Hot List: Our top 5 Chinese New Year Campaigns for 2021


February 12 was Chinese New Year (CNY), a date in the marketing calendar every in-the-know brand wants a piece of. These are the campaigns we thought delivered with the strength of an Ox.

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February 12 was Chinese New Year (CNY), one of the biggest holiday celebrations globally. Like Christmas and Thanksgiving, it’s about spending time with your family. And like Christmas and Thanksgiving, it entails a fair bit of spending... It’s a piece of fortune cookie every in-the-know brand wants, but in order to get their share, they have to pull out the big marketing ‘guns’, and make something that is not only engaging, but culturally relevant to cut through the noise and build that ever-important brand love.

This could not have been more true for brands this year coming off the back of a tough 2020. Many are looking for a commercial rebound, and as this is the year of the OX, the animal that represents strength, determination and honesty in Chinese culture, CNY 2021 would have seemed to be the perfect time to begin that journey, and so they did.

Like Christmas ads in the UK or the Superbowl ads in the US are eagerly awaited, so are the CNY campaigns, and they didn’t disappoint. Here is a round-up of our 5 favourites this year.

1. COCA-COLA'S CNY CONFESSIONS AD.

Coke’s CNY Confessions ad focused on real-life stories that explored what Chinese New Year means to three young individuals living in China whilst in the midst of a pandemic. The stories highlighted how COVID “inspired a shift in perspective of what truly matters – family, friends, connection and love” Bassam Qureshi, head of IMX, at Coke said, a perfect message from a brand with optimism at its core. The brand also stepped up the engagement levels of the campaign by encouraging viewers to share their own personal stories.

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2. ADIDAS VIRUTAL GAMIFICATION.

Adidas got the cultural tone between appropriation and appreciation just right with their balance of traditional cultural motifs and highly nuanced localised perspective. In addition to their striking TV ad that showcased modern China and utilised a blend of celebrities to engage a cross spectrum of audiences, Adidas enriched the experience with the use of physical and virtual coins for consumers to collect (and if you know us, you’ll know how much we like creative-tech like this). Online shoppers could use the virtual coins in the adidas app to collect wishes from celebrities and to win prizes.

The virtual gamification in this campaign improved brand advocacy with core target audiences, and, balanced alongside the shopper and TV executions, delivered a highly innovative campaign that tapped into new China and the younger audiences, a far cry from previous years where tradition has been the main focus.

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3. SINGTEL'S AD.

Singtel’s CNY commercial, ‘My Grandmother’s House’ saw a continuation in the use of comedy by the brand to depict the quintessential Chinese New Year family gathering, but with a clever twist. The ad managed to put a humorous spin on some of the challenges families have had to face during the pandemic, in particular, Singapore’s 8-people max gathering rule. Through some playful family rivalry, it successfully presented Singtel’s 5g capabilities and mobile data as the heroes of the day with the power to connect, and reconnect, turning what could have been a sad occasion into a happy, memorable one.

4. DORAEMON & GUCCI.

It’s become common place for luxury fashion brands to celebrate CNY with capsule collections inspired by the animal of the new year, and CNY 2021 was no different. But this year it was Gucci’s tech-infused collaboration with one of Asia’s most beloved robot cat characters, Doraemon, that caught our eye.

Combining celebrations of the year of the Ox with the 50th anniversary of Manga and Anime character, Doraemon, Gucci released a line that featured the blue character overlaid on the GG motif. But the co-lab really comes to life through the app (literally) as users are able to scan the Gucci packaging or one of two art walls in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and use Augmented Reality to see Doraemon do a specially choreographed dance (creative tech for the win!).

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5. JOHNNIE WALKER'S LIMITED EDITION YEAR OF THE OX SCOTCH.

To commemorate Chinese New Year, Johnnie Walker collaborated with the award-winning artist, Shirley Gong, to create a limited-edition Blue Label bottle. The bottle features the ox symbolising prosperity, growth and good fortune. It stands above mountain clouds which represents longevity, and lanterns and cherry blossoms complete the visual signifying good fortune in the year to come. In a press release Shirley said her drawings are meant to inspire “people to think about the future in a positive and optimistic way—making sure that this gift is something to give people hope for the coming year,” a little something we think everyone needs these days.

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As Western brands continue to steadily grasp the importance of Chinese New Year and the commercial opportunities the holiday affords them, the space is going to become ‘noisier’ and it’s going to be even harder to cut through. There’s also a fine art to creating a culturally relevant campaign for CNY that resonates with the market and really strikes a chord, so it’s important you really know what you’re doing, or your partner with an agency who does (hint hint). Our advice: diarise the date in your marketing strategy and start doing your research now, so you can deliver communication that’s as brave and powerful as a tiger, 2022’s zodiac animal. You’ve got just under a year, best you get going!