The mainland advertising market grew 13.5 per cent last year, thanks to robust domestic demand in sharp contrast to the battering suffered by the media industry around the world as the recession forced companies to slash marketing budgets. According to Beijing-based market research company CTR, advertising spending in China amounted to 507.5 billion yuan (HK$577.48 billion) last year, with most of the revenue coming from the cosmetics and toiletries sectors. L'Oreal was the top brand by advertising expenditure, spending US$42 million. 'Everyone was very pessimistic about advertising at the beginning of 2009, but the year ended extremely well due to the government's stimulus package to boost internal demand,' CTR vice-president Tian Tao said. Tian said that at the beginning of last year, 48 per cent of companies polled said they would cut their marketing budgets. However, government policies to stimulate spending on home appliances and cars in lower tier cities gave a sharp boost to advertising in the second half of the year, with electronics maker Midea increasing its spending 85 per cent year on year. 'Now people are fretting about the property and automobile sectors growing too quickly. Who would have thought that at the beginning of last year?' Tian said. Beverage companies increased their advertising spending the most during the year - 52 per cent year on year - with drinks giant Wahaha spending US$38 million. Dairy products was another area of growth as companies such as Mengniu and Yili ramped up their marketing efforts a year after the melamine milk scandal, increasing their advertising spending by 77 per cent and 99 per cent, respectively. Television continues to be the predominant medium for advertising, accounting for 78 per cent of the market, although concerns over excessive advertising led to the imposition of a new regulation by the State Administration of Film Radio and Television to limit commercial airtime to only 12 minutes per hour. Tian said such government regulations could lower television advertising spending by 12.6 billion yuan, slowing growth in the entire advertising industry to 10 per cent this year. Lei Wang, a director of strategic planning at JWT in Hong Kong, said consumerism on the mainland was still in its infancy and that 2010 would be a critical year as it would see the 'emergence of a whole new consumer class in the world economy'. 'Hongkongers might feel differently because we see how much mainland tourists are spending in shopping malls here, but remember that those who come to Hong Kong to shop are just a tiny proportion of the population.' She said household spending in China was only 0.66 per cent more than in India, and there was still a long way to go before the spending power of Chinese consumers could match those of western Europe.