Bids for primetime ads up on state-run Chinese net

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BEIJING -- Bids for primetime advertising on China Central Television (CCTV) in 2007 were 6.79 billion yuan ($862.6 million), up 16% from bids submitted for advertising in 2006, the state-run flagship network said over the weekend.

U.S. consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, maker of Crest toothpaste, was the highest bidder in the auction for CCTV primetime ads for the fourth year in a row, with a bid of 420 million yuan ($53.4 million), CCTV said.

The official Xinhua news agency hailed the annual auction, held this year on Saturday, as a barometer of China's economic performance, citing Yao Jingyuan, chief economist with the National Bureau of Statistics, who said, "Enterprises can foresee the economic trend in the coming year from the participating brands."

Commercials related to the upcoming summer Olympics, in Beijing in 2008, drew combined bids of 370 million yuan ($47 million), CCTV said.

"Since the Olympic Games will not open until 2008, it is imperative for enterprises to enhance their brand image in 2007," Zhang Weiying, professor with the Guanghua School of Management at Beijing University, told Xinhua.

Chinese banks and car makers again were prominent among the top bidders. Fierce overseas competition is expected in these the industries when they are opened up to foreign investors next year under the terms of China's accession to the World Trade Organization.

Another top bidder was Inner-Mongolian dairy Meng Niu, the sponsor of the popular "Super Girl Voice" TV singing contest which challenged CCTV's entertainment arena dominance last year from its perch on central China's Hunan Satellite TV network.

"CCTV's advertising charges have been rising in recent years as the Chinese economy maintains robust growth," Meng Niu vice chairman Sun Xianhong, said. "Enterprises are devoting more attention to advertising, with long-term effects influencing their decision-making."
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