Creative Dive: Kit Koh on The Art of Play Campaign from Oreo

“When we look at ancient Chinese artworks, we realized play has always been an essential part of life.”

Client

Mondelez China

Agency

Leo Burnett Shanghai

Campaign Date

May, 2024

market

China

Campaign Background

Last month, Oreo partnered with Leo Burnett Shanghai to launch ‘The Art of Play’ in China.

Known for overworking, over-studying, and the pressure to achieve, the campaign sought to remind people of the country’s rich playful heritage and bring back China’s 5,000-year-old culture of play.

For the launch, Oreo first took over the busiest subway in Shanghai with the re-creation of a famous 1,000-year-old artwork in which ancient toys were replaced with study tools and symbols of academic pressure.

Then, to bring back the long-lost art of play, the campaign tapped toy designer Lao Wang to redesign three iconic Chinese toys: the Luban Lock (2,500 years old), the Kong Zhu (1,800 – 1,900 years old), and the Tangram (1,000 years old).

To learn more about the creative campaign, we asked Kit Koh, Group Executive Creative Director at Publicis Groupe Shanghai, to take us on a deeper dive.

The Work

Deeper Dive

Leo Burnett Shanghai

It’s not every day that creative campaigns are inspired by ancient history. Tell us how the idea of bringing back China’s culture of play came about.

When we look at ancient Chinese artworks, we realized play has always been an essential part of life. The subjects are always playing music, appreciating nature and landscapes, enjoying the arts and playing games, because board games, soccer and playing cards actually originated in China.

However, many of these toys have been forgotten through the generations, as has the playfulness spirit. That’s why we wanted to bring back the “art of play” to this stressful modern life, reminding people of China’s rich playful heritage.

What was the creative process behind recreating the famous 1,000-year-old artwork in the Shanghai subway, and how did you decide to replace the ancient toys with study tools and symbols of academic pressure?

The famous painting “One Hundred Children at Play” was particularly inspiring. It gives a glimpse of China’s former playfulness and light-hearted lifestyle: each child is playing different kinds of toys and games.

To bring play to the forefront of culture again, we decided to spark a national conversation with a controversial reimagining of this artwork. We replaced ancient symbols of play with study tools and new tech, representing our current obsession with productivity. Instead of playing, the children are now only studying, having extracurricular classes, and stressfully preparing for tests and competitions.

“We replaced ancient symbols of play with study tools and new tech, representing our current obsession with productivity.”

We then asked the public #WhereDidOurPlayfulnessGo? This immediately sparked UGC amongst our target audience and earned media within their channels.

Oreo’s tagline is ‘Stay Playful’ and the brand describes itself as the world’s most playful cookie, with a mission to unlock playfulness in everyday life. Can you tell us more about that?

Oreo’s playfulness is a perfect match with China’s 5,000-year history of playfulness, but that has been forgotten in modern Chinese culture in favour of hyper-productivity and academic striving. Once we discovered a natural connection between the brand and Chinese culture, we realized it was the perfect time to bring playfulness back into the current context.

As a much-loved cookie in China, we designed the platform to remind Chinese society of the value of play, using our own rich history, with redesigned toys as the medium. This was particularly relevant for this market and at this moment in time because Chinese kids have one of lowest rates of playtime in the world at less than 1 hour per day.

The campaign has stirred interest in China’s lost playfulness and the country’s long study and work hours. What kind of response have you received from parents, educators, and wellness experts?

The campaign generated UGC and earned media, stirring up a heated debate about the nation’s loss of playfulness.

People on social media, the education community and wellness experts are referencing the campaign when advocating for the importance of bringing play back to modern China.

“We got parents and kids to put down their textbooks and laptops, and we partnered with the media and schools to acknowledge that play does not mean “laziness…”

Experts across the health/wellness spectrum (including government cultural heads and economists) shared the project, and Oreo’s sentiment of the importance of play.

We got parents and kids to put down their textbooks and laptops, and we partnered with the media and schools to acknowledge that play does not mean “laziness”, but is an important counterbalance in life, and bringing them all on board to pledge to create more time for play.

The “Art of Play” is a long-term platform, can you give us a sneak peek into what we can expect in the future?

With a strong purpose of bringing back China’s 5,000-year-old culture of play, the launch of “Art of Play” marks the start of a long-term platform that aligns Oreo’s playfulness with the nation’s rich history, starting with toy design but extending to music, literature, food, fashion, art and sports over the coming months.

Campaign Credits

Client: Mondelez China
Brand: OREO
Vice-President of Marketing and Growth Mondelēz China: Grace Zhu
Agency: Leo Burnett Shanghai
Chief Creative Officer, Publicis Groupe APAC: Natalie Lam
Group Executive Creative Director: Kit Koh
Senior Creative Director: Young Yang
Creative Group Head: Mio Wang
Senior Art Director: Cetus Zhang
Illustrator: Tong Li
Senior Producer: Nico Yang
Chief Experience Officer: Brian Ng
Head of Planning: Davy Chau
General Manager: Pauline Lin
Senior Account Manager: Roy Qin
Head of Creative Excellence, Publicis Groupe APAC: Jason Williams
Creative Director, Publicis Groupe APAC: Kelvin Leong
Client Partner, Zenith: Arthur Sun
Chief Client Officer, Publicis Communications Shanghai: Sandy Wu
Toy Designer: Lao Wang

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