The Auspicious Eight: The Year’s Best CNY Ads Based on Emotional Response

Jon Evans shares System1’s ranking of CNY ads that predict commercial effectiveness by measuring people’s emotional response..

As a major cultural event, Chinese New Year is a big opportunity for brands to capture a festive mood and join in the celebrations. The traditional themes of New Year – family, food, and good fortune – are tailor-made for emotional advertising. This year is no exception.

System1 tested a selection of Chinese New Year ads from Malaysia, Singapore, and China. The 1-5 Star scale predicts commercial effectiveness by measuring people’s emotional response to ads and the intensity of that response. Typically, only 1% of ads achieve a 5-Star score in testing.

The number 8 is considered auspicious in Chinese culture. The Chinese word for “eight” sounds similar to the word for “wealth” or “prosperity”. We’ve chosen eight interesting and engaging ads celebrating the Year of the Rabbit. Each ad presents an aspect of Chinese New Year advertising and storytelling we feel holds a useful lesson for marketers.


Yeo’s – 5.7 Stars (Malaysia)

Our highest-scoring ad comes from Yeo’s. Yeo’s keep the New Year’s iconography to a minimum, instead earning a 5-Star score in a more straightforward way.

The ad focuses on one of the most significant aspects of Chinese New Year, which is the reunion of families. This is a time for families to come together, share a meal, exchange gifts, and catch up on the events of the past year. At the same time, the ad seamlessly showcases the brand’s vision of ‘nourishing every home with natural goodness’. Yeo’s Asian Drinks & Tea are brewed with time-tested recipes, with an eye for the best ingredients and attention to details in every part of the brewery process.

With an exceptional 5.7-Star rating, the ad truly strikes an emotional chord with viewers.


100Plus – 5.2 Stars (Malaysia)

Another important aspect of Chinese New Year is the tradition of giving and receiving red envelopes or “hongbao”, that are filled with money. Hongbao are traditionally given to children by their parents, grandparents, and other older relatives. The money is said to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.

Some Chinese New Year ads this year are quite subtle with their festive content, but 100Plus is not one of those. 100Plus is ushering in the New Year with the intention of keeping the festive spirit of celebrations alive. Energy is certainly on show here with the dancing and catchy jingle. The lion dance adds to the celebratory atmosphere and the 5.2-Star Rating shows the ad puts smiles on a lot of faces.

McDonald’s – 5.1 Stars (Singapore)

McDonald’s is always looking to create special meal deals and offers for Asian markets during Chinese New Year. They’ve created our top-scoring ad from Singapore which is the most effective short (15-second) ad we looked at. Getting 5-Stars with only 15 seconds is not an easy task. McDonald’s achieves this with mouthwatering food and also with a great New Year twist on its logo, turning the famous “golden arches” into a pair of rabbit ears for the Year of the Rabbit. It’s a confident use of the brand’s distinctive asset which clearly boosts audience happiness.

Coca-Cola – 5.1 Stars (China)

As with any festive occasion, storytelling can be a really powerful way to make an impact and make audiences feel that your brand truly understands the importance of Chinese New Year. Coke always makes the effort to tell a New Year story. This year they’ve dropped their Fluent Device New Year characters for an animated story of rabbits, which appeared as one of the strong ads tested in China.

It’s a sentimental story that presents Coke as a brand recognized by everyone, and which can bridge the gap between old and new traditions. And it’s right on target for the themes of family and food. With 5-Stars, this is one of Coca-Cola’s most successful New Year ads.

Fairprice – 4.7 Stars (Singapore)

FairPrice’s 10-second spot showcasing its mobile app is one of the funniest Chinese New Year ads we tested. The protagonist realises that he needs to get ready for Chinese New Year Fortunately, FairPrice can help him sort out all the preparations in an instant via its app. The ad effectively conveys a complete miniature story in only 10 seconds, achieving a strong 4.7-Stars.

H&M – 4.6 Stars (Malaysia)

H&M combines the symbolic meaning contained in traditional culture with modern pop culture in this lavish, well-made New Year ad chock-full of regional stars. Malaysian celebrities Kuan Siblings, Vietnamese singer Song Luan and Vietnamese kid influencer Hehe of @hehiuwazzup are some of the famous faces on display dancing in a series of playful spaces. Specific New Year content shows up at times, like rabbits and bold pops of red to convey good expectations for the year but the emphasis is on fashion, fame and the party aspect of the Lunar New Year.

Fendi – 4.3 Stars (China)

Another very stylish ad, this time for the luxury fashion house Fendi, features its latest collection. Most fashion ads are too concerned with cool to leave much emotional impression, but Fendi’s ad features lots of human connection with models Lin and Kiki enjoying the New Year Day out.

Fendi’s collection has plenty of emphasis on the auspicious red color, a prominent feature of Chinese New Year, as it is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Homes are commonly adorned with red decorations and traditional symbols of good luck, such as the Chinese character for “good fortune” or images of the zodiac animals. In this ad, the stars enjoy rabbit-shaped dim sum to add to the festive feeling. For a fashion brand, 4.3-Stars is an excellent result.

DBS – 4.0 Stars (Singapore)

Probably the most unusual Chinese New Year ad this year comes from a surprising source – Singapore’s biggest bank! DBS have taken their cue from Lil Jon’s 2014 global hit “Turn Down for What” and its wild video. Their version, “Turn Up the Huat”, is a clever pun on the Chinese word for prosperity – huat – and their idea of a New Year celebration is full of surreal and edgy scenes. Unusually for a New Year ad it divided the audience – we saw a lot of Disgust, but also a lot of positive response too and in the end the positives won out with a strong 4.0-Star score. DBS’ risk-taking has paid off.

What trends did we see this year?

Over the years, the Chinese New Year ads have put a greater emphasis on family and tradition, but this year found the region’s advertisers, like 100Plus and H&M, embracing fun and the celebratory aspects of the New Year festival.

There’s also more willingness to mix the traditional New Year signifiers with brands’ own distinctive assets and styles as seen in McDonald’s and Fendi’s ads. Finally, DBS’ 4-Star ad shows you can take risks on important dates while still pleasing audiences.

So even though our top-scoring ad, for Yeo’s, took a very traditional approach, the Chinese New Year ad continues to evolve.


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