Programmatic in China

Researches & Insights
April 14, 2022 / Author: Zhuk Elizaweta

According to the 48th Statistical Report on Internet Development in China, China officially has more than one billion internet users in June 2021. For would-be advertisers, this is a significant potential market, and for programmatic advertisers as well — programmatic advertising is growing at a fast pace.

However, the landscape and elements of Chinese programmatic advertising are different from other countries as a result of regulatory pressure, privacy legislation, etc. Therefore advertisers should do research and learn about the region’s specific characteristics.

Digital ads market

China aims to become the center of programmatic advertising. Nowadays, programmatic ads in China are a $50 billion a year industry. It has doubled in size since 2017 as advertising budgets follow media consumption trends. In 2022, it is expected to reach $114.706m. Moreover, almost 80% of digital display ad spend in China is programmatic in 2021, up from 50% only 4 years ago.

Source: Statista

While programmatic ads are taking a leading position in China’s advertising landscape, non-programmatic ads have been shrinking. 

Source: Statista

Available audience

There are more than 1 billion internet users in China, as stated above. It is 70.9% of the total population at the start of 2022. Moreover, the number of internet users continues to grow. According to Kepios analysis, it’s increased by 35.9 million (+3.6%) between 2021 and 2022.

Ad formats

There are 932 million (99.2%) mobile internet users in China. From surfing social media to making online purchases, ordering food, paying bills, and more, Chinese users use mobile devices everywhere in their daily lives. Considering the mobile-first Chinese audience, the ad market focuses on mobile devices more. The mobile market size is expected to reach $100bn by 2023. Moreover, it is expected that 80% of total ad spending will be generated through mobile in 2026.

Source: Statista

Video ads are connected with mobile devices as well. So in the video advertising segment, $35.555 million of total ad spending will be generated through mobile in 2026. The main platforms for video ads are YouTube, Douyin, and Kuashoy.

Also, one largest segment is banner advertising with ad spending $45.212 million in 2022. In 2023, expected $49.445 million of banner ads spending.


Top website ranking,,,,,,,,

Top Ad Exchange in China
  • Baidu Exchange Service
  • Baidu Exchange Service
  • Mobvista
Top SSP in China

As a result of China’s strict internet censorship and limitation of accessing several major platforms (Facebook, Google, ex.), the country’s programmatic ad marketplace is dominated by local players — Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (BAT).

Moreover, Chine’s publishers develop their own programmatic ad technologies, unlike others. As BAT is a significant group of publishers in China, they each have their own platform to control advertising, and they work independently of each other.

E-commerce in China

China is one of the fastest-growing and the largest e-commerce market in the world with a revenue of $1.543 billion in 2021. The Chinese e-commerce market expanded rapidly during the last five years as a result of high Internet and smartphone penetration, increasing users’ confidence in online shopping, the development of e-commerce platforms, and the availability of various payments. In fact, the growth of the Chinese e-commerce market will continue over the next few years. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.6% between 2021 and 2025 to reach $3.3 trillion in 2025.

Chinese e-commerce consumers search for and purchase online consumer goods such as clothes, cosmetics, and food & drinks. Top categories for online purchases among online shoppers in China:

Source: ecommerceDB

Also, online shopping behavior is different between men and women:

  • women prefer to buy luxury products, household appliances, and educational courses.
  • men prefer to buy auto accessories, household appliances, 3C products, and skincare goods.

Being a mobile-first nation, Chinese consumers prefer online shopping via their smartphones. So 90% of e-commerce sales were made through mobile devices in 2021.

Market peculiarities

The programmatic ecosystem in China is different from Western countries. Chinese ad tech players serve both DSPs and SSPs sides. In fact, DSPs own ad networks, while publishers build their own SSPs in China. Moreover, the digital market is different and consumers are different as well.

However, programmatic in China is a huge growth opportunity for brands.