Q: Is the image on the left (above) a modified furnace blower painted pink, a Peppa Pig metal memento or a homemade toy from an innovative grandpa?
A: It's all three.
It's also a still from a viral video that has 1.3 billion views and 800,000 discussion posts on Weibo as of the time of publication. The video is part of a campaign, titled 'What is Peppa', which promotes China Mobile video ringtones and the upcoming release of a full-length feature film based on the UK’s popular Peppa Pig cartoon series, co-produced by Entertainment One and Alibaba Pictures.
The campaign's success is not just due to its association with the zodiac animal of the upcoming Chinese New Year.
In a five-minute subtitled version (above) and an eight-minute director's cut, an empty-nester 'left behind' in a village in China hears about his grandson's wish for a Peppa Pig gift over a crackly call made through an old-school feature phone. The Chinese name for 'Peppa' (佩奇) is all he hears before his connection drops.
But what is 'Peppa'? In the information-scarce rural area, the villagers have no idea. The usually trusty dictionary, offering up homonyms like 'to wear' (佩戴) or 'to breed' (配种), is no help. At a local convenience store, the shopkeeper suggests the grandson may be hoping for a Peggy-branded shampoo.
The grandfather's knowledge gap is later filled by a villager who used to be a nanny living in the 'big city'. After learning that Peppa is a red-coloured cartoon pig, he comically tries to paint one of his own (real-life) hogs red. Finally, with some tireless guidance from his neighbours, he welds a one-of-a-kind, steampunk version of Peppa Pig from a traditional furnace blower to surprise his three-year-old grandson (and the clueless parents) during the annual family reunion.
The plot touches on several profound themes: the difficulty of communications between the older folks of the countryside and the new generation of the cities; the grandpa's determination, which fuels his ingenuity and innovation; the reality of rural life in China; and the conflicts posed amid China’s rapid urbanisation and modernisation.
What’s noteworthy: The ad is not just a trailer teasing the contents of the movie, but a standalone piece of creativity incorporating China Mobile’s sponsorship elements.
Most importantly for our purposes, the short film projects the warm feelings and goodwill of Chinese New Year to the Peppa Pig brand.
The 'Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year' movie is scheduled for release in China on 5 February, and Entertainment One, which owns the license to the cartoon character, wants to draw young families to theatres as a way of celebrating the Spring Festival, according to a previous release. The British animation series first made it to China's TV screens in 2015 to reach the country's preschoolers.
The brief for this ad must have been tough, since it needed to emphasise the importance of Chinese family values, promote China Mobile's video ringtone feature, highlight the Peppa Pig movie release and appeal to two target audiences: adults and children.
According to local media, no advertising agency was involved in the production process, with Beijing-born director Zhang Dapeng (also the director of the actual movie) in charge of the 'absurd comedy' style creation.