WPP sees China becoming second biggest market

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The head of the world's largest advertising group, WPP, said Sunday that China will become its second biggest market, even if the country's economic growth slows from a blistering nine percent.

"I would anticipate that China would become our third market quite quickly and within a few years will be our second largest market," visiting WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell told AFP in Shanghai.

Currently, China is fourth in terms of revenue, behind the United States, Britain and Germany, he said. Annual revenue in greater China -- which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan -- was expected to be $1.1 billion in 2011.

"Whether it's nine percent, or eight percent, or seven percent -- whatever the (China's) growth rate is -- that's far more attractive than struggling with one percent or two percent," he said.

China's economic growth eased to 9.1 percent in the third quarter from 9.5 percent in the second quarter as government efforts to tame inflation and economic turbulence in Europe and the United States curbed activity.

Sorrell said a just-ended Communist Party meeting that vowed to boost culture could help create opportunity.

At that meeting, China's leaders agreed guidelines aimed at preserving "cultural security" and expanding Chinese soft power.

"There's a lot to be said for state-directed capitalism," Sorrell said.

"If the government thinks how people live and how happy they are is important... they will make the investments, whether it's stimulating the film industry or the entertainment industry."

However, advertising clients are worried about a recent move by China to replace popular television entertainment with so-called "healthy" programming.

Under government orders, the nation's leading 34 satellite broadcasters would be barred next year from airing "excessive entertainment" and forced to show at least two hours of news each evening, state media has said.

The move could drive up advertising rates, but the main state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) would be a beneficiary, Sorrell said.

© 2011 AFP

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