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Honest Confessions, Nezha Nuggets, and the King of Dance: Here are the Best Chinese New Year Commercials

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The Year of the Ox is upon us, and as always, international brands are wasting no time in capitalizing on the celebration.

The Lunar New Year is usually one of the biggest money-making periods in China annually. While this year’s festivities are still far from normal, major companies are seizing the opportunity to jumpstart post-pandemic profits.

Coca-Cola went sentimental, H&M opted for inclusive. Nike’s ad wasn’t as good as their last one, but unlike Ford, at least they got the year right. Here are this season’s best Chinese New Year commercials.

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1. Coca-Cola 

Coca-Cola’s Chinese New Year commercial is something of a tradition. In this year’s campaign, we hear from three individuals whose perspectives around the holiday have changed.

“Many Chinese youth once saw Chinese New Year as an obligation, a routine,” explains Bassam Qureshi, Coca-Cola’s Head of Integrated Marketing Experiences. “In 2020, Covid-19 changed all of this, taking away something that many youths once took for granted.”  

Opening on unpleasant commitments such as buying groceries and hosting relatives, the story unfolds as the three protagonists reconnect with feelings of love and family after the uncertainty of the pandemic.

The ad is all about “the little simple joys found in the normalcy that bring us together,” says Cia Hatzi of McCann Worldgroup.

 

2. McDonald’s 

McDonald’s went a different direction, celebrating the Year of Ox with beloved animated character Nezha. In a collaboration with the film’s original production team, the fast-food company breathes some new life into this hero’s storyline.

Courtesy of McDonald’s Weibo

In the ad, Nezha tries to use his fire powers to cook the New Year chicken. He burns the chicken to a crisp, as well as his house — but ultimately learns a lesson about the true meaning of the season.

In addition, 88rising recently announced their own collaboration with McDonald’s in the US ahead of the Year of the Ox. Customers and fans can access exclusive content from Masiwei, learn Lunar New Year traditions from Dumbfoundead, and hunt for fast-food hongbao.

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3. H&M

H&M put out an ad this year with plenty of hip, young people wearing sweaters.

One of those hip young people was Wang Shuang, who plays soccer for Wuhan Chedu Jiangda in the Chinese Women’s Super League.

“We’re all getting ready to celebrate in our own way,” reads the text at the beginning of the video. These takeaways around diversity and inclusion come after the runaway success of Tmall’s ad last year which featured a gay couple.

4. Nike

Nike is quickly becoming known for its over-the-top Chinese New Year commercials (in last year’s, a grandmother and granddaughter used Nike shoes to compete in a footrace/hongbao handoff).

This year’s ad isn’t quite as good, but relies on much of the same formula: family, struggle, and athletics.

In the ad, a daughter is seen training her father to achieve a personal goal he’s set. Only after a montage of training sequences — and then finally a choreographed dance number — do we see what he had written down: I want to be the king of dance. 

Watch the ad here.

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5. Alipay

In yet another totally different approach, Alipay chose to highlight elements of traditional folk culture.

The short film “Prosperity in the New Year: Fish Lantern” is a collaboration with director Xu Huijing, and Alipay’s first documentary project. It records the 600-year-old tradition of fish lanterns in Anhui Province’s Wangmantian Village.

“My grandma is from Wangmantian Village. When I was a child, I used to have a little fish lantern of my own. I have been to all the places in the film. I miss this place so much,” one user wrote on Bilibili

Screenshot of Alipay’s Weibo

6. Ford

Ford gets the honorable mention here for worst execution.

In a post which was intended to promote their Mustang Model Mach-E, Ford posted an image of a mustang to Weibo, with the text “2021, the Chinese Year of the Horse.”

Image: Ford (Weibo)

Considering that it’s the Year of the Ox, people didn’t love this. Ford tried to explain that the comment had been intended as tongue-in-cheek, but the damage had already been done. As the incident began to receive more and more attention, Ford was forced to issue an official apology.

“Our previous posts promoting the Mustang Mach-E were not clearly presented and the wording was not precise, which caused misunderstanding and distress in dissemination,” reads the post. “We humbly accept criticism and suggestions, and sincerely thank everyone for concern, supervision and correction.”

Header Image: Nike

Jocelyn Yang
    Jocelyn Yang is a student journalist at Emerson College and serves as an editorial intern at RADII. Her primary field of interest is writing about Chinese and American cultures. Follows her on Twitter @_jocelynyang_.