Brands without AI will soon be ‘irrelevant’ to Chinese consumers – says martech VC

Lee feels AI is an essential capability for marketers in China


Brands without artificial intelligence capabilities will not make it in China’s increasingly automated advertising market, a martech venture capitalist told delegates at the Adweek Asia conference in Japan today.

Shanghai-based Bessie Lee, founder of Withinlink, warned marketers that they risked being left behind if they failed to embrace AI.

“If AI is not part of your business, you will soon be irrelevant to Chinese consumers,” she said at the event at the Tokyo Midtown convention centre.

The Chinese government has invested massively in AI and sees the technology as yet another way to become the dominant global superpower. This meant that Chinese companies like Tencent had been empowered to collect masses of data about citizens behaviour, providing a rich evidence base for marketers to tap into via targeted advertising on a mass scale.

“AI is a national movement in China driven by the central government, unlike the United States where the likes of Facebook and Google are pushing things forward in the private sector,” said Lee.

“It will be the first time China can be even with the US on the world stage. We don’t have strict privacy laws around data like GDPR. We always know someone is watching and the Chinese people are happy to forgo privacy in exchange for convenience.

“Chinese consumers are happy to embrace new technology, they are happy to be lab rats. The government is doing this from the top-down and the consumer base is eager to adopt AI products.”

China now boasts more than 50% of the world’s AI patents. On top of that, the country produces four million graduates a year. A large percentage of whom are computer science graduates.

Lee referenced Tencent-owned WeChat’s one billion users as a valuable addressable market for AI-focused advertisers. “WeChat can do highly-targeted ads because it has so much data that can help marketers,” she said.

“The old ways of hardcore advertising don’t work anymore. People are doing marketing in a different way these days and China will soon be an AI power.”


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