Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s latest short film turns Spring Festival traditions on their head to promote a newly designed credit card featuring a theme of Chinese zodiac animals for the Year of the Rat.
The two-and-a-half minute film opens with a close-up of a traditional shadow-puppet show. But lest viewers imagine that ICBC only has old-fashioned entertainment up its sleeve, the camera quickly pans out to an audience member wearing a futuristic ox mask. He sets off running with an intricately designed scroll/baton in hand. What follows is a fast-paced relay of masked characters representing each of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, using various modes of transportation — from foot to spacecraft — to pass the baton. A skateboarding pig hands it over to the final recipient, the rat, who flings it open to reveal a Lunar New Year’s greeting from ICBC.
In a nod to proud moments in China’s recent history, each brief scene ties a zodiac animal to an event that occurred in the last year of that animal. For example, the dog character is shown playing a computer game, a reference to the 2018 Year of the Dog as a pivotal year for esports in China. The development of China’s high-speed rail and the national space program are also represented by the dragon (2012) and the goat (2015), respectively.
The somewhat staid state-owned bank’s goal of appealing to young consumers with the film has been extremely successful, with nearly 9 million views on Weibo and more than 1 million views on Bilibili. ICBC recently opened an official Weibo account for the new credit card, which has drawn more than 150,000 followers, with many expressing an interest in signing up for a credit card.
The stylish outfits and innovative mask designs have also spurred viewers to ask where they can buy similar items. Designers combined 3D modeling with references to ancient oracle bone scripts, Chinese opera makeup and classical painting to create the masks.
The film was produced by L-X-U Studio, a content marketing and design firm that has worked with major brands such as Google, Youku, Alibaba, and Coca-Cola. Law Chen, an American-born filmmaker who grew up in China, directed.