The lure of the mainland China market is almost certainly one of the main factors behind the strong turnout expected at MarComAsia '98. At the China Media Pavilion, visitors will be able to meet representatives of just about every major media outlet from the mainland, including Xinhua news agency, the People's Daily and China Central TV. The promise of such convenient access to influential companies has excited interest among the region's advertising and marcoms industries, most of whom are facing stagnant or shrinking markets at home. China has been largely insulated from the worst of the Asian crisis so far. Its closed markets and non-convertible currency have worked in its favour amid the chaos affecting the rest of the region. Although its advertising market is sure to be affected eventually, its recent history is impressive. According to a recent report by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), the mainland's advertising market grew by 45 per cent per year during the last five years. Market research grew by a respectable 25 per cent per year during the same period. The TDC predicts the amount spent on advertising in the mainland will increase by 30 per cent per year in the next five years to reach 136 billion yuan (HK$127 billion) in 2001. The report, Advertising and Market Research in Chi nese Mainland: Opportunities for Hong Kong, analysed the industries in the mainland and identified business strategies for Hong Kong agencies. It recommended Hong Kong advertising and market research firms to target specific mainland client segments to gain a foothold in the burgeoning market. Like so many areas of the mainland economy, the advertising sector has distinct segments based on the level of advertising spending. According to the report, there are three main tiers: Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong province with 50 per cent of the adspend; Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Liaoning and Shandong, with 25 per cent; and the rest of China with the re maining 25 per cent. Advertisers in China could also be divided into three types - multinational corporations and joint ventures, emerging local and traditional local advertisers. The TDC said there was a promising niche for Hong Kong agencies in an emerging new client segment comprising the low end of the multinational corporation market and the high end of the local advertisers. 'They demand high-quality, efficient and reasonably-priced service - a vacuum yet to be filled by existing market players,' the report says. The TDC said Hong Kong advertising agents should set up representative offices in the first-tier regions, establish joint ventures in the second-tier regions, or co-operate with local advertising agents on a project basis. Demand for market research is being driven by the increasingly sophisticated and competitive market situation in many sectors, the report says. The industry was expected to generate revenues of 2.9 billion yuan in 2001, up from around 960 million yuan in 1996. Hong Kong is widely considered the advertising capital of Asia. This status owed much to the lure of the China market, according to Sandra Liu, director of the Institutional Affairs Committee of the Hong Kong Institute of Marketing. 'Hong Kong is an international information hub which acts as the gateway to China,' she said. 'At the same time, Hong Kong is the regional headquarters of more than 800 multinational companies. 'With a wealth of local experience and expertise, Hong Kong can serve as a bridge for international companies which are keen to enter the world's largest potential consumer market.'