Chinese seafood ads target domestic market

Published on
February 14, 2013

China’s seafood giants are beginning to spend more money on national prime time TV ads, a sign of the growing importance of the domestic market as well as the ambitions of some of the country’s listed seafood producers.

Listed in Shanghai, Shandong Homey Aquatic Development Co., has engaged renowned Chinese actress Jiang Wenli to film an advertisement for prime time slots on the national broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV). The ad, which screens on both CCTV1 and CCTV7 after the 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. news programs — considered prime time in China — promotes Homey sea cucumbers.

Highly cinematic, the advert features Jiang, feted in China for her roles in celebrated films like “Farewell,” “My Concubine,” as a director who’s sent a gift box of Homey sea cucumbers. Product endorsement is a common marketing ploy in China, though the country’s celebrities are typically filmed endorsing food products and consumer goods. The Homey ad is one of the first by a seafood processor on CCTV1, the country’s flagship channel, where a 30-second slot costs CNY 60,000 (USD 9,621; EUR 7,201) on the morning news and CNY 190,000 (USD 30,467; EUR 22,804) on the main evening news.

Analysts meanwhile have speculated that Homey’s ad may be aimed at burnishing the firm’s image among current and potential investors. Engaged in aquaculture as well as catch and processing, Homey has seen its share price fluctuate significantly on the Shanghai exchange during the past year. Homey’s listed arm, Shandong Homey Aquatic Development Co., Ltd — one of numerous Homey subsidiaries — operates fish farms but also processes frozen foodstuff, sold under the RRYS brand name.

Homey shares went from a 52-week high of CNY 10.85 (USD 1.74, EUR 1.30) last summer to a low of CNY 5.75 (USD 0.9, EUR 0.69) in November before climbing to CNY 7.8 (USD 1.25, EUR 0.93) in late January before closing at CNY 7.9 (USD 1.27, EUR 0.95) a share on 8 February, the last day of trading before the Chinese New Year holiday. The volatility appeared due in part to investor worries about Homey’s capacity to hit aggressive targets it set for expanding its sea cucumber cultivation business. In December the firm announced it would issue CNY 1 billion (USD 160 million, EUR 120 million) worth of corporate bonds.Homey however isn’t the only firm in the sector to try celebrity endorsements. Dalian-based Asiasea hired the winner of the 2010 Miss Asia beauty pageant, Wang Xin, to promote its frozen seafood products. The firm put Wang’s image on packaging of its western-style battered fish fingers and shrimp burgers as well as its Chinese-style frozen shrimp dumplings. The firm however discontinued the Wang Xin campaign when the beauty queen’s marketing company went out of business last year.

The domestic market is doubtlessly a more important consideration in local firms’ marketing plans. Qingdao-based seafood processor Datian for example in September 2012 sponsored a city marathon in the seaport of Yantai in Shandong province. Speaking to Seafoodsource, a spokesperson at the company said the sponsorship was part of an effort to promote Datian’s packaged seafood offerings and pointed to the value of local TV images of thousands of runners moving through Yantai city wearing identical Yantian t-shirts.

Media commentator Song Yan, a lecturer at Beijing’s prestigious Communications University, cautions firms against over-using celebrities, but believes Homey made a good pick in Jiang Wenli. “She has shot averts for the Yanshili milk powder brand and for Yinlu rice porridge but she’s not quite as overused as Jacky Chan…he’s everywhere.”

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