It’s clear that understanding the Chinese language and cultural norms is key if you’re to abide by Chinese advertising regulations.
Online advertising regulations in China
As we’re already starting to see, there are lots of regulations for advertisers in China to stick to. And the government has forbidden ads for some industries altogether.
You can’t advertise in China if your business is associated with:
- Drugs and pharmaceuticals
There are also particularly strict regulations related to a number of key industries.
Industry-specific advertising regulations in China
If you’re advertising an alcoholic product in China, your advertisement can’t feature someone actually consuming the alcohol.
No characters in your advertisement can be engaged in an activity considered dangerous to do when intoxicated. That would include activities such as driving a car or a boat.
In addition, alcohol commercials can’t give the impression that alcohol reduces anxiety, increases relaxation or improves physical strength.
Advertising tobacco products in China is pretty much banned. You can’t advertise tobacco products in mass media, public transport, public places or outdoors. This is so minors can never be on the receiving end of tobacco ads.
Pharmaceutical and medical
Narcotics, toxic drugs for medical use, and radioactive drugs can never be advertised in China.
Regulations were made stricter in the years after 2015, when the death of a 21-year-old student was linked to a promoted Baidu search result. Wei Zexi received an experimental cancer treatment from a hospital he found online.
If you’re advertising prescription drugs, these can only be advertised in designated medical publications.
Health and wellbeing
Brands looking to advertise any health or food supplement product have a number of regulations to follow. They can’t:
- Make assertions about a product’s efficacy or safety.
- Suggest a product protects health or can be used to prevent or treat disease.
- Compare their product with other similar products.
- Use endorsements to recommend their products.
All advertisements related to this sector have to include the phrase, “this product cannot replace a drug” somewhere within the campaign.
Education is highly prized in China. To prevent advertisers taking advantage of students and families keen to succeed at school, they cannot:
- Make implicit or explicit guarantees of a future result – whether that’s an exam grade, a place on a course, or a degree.
- Make implicit or explicit reference to which exam boards or staff are used within a course.
- Use scientific research or academic institutions to endorse a product or service.
Products or services associated with investments and a return on investment need to be clear about the risks involved.
Commercials can’t guarantee results or preservation of capital. They can’t claim that an investment product or service is free from risk.
This is another sector that can’t make use of endorsements from academic institutions, industry organizations, professionals or beneficiaries.
Real estate ads have to be honest about a property’s size. And they cannot guarantee a return on investment.
They also have to be honest and upfront about local facilities. Ads containing misleading information about facilities or how long it takes to reach them from the property will be penalized.
China advertising regulations for all industries
So we’ve covered industry-specific advertising regulations. Here are a few that apply to all brands, whichever sector they’re operating in.
Celebrities endorsing your product or service have to actually use that product or service before making any claims.
You also need to make sure that the celebrity you choose hasn’t previously made any false claims.
Children under the age of 10 cannot be used to endorse products or services.
Advertising to children
Brands aren’t allowed to advertise in kindergarten, elementary or middle schools. Advertisements in textbooks, on school uniforms and on school buses are also banned.
Out of school, ads aimed at children under the age of 14 cannot promote unsafe behavior or encourage children to ask their parents to purchase a product.
Use of the Chinese map
If you’re using a map of China in an advertisement, you must always use the map from government sources. Using a different map can be seen as an attempt to divide China, which falls foul of numerous Chinese laws.
Other content restrictions
Here are a few more regulations when advertising in China:
- Pop-up ads have to display clear instructions on how the ad can be closed. Consumers should be able to close the ad with a single click.
- Email marketing campaigns have to include the sender’s true identity and contact details. The recipient should also be given a clear and easy option to opt out of communication.
- Advertisers cannot use the Chinese national flag or national anthem in an advertising campaign. Ads which are deemed to cause detriment to national dignity, national interests or good social norms are also prohibited.
Want some help navigating Chinese advertising regulations?
When you’re advertising in China, regulations can feel a little overwhelming. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a team of Chinese advertising pros at your side.
Partner with AdChina.io and we can help you stay on the right side of regulations.
From account setup on a range of online advertising platforms, to copy translation, to ad campaign management, we can do as much or as little of your China advertising as you like.
Book a demo to find out exactly what AdChina.io can do for you and your brand.