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A global social media platform’s China export advertising expansion

Client profile

The client is a social media platform with over 100 million monthly active users in Europe, the Americas and Asia. As a social media company, advertising is the client’s main source of revenue, and as the client’s platform is blocked in China, their entire business in China is focused on export advertising.


At the time of coming to our company, the client had huge headroom to grow in greater China’s export advertising market. More concretely, the client’s objective was to identify 1,000 companies to target for export adverting in China and be equipped with the strategies to reach those clients and drive revenue growth over the next five years.

Research process & methodology

In order to help this client achieve their goals in China’s export advertising market, we broke our research phase down into two steps.

  • A market assessment and vertical identification
  • A vertical deep dive of ten selected verticals

The findings were presented with a database of potential target clients, an executive report, and a workshop.

Before starting our own research we conducted desk research to acquire a solid foundation of understanding on the advertising export market. In our desk research, we focused on:

  • Analysis of databases and secondary reports
  • Media screening for Chinese advertisement exports past three years
  • Reference checks with advertisement agencies and VC / PE firms
  • Macro data for China exports per industry (which gained us knowledge of where opportunities in export advertising may lie)

Secondly, we conducted in-depth interviews with VC/PE firms, advertising and Real-Time-Bidding (RTB) industry stakeholders to collect hard data about verticals, market trends, drivers for recent and upcoming developments, tools used for advertisements, marketing budgets, leading geographies per vertical, and more.

Finally we conducted a digital tools and website analysis. We conducted a website analysis and tested proxies on 500 of the largest non-local companies in China.  These insights allowed us to create ratios to highlight most relevant verticals for the client and create guidelines automating the research process to achieve long-term market intelligence.

This phase of research focused on deep diving on industry verticals for the client to focus on and ultimately coming up with unique recommendations on targeting each vertical.

To achieve this, we employed much of the methodologies used in phrase one on each of the verticals to deepen our understanding of trends, which included identifying the ratios of countries of origin for each. Using media screening and co-working space analysis, we identified which companies in each vertical were start-ups.

We then identified opportunities in each vertical we conducted interviews with marketing managers to understand their goals in overseas advertisement, marketing budgets, target geographies, use cases of advertisements, and other inside information that helped our client paint a picture of their target client.

Through triangulation of our vertical research, we came up with market size estimations of each vertical and recommended actions to target companies in each one.


We delivered our final analysis in the form of an executive report, a database of potential target companies, and a half day workshop to brief the client on recommendations.

The final executive report included:

  • Ranking of verticals based on sizes and potential
  • Recommendations on verticals to target per geographic area
  • Identification and assessment of key things to consider

Armed with this precise information on 1,000 target export advertising customers, a deep understanding of the target industry verticals in terms of marketing strategies, combined with our strategy recommendations, our client had a clear direction on how to grow their revenue in China.

Ultimately, the client publicly reported strong growth in mobile gaming, one of the recommended industry verticals. As of 2021, some of the big Chinese brands that advertised on the platform included Huawei, Oppo, Alibaba, and Xpeng Motors.