China's Mobile Ad Market Is Surprisingly Tiny Due To 'Fake' Smartphone Usage

mahi de silvaMahi de Silva of Opera

Photo: Opera

The mobile ad market in China is so small that if the top 10 ad networks there were combined they still might not be as big as the fifth largest network in the U.S. in terms of monetization power, according to Opera evp/consumer mobile Mahi de Silva.We chatted with de Silva as he prepared to deliver his keynote speech Thursday to the Mobile + Web DevCon in San Francisco.

“The ad market in China is quite depressed,” he says. It’s a counterintuitive fact when, in the West, all we hear about China is how the economy is growing at a rate of 7.6 per cent a year, pulling huge chunks of the global economy along with it.

“Of 1 billion activated devices only a small fraction are smartphones,” de Silva says. And of those smartphones, only a small fraction actually have activated data plans.

A data plan in China might cost the equivalent of two or three months’ wages, so many young Chinese are merely keeping up appearances by walking around with their iPhones in dumbphone mode: They can only make calls and get texts.

“If you’re a young person in China, your access to buying a car is fleeting. So your phone is your status symbol,” de Silva says.


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