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Light shows and drone advertising in China: The new era of offline advertising

In the past four years, the outdoor high-tech advertising market in China has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 18.2%, reaching 45.6 billion yuan in 2020. The development of technology, an increase in advertising space and forms, and audience contributed to the promotion of new advertising in China. New advertising is high tech offline advertising that includes the use of drones, VR, LED lights, and holographic communication. Specifically, over the past few years we have witnessed a rise in drone advertising in China, many cases ultimately trending online causing even more buzz.

The importance of technology for new advertising in China

The future development and changes of outdoor advertising mainly depend on the development of technology and in particular VR in China.

size of the offline advertising market in China drone advertising in China
Data Source: iResearch, designed by daxue consulting, size of the offline advertising market in China

iResearch forecasts show that from 2018 to 2021, the scale of offline advertising will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 2.5%, and will reach 181.3 billion yuan in 2021. In 2018 advertising in elevators, public transport and cinemas boasted a market share of 35.6%, 47.7% and 11.6% respectively.

Becoming the main driving force of new advertising in China, it is expected that by 2021 outdoor advertising will account for 39.2% of the entire offline advertising market.

China‘s advertising market by category drone advertising in China
Data Source: iResearch, designed by daxue consulting, China‘s advertising market by category

The rise of drone advertising in China

The sales scale of China’s civil drone market reached 2.4 billion yuan in 2015. Due to their expanding field of the application, the demand drones has gradually increased: it exceeded 13 billion yuan in 2018 and hit 22 billion yuan in 2019. China’s civil drone market is full of potential, and the production scale will exceed 36 billion yuan in 2021.

Civil drone market in China drone advertising in China
Data Source: China Commercial Industry Research Institute, designed by daxue consulting, Civil drone market in China

Consumer drones, commercial drones and government drones are the major categories driving the growth of the drone industry in China. Shenzhen Xinjiang Foundation expects that in 2021, consumer drone sales will reach 29 million yuan, with a compound annual growth rate of 31.3%. At the same time, commercial drone shipments will amount to 805,000 units, with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 51%.

The price of drone advertising in China

Drone advertising is an innovative marketing and promotion channel. The price of such advertising can vary depending on the number of drones needed and the outcome desired. In the commercial advertising market, drones are usually grouped into 200-2,000 drones. The price of drone media service can reach around 6,000 yuan per minute.

LED lights advertising

LED advertising is a new media advertising form, a perfect combination of new media technology and outdoor advertising. These LED advertisements consist in creating advertising words or pictures through light-emitting diodes.

The LED advertising method also relies on visual images to spread information and catch audience’ attention through floating 3D images. Advertisers target different customer groups and install LED display screens in the right place in order to maximize the effect of advertising.

The price of LED lights advertising is less expensive than drones, as it requires a less sophisticated technology. The LED lights advertising can cost around 4,000 and 5,000 yuan.

Examples of drone advertising in China

Genesis drone show  drone advertising in China
Source: The Verge, Genesis drone show

In 2021, Hyundai‘s new premium brand Genesis used new advertising methods to illuminate Shanghai sky with 3,281 computer-controlled drones. The drones moved to the rhythm of music, creating images of new car models and the Genesis logo. The promotion induced a wow factor in Chinese consumers. In addition, the ad broke the Guinness World Record for “Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the Air at the Same Time.” Immediately following the Hyundai’s ad, a similar drone ad came from Bulgari in China. They featured images of snakes, luxury watches and the brand’s logo.

Bulgari drone advertising in China drone advertising in China
Source: IGD Retail Anaysis, Bulgari drone advertising in China
Bilibili drone advertising in China
Source: Highxtar, Bilibili drone advertising in China

On the first anniversary of the release of the computer game Princess Connect in China! Re: Immersion, the Chinese video platform Bilibili arranged a great lightshow. Bilibili’s drone advertising campaign generated a massive QR code at the end of the show; viewers could scan it and download the game using their phone. Each of the drone promotions went viral across China and solidified brand equity.

The QR code has played a “call to action” role in marketing campaign. This allowed Bilibili to make more money than they spent on advertising. This is another reminder of how powerful incorporating online elements into offline ads can be.

Advertising  light shows in China get the most of large cityscapes

Pokemon light show in China drone advertising in China
Source: GamerBraves, Pokemon light show in China

When Pokemon Quest was launched in China, three years after its release on Nintendo Switch and mobile devices around the world, the game, caused a lot of buzz across the country.

For the event, the company decided to create a special advertising campaign in China: 700,000 LED lights were promoting the game for 2.3 km in the center of Hangzhou. The light show featured game symbols such as Pokeballs and Pokémon moving through the buildings.

Beyond the Hangzhou light performance, the creators of the game also made a show on the Shanghai Bund. These marketing techniques have been very successful. In the Huawei app store alone, the game has been downloaded over 500,000 times since launch.

Advantages of new advertising in China

  • Drones have the exclusive flight rights for Shanghai Bund, Guangzhou Xiaomanyao, Juzizhoutou of Changsha, Hunan, and Xi’an. Drone advertising in China is a proven way to make a brand go viral online, however how long the trend will last is uncertain. As it becomes more common, the following social media buzz after drone shows may slow down.
  • Explosive interest: the amount of reposting and discussing of new advertising in China can exceed 100 million on Chinese social networks.
  • Light shows are a fun and engaging way to utilize a cityscape for a memorable advertisement.
  • It’s important to connect offline ads to online, for example using a QR code where viewers can immediately engage with the brand.

Learn more about China’s technology development, see our report on Artificial intelligence