Prime-time advertising slots on state broadcaster China Central Television for next year were once again snapped up by liquor brands this week despite new restrictions on alcohol advertising coming into effect next year. The total value of auctioned and pre-sold advertising on CCTV next year hit a record of 14.26 billion yuan (HK$17.46 billion), up 12.5 per cent. The auction in Beijing on Tuesday itself raised 12.25 billion yuan. The CCTV advertising auction is seen as a gauge of corporate spending power and analysts view the results as a key indicator of business confidence across the whole economy. A total of 245 companies from 28 countries and regions joined the 18th auction, with 104 successful bidders, mostly from the mainland. Liquor companies ranked top, spending 3.35 billion yuan on successful bids, up 37 per cent. Their share of winning bids was up 3 per cent, according to Charm Communications, a leading mainland advertising agency, and they occupied the No1 position for the ninth year in a row. Maotai's total spending of nearly 498 million yuan ranked top among all companies. Three liquor companies - Maotai, Yanghe and Jiannanchun - won the bid for the 10-second slot before the 7pm newscast for 656 million yuan, The Beijing News reported. Bank of China paid 76 million yuan, up 51.7 per cent, for standard 10-second advertising slots after the newscast for two months. 'The result demonstrates the strong confidence Chinese companies have in the domestic economy as well as their continued recognition of CCTV's value in building brands targeting China's fast-growing consumer market,' Dang He, founder and chief executive of Charm Communications, said. Professor Zhao Xiao, an economist at the University of Science & Technology Beijing, said the CCTV prime-time advertising auction results were seen as one indicator of the mainland's economy and suggested growing corporate spending power, propped up by growing sales in the mainland market. 'Liquor sales are very reliant on branding and advertising because the product is mainly for social intercourse or given as a gift,' he said. Zhao said big profit margins in the liquor industry helped the sector invest more in advertising. The profits of liquor producers rose 300 per cent from 2004 to 2009, tech-food.com reported. Eight of the 20 most successful bidders were liquor or beer companies, even though CCTV will restrict liquor advertising from the start of next year, allowing just two liquor advertisements in prime time and up to 12 in any one day on each channel, Nine channels targeting overseas markets and children do not show any liquor advertisements. Professor Huang Shengmin, dean of Communication University of China's school of advertising, said the results indicated that liquor companies were more competitive in securing advertising slots and consolidating their branding, especially in the market for luxury goods. 'Images of alcohol containers or drinking behaviour have been ordered to be replaced with those of drinking culture and celebrity ambassadors,' he said. 'So that could reduce the negative influence on the public in response to social criticism while not damaging the industry.'