Spring Festival is a time when Chinese families, separated vast distances by the stark differences in economic opportunities in different parts of the country, come together. Car app Didi predicts a boom in the use of its Hitch service for people carpooling home during the world’s largest annual mass migration.
These reunions are often fraught, however, as families are forced to confront differences in values. This year’s Chinese New Year ads again address the rough edges of Spring Festival reunions, although a couple stand out for striking a more positive note on what is, after all, supposed to be a happy occasion.
Last year's Safeguard viral Chinese New Year campaign, “Wash up for dinner”, was comprised of four commercials. Along with them came a stats analysis conducted with ”今日头条” on Chinese people’s reading habits, implying how people are ignoring their closest family yet bothering to care what’s happening outside. Online comments include “It’s heartbreaking. I cried, even though it’s obviously just an ad” and “I miss my mum’s chicken wings”.
This year, Air China’s Spring Festival campaign is similarly melancholy and nostalgic, showing a mother calling out to her children, and reminding us how we drift apart from our parents as we grow up.
Jetstar Singapore’s campaign is likewise sentimental, but the tone is lighter, more like a YouTube reaction video than a war film. The brand's campaign urged people to stay home with family. Jetstar asked people whether they would accept free flights out of Singapore over Chinese New Year. But after watching videos of their family members expressing the importance of togetherness, they all declined the tickets. Jetstar then gave their test subjects free vouchers to travel after Chinese New Year (when, no doubt, they have more empty seats to fill).
|This article is part of the Cultural Radar series|
Coca-Cola's “Inquisitive Aunty” spot recently released for Lunar New Year in Malaysia and Singapore features a typical “inquisitive auntie” throwing around that dreadful question,” Are you seeing anyone?” The timely offer of a sip of Coke disrupts her interrogation, letting her younger relatives off the hook.
While it’s still a lot less glum than much of the competition, Coca-Cola’s Lunar New Year TVC for China is more conventional: Coke mascots help a baby snowman reunite with his snowmen family. But it’s the inquisitive aunty ad that they’re pushing to a younger audience on Weibo.
Coke promises to give out magic "awkwardness-breakers"—a speaker for their aunties to play while square dancing— to commenters who offer up the questions they’re most worried about receiving at this year’s Chinese New Year dinner. Comments submitted so far include inadequate performance at school, low salaries, staying single, and having babies.
The need to make sacrifices has been drilled into the Chinese population through decades of austerity. Enduring hardships is still perceived as admirable in China, at least by the older generation. But as young people increasingly embrace individuality, they don’t especially want to be reminded of their struggles between family and work. Ads from Southeast Asia are paving the way for a more upbeat attitude to the occasion, reminding Chinese viewers that family doesn’t have to be a burden.
|Stephanie Fan is cultural content intern at Flamingo Shanghai.|