How do you advertise for China’s biggest holiday, when due to the pandemic, for the third year in a row, travel restrictions has limited and complicated family gatherings, creating much unhappiness and anxiety throughout the festive season? The traditional happy family gathering that were synonymous with the Lunar new year is no longer a representation of the reality for most consumers. Brands know that they can no longer rely on familiar CNY picture-perfect families reunion campaigns to get their holiday message across. As many brands want to stand out among the tidal wave of holiday advertising, many of them also want to show that they understand their consumers’ plight and what seems to becoming the new norm for the Spring festival. We’ve selected a few these spots that have captured our attention.
When her mother invites all the neighbors to dinner at their house through a megaphone, her young daughter is not impressed. In her eyes, her mom’s annoying ability and constant desire to talk to anybody and constantly gather people around is viewed as somewhat of a “weird disease”. As the daughter grows up and leaves home for a big city, she relishes in that fact that she can finally find peace in a life of secluded existence—by not knowing her neighbors, she happily disturbs no-one and in return is never disturbed herself. Until her mother comes for a visit during Chinese New Year… The commercial for Merchant Bank, envisioned by Yoya and brought to life by One Shooting is populated by vivid characters and has a sweet, yet subtle CNY message that focuses more on building relationships with your neighbors and appreciating your family for what you can learn from them.
Beautifully set in traditional tulou building, the cinematic 6 minute film for Oreo tells a story of a friendly rivalry between kids. Everything starts when by family seniority a boy has to call a younger girl “auntie”, and they go on little adventures to prove who’s got more courage. One of their adventures risks to destroy the festive New Year mood with dragon dance performance nearly cancelled. But in a story produced by Achill and shot by Ding Yuchen, Oreo cookies save the day.
Nostalgia has become a global trend during 2020 and 2021, making its way to social media, tv series, fashion, and advertising. Our longing for happy memories and simpler times-gone-by make sense in worrying pandemic times. Warmly color-graded commercial films that feature visual travels back in time are not rare in China too.
But a new commercial film for a car brand Nio envisioned by W doesn’t fit the description completely. It takes the central theme of CNY— coming back home, and travels back in time to show how the road home for one family changed for better over the course of 30 years.
In the commercial for Robam, a retired chef played by actor Li Chunli is inexplicably forbidden to cook. His family locks the kitchen cabinets, leaving him to invent excuses with his granddaughter, and hide his trips to the market and pretend to order ‘food delivery’. This film is another example of a new perspective on the festive New Year commercial. The 10 minutes mini-film shot by director Taylor, explains why he was restricted for cooking to begin with and finishes ambiguously with a holiday family dinner.
A commercial for snack brand 良品铺子 looks the most like what you expect from a holiday ad. Food-centered, splashes of red and happy family on screen. If not for one twist— the main character is spending the holiday alone, only present at family gathering through phone screen. The commercial, produced by KingProduction does not specify why the son is not home with everyone, but it seems to strike a cord with the viewers especially in light of travel restrictions preventing people to get together at home for the third year straight.
We’ve seen the behind the scenes, “making of” an ad concept being used into commercials before, but this year’s Tmall’s CNY commercial does it well.
The 2-minute film by KeyPoint shot by Zou Fei opens with a script page and a VO narrating “This is Tmall’s New Year commercial”. The narrator goes on frankly admitting that “This commercial may not make you feel emotional. Or make you laugh. But it’s a small reminder”. And yet somehow, frame after frame it does just that, creating an effortlessly warm holiday mood.