For Your Eyes Only — 5 Chinese New Year Ads You Shouldn’t Miss

    Take a look at five Chinese New Year ads that mixed traditions with modernity and garnered positive reactions from consumers during this year's holiday.
     In understanding traditional Chinese cultural truths and modern impact on those culture truths, luxury brands can connect with the millennial and Gen-Z audiences beyond just the surface level, beyond the logo or celebrities/influencers. Photo: Shutterstock
    Arnold MaAuthor
      Published   in Retail

    Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, is the single most important holiday in China. Given that billions around the world celebrate it, it has also become one of the most important advertising periods of the year, easily surpassing the Superbowl and Christmas.

    Most major players in the luxury industry invest in and rely on their brand power to attract Chinese consumers — the label provides a status symbol, resulting in peer approval. This has been a winning modus operandi for decades. However, with the growth of the millennial and Generation-Z Chinese consumers, the future of luxury in China will be very different.

    True, Chinese consumers will always value Mianzi (面子), the importance of saving face in Chinese companies, such as avoiding conflict especially in public, but as China becomes more and more confident, the role brands play in providing positive social status will also have to change as well.

    The Chinese youth market will make up a majority of luxury consumers in the near future. Brands that win big over the next five years will be those who really understand “traditional values and modern expectations.” In understanding traditional Chinese cultural truths and modern impact on those culture truths, luxury brands can connect with the millennial and Gen-Z audiences beyond just the surface level, beyond the logo or celebrities/influencers.

    Here are five Lunar New Year advertisements — mostly from Chinese companies — that have done a fantastic job of demonstrating this point. They are global and very Chinese, metropolitan and very rural. Chinese brands are evolving with Chinese audiences, and with the rapid growth of homegrown Chinese luxury, those international brands that are popular now need to adapt, or they will be left behind.

    Rapid Urbanization#

    China’s rapid development has created a big gap in the quality of life between cities and the rural areas outside of them. Both Apple and cabinet manufacturer OPPEIN tap into this cultural truth with slightly different narratives.


    Apple’s ad focuses on a mother’s love, and the amazing, odd things they do to show it. Intertwined with urban migration, among hundreds of millions of Chinese people in their 20s and 30s, leaving 老家 (birth homes) to work or study. Meant to have an emotional impact (you can almost feel the mother’s sadness to see her son leave home again) on Apple’s target audience, who would have similar experiences. The entire film was shoot using an iPhone (with some amazing lenses of course), by an award-wining director, in line with the "Shot on iPhone" campaign.


    OPPEIN’s ad explores a parents struggle about hosting their globalized, city dwelling son and his family, who are used to the modern comforts of urban life. This very evocative film demonstrates the gap that rapid urbanization creates, and the difficulties of keeping family units together. OPPEIN does a great job to bring their products (home accessories) into the story unobtrusively.

    Generational Divide#

    People born after 1980 have only seen China as a global powerhouse, one of the world’s strongest economies, and home to some of the world’s most innovative and largest tech startups. Their parents, however, were born in, and lived through, much tougher times, with war followed by decades of long social chaos and even widespread famine.

    Alibaba x China Mobile#

    Peppa Pig has been both extremely popular and controversial in 2018. Alibaba saw an opportunity and created this Peppa Pig ad with China Mobile, a heart-warming tale of a grandparent’s journey to find the one present requested by his grandson. This was a beautifully crafted, evocative, and very moving commercial, though very different from other Chinese New Year ads, yet with a perfect touch of humor.


    This ad is based on a true story of a daughter who lives in a big city and takes care of her aging father after the loss of her mother. The commercial explores the relationship between children and older parents, the generation gap between them, and the difficulty in understanding parents’ everyday struggles and understanding the way they show their parental love. Jin’s glasses are subtly included in the commercial, showing how they improve the elderly person’s everyday life — showing how “seeing little details” can also mean “noticing micro love.”

    Family Legacy#

    The significance of the family has pervaded the Chinese culture for thousands of years. The ideology of the family unit held people together during the toughest times. And now, more than ever, China’s generational gap and rapid urbanization is challenging this tradition.


    This star-studded production generated a lot of positive online conversations when it was released just before Chinese New Year. It’s a multi-generational story directed by award-winning director Ann Hui, starring actors Chin Shih-chieh and Jessie Li, with music by the famous Chinese artist Chen Li. It is based on a true story of the three-generations of a family spanning some 70 years, and the good and bad times that have happened. But the symbolic character “福” (Fu, meaning happiness) has always been a constant belief in their hearts, bringing them together as a family. The “福” sign is also Alipay’s AR campaign to collect all physical “福” signs in order to promote its newly-released “apps.” Very subtle, the actual product demonstration only appears once at the end of the video.

    About the author: Arnold Ma is the founder and CEO of Qumin – a Digital Creative Agency based in London and Shanghai.

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