Top Lunar New Year Ads for 2024 Based on Emotional Impact

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The Chinese zodiac, also known as Sheng Xiao, is a 12-year cycle where each year is represented by an animal and its characteristics. This year is the year of the Wood Dragon: occurring only once every 60 years, the Wood Dragon is a a mythical, mystical creature symbolizing power, ambition, and good fortune.

Historically, the dragon represented Imperial power as it was associated with the emperor of China. Much like the consumption of Peking duck that was restricted to royalty, the dragon symbol was exclusively used by the royal family to build their mythology.

Today, the Wood Dragon is no longer exclusive. Brands across the region are weaving dragon magic into campaigns that are both culturally resonant and fiercely creative.


 

But navigating the Year of the Dragon is a delicate dance. Brands must avoid generic appropriation, ensuring their campaigns feel authentic and respectful of Chinese cultural nuances. Collaboration is key; partnering with local artists, influencers, and cultural institutions lends campaigns authenticity and resonates with consumers.

At System1, we tested a selection of Lunar New Year ads from China using our Test Your Ad Digital solution, which predicts long-term brand growth based on an ad’s creative quality. We calculate star rating (1.0 – 5.9) by measuring emotional response to each ad. Here are the winners, and some key learnings from this year:

Coca-Cola – 5.1 Stars

Kinder – 5.1 Stars


 

Lays – 4.7 Stars

Carlsberg – 4.5 Stars

Dove – 4.4 Stars

Ferrero – 4.6 Stars

Skittles – 4.3 Stars

Pepsi – 4.1 Stars

Estee Lauder – 3.9 Stars

Key takeaways

Emotional storytelling for long-term impact: Treat your ad just as a short-term sales boost and you’re missing a chance for growth. Lunar New Year is a time when audiences are primed for positive emotion, and positive emotional storytelling drives long-term share gain. Get people engaged with strong characters and a sense of place.

Pepsi achieves this via a simple yet evocative story that masterfully taps into the feelings of warmth associated with this time of year. Acclaimed actor Li Xian embodies the role of a man revisiting his hometown, Hubei. The story unfolds by showing that his initial unease is washed away by the familiarity of a friend’s face and the taste of Pepsi, highlighting the drink as more than mere refreshment but a symbol of return and reunion.

Capture Attention with Flights of Fantasy: There’s a sense of magic around the Lunar New Year. Advertisers that lean into this feeling of wonder can deliver feelings of surprise and happiness, which are the most powerful emotions for driving long-term growth. You have permission to be sentimental and magical – so use it.

Carlsberg’s spot is a strong example of fantasy put into practice. In a creative collaboration with the award-winning artist Ofen Hu, the campaign captures the awakening of the Wood Dragon as spring arrives. The narrative skillfully unfolds as the dragon, on its quest for the elusive pearl amongst the clouds, witnesses its scales blossoming into vibrant flowers. These floral manifestations represent cosmic equilibrium and good fortune for all, creating a visual representation of renewal, prosperity, luck, and joy during the Lunar New Year. Despite the length of the creative, an average of 85% of the ad was viewed. This is particularly important as an overwhelming 85% of digital ads do not pass the 2.5sec attention-memory threshold.

Humour is correlated with real-world business effects: Validation against the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank shows that amusement is especially correlated with real-world business effects. Humour is an important – perhaps the most important – tool in the creative’s armory. It enables advertisers to reach the parts that more literal communication simply can’t reach.

The ads from Lays and Skittles rely on exaggeration to amuse and entertain viewers. In a succinct 15-second spot, Lay’s masterfully weaves a narrative that celebrates the humor, unity, and shared pleasure that comes with enjoying chips. The ad comes to life with vibrant scenes of family members, including the beloved celebrity duo Shen Teng and Ma Li, who playfully interact with oversized and anthropomorphized packets of Lay’s crisps. The brand presents itself as more than just a snack but as a key ingredient in creating memorable festive moments.

Family and community as the focal points in an increasingly disconnected world: Family togetherness is highly valued in Asian culture because it provides a sense of identity and belonging. Dove (chocolate) skillfully integrates this theme in its LNY campaign, where the brand plays a pivotal role in nurturing family connections through shared moments. A simple gesture of sharing Dove chocolate between siblings and parents sparks laughter, playful teasing, and the exchange of stories.

In Kinder’s ad, a young woman brings chocolates for her boyfriend’s family. It artfully highlights the young woman’s gesture as not just an act of giving but as a bridge to familial bonds, reflecting a deeper message about the importance of connections and shared experiences. On the other hand, the Coca-Cola ad presents a dynamic scene of festivity and togetherness. The story illustrates a community uniting for a shared purpose, epitomized by the dragon dance, which beautifully marries individual happiness with collective artistic expression.

Brand early and often: Low fluency can usually be explained by a lack of brand or product placement, which can hinder the potential of the brand being quickly and easily identified. Ferrero’s ad is an exception. Ferrero Rocher is immediately distinguished by its signature gold foil packaging, which encases its signature hazelnut chocolate ball.

The brand’s assets, including its iconic logo and distinctive gold color, symbolize the premium quality and indulgent experience it represents. The narrative is further enriched by the chocolate’s role as a handcrafted treasure, symbolizing the confectionery’s fine ingredients and the shared joy it brings, resonating with people of all ages.

For audiences, the best ads are enchanting, entertaining, and evoke positive feelings. For brands, an exceptional creative drives a spike in short-term sales and also contributes to positive, long-term business effects like market share growth and profit growth. With our best practices in mind, you can develop 5-star ads that will be loved and remembered for years to come.

 

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