Jingjing Ma
Jul 17, 2019

Carabao wants to energize Chinese, but can it succeed?

A new campaign for the energy drink adopts the tone of a propaganda film, an approach that could fail to resonate with the younger generation.

Thailand-based energy drink brand Carabao recently launched a new campaign in China, aiming to relate the "fighting" concept of its products to ordinary Chinese citizens amid slowing economic growth.

Developed by BBH China, the seven-minute film features six seperate stories including doctors, long-distance truck drivers, small factory owners and designated drivers.

Although they encounter various sufferings, these characters don't give up. In fact, they spontaneously break into an upliffting anthem based on a children's nursery song to encourage themselves. 

“The choice of a kid’s song is not only an earworm, but also meant to convey the honest innocence of people just trying to do their best for those they care about,” Arthur Tsang, chief creative officer of BBH China, said in a press release. 

The six separate stories will be featured in standalone versions that will be rolled out over the next few months on social media and other online channels, according to the agency.

The film is directed by Zhang Dapeng, who became famous in China's video advertising industry after the short video "Who is Peppa?" earlier this year.

Campaign comment: The film has racked up more than 250 million views, according to an agency spokesperson, so it has at least been successful in getting attention. However, the emphasis on encouraging ordinary Chinese makes the campaign more like a propaganda film than a pleasing advertisement.

The ad has attracted nearly 1,000 comments on Carabao China’s Weibo account. Most users said they were touched by the inspiring film and encouraged others to keep fighting. But some people have frankly pointed out how it may miss the mark with a portion of the audience.

A Weibo user named “胖贵丫” said it’s obvious that Carabao targets consumers born in the 1970s and 1980s. “Indeed, the ad is inspiring, but people born in '90s and even '00s can’t accept the message the film tries to send. Young people don’t believe that sacrifice and dedication should be a daily norm, rather they value striking a proper balance between work and leisure, and self-realization.”

Another user named “去猜” said, “the film deliberately produces sensational effect, which can be seen from the story of the designated driver, because nobody works overtime the night before [their] wedding.” In addition, a user named “古三通” said, “I was touched initially, but it’s embarrassing when the actors start to sing. So awkward.”

It’s not difficult to understand these negative comments. The lyrics in the film, such as “bright new day”, “not give up” and “clench your fists”, remind audiences of the narratives used during the revolutionary 1940s and therefore can’t resonate with millennials, the pillar of the country’s consumption.

In addition, the embedding of too many touching scenes is likely to provoke antipathy among consumers who feel less pain from the economic slowdown. Touching does not necessarily turn into buying.


Executive Chairman: Arto Hampartsoumian
Managing Partner: Joanne Liu
Account Director: Maya Yuen
Chief Creative Officer: Arthur Tsang
Executive Creative Director: Yinbo Ma
Associate Creative Director: Tiexin Li, Louis Li
Planning Director: Tobias Wacker
Executive Producer: Weisian Lee
Production house: Pro Films
Production House Producer: Jack Tsai / Phoebe Fan

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