Chua Knows China

Robert Chua, speech to Entertainment and Media in Asia conference, Los Angeles, US, 1998.Even before I started travelling to China in the 1970s I noticed competition was heating up among the foreign advertising companies active in China. They were all trying to win contracts with TV commercial placement agencies. At the same time, demand was growing overseas for commercial time on Chinese TV.

I clinched my first China advertising deal in April 1979. RCP, my company, became sole TV commercial placement agent for Guangdong TV. I took a great risk to secure that first deal. Peggy and I deposited HK$1 million (then about US$200,000) into a Chinese bank as a guarantee we could find at least that much advertising. Many companies including Hong Kong broadcasters wanted to become agents for Guangdong TV. I knew how competitive the situation was and I wanted the Chinese to see I could put my money where my mouth was, unlike the others. It was a huge amount of money at the time. I could have bought several apartments with it, but at the end of the year I had sold HK$950,000 worth of advertising. They repaid me the whole amount of my deposit, although they were not bound to by contract.

Peggy with two Chinese friends,1982
Next, we secured advertising time for Citizen Watch on Beijing’s China Central TV (CCTV.) We made other advertising deals with stations in other provinces: with GDTV in in Guangdong, Fujian TV, Henan TV, Sichuan TV and Guangxi TV.

I was just a small potato compared to the big international companies I was competing against in the China market. I think I succeeded because whereas the big companies went to China, their idea is to earn money by either selling foreign products directly into the China market or asking China to invest in overseas advertising campaigns. I worked from the other end, offering China the ability to generate foreign earnings. I tried to sell things for them, not to them. They get the benefits of the technology and knowledge associated with the deal. It has been a winning formula for me.

Robert & Peggy with CETV viewers in Beijing, 1996
Early on, I saw the potential for business in the tourism sector in China. I realised that foreigners travelling in China needed a greater selection of entertainment in their hotels. I formed a new company, RCP China Entertainment and arranged to import video and pinball machines into China in the early 1980s. I equipped hotels from Guangzhou in the South to Shanghai in the North with these.

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