Brand Film Highlights for the Year of the Ox

Releasing short films for the Spring Festival is a tried and tested way for brands to connect with Chinese consumers in celebrating the country’s biggest holiday, and this year’s relatively long lead-up to the Lunar New Year, which began on February 12, gave rise to a flurry of notable creative efforts in the genre.

CCI presents its annual selection of some of the most talked-about brand films celebrating the Year of the Ox (including highlights from our previous brand film picks). While family gatherings and heartwarming reunions are mainstays of the Lunar New Year films, this year some brands acknowledged the fact that holiday travel would be curtailed and emphasized other ways to highlight family dynamics and intergenerational relationships, while others focused on humor or blockbuster-style filmmaking to keep audiences entertained.

  • Alipay: Expectation (望)

While the Spring Festival period is known as the world’s largest annual human migration, with hundreds of millions of Chinese returning to their hometowns, this year an uptick in reported cases of Covid-19 around the country spurred authorities to call on citizens to cancel their travel plans and stay put, an especially tough call for migrant workers and others who only get to see their families once a year for the big holiday.

A number of brands appeared to take note of the challenging circumstances surrounding what is typically a time for family reunions by speaking directly to consumers in the language of resilience and hope. Alipay’s “Expectation” (望) exaggerates the sense of distance that some may feel this year by showing a father attempting to get in touch with his astronaut son, with the well-liked actors Zhu Peiqi and Jin Shijia in the starring roles. The film shows that even in the enormous gap between rural China and the nation’s advanced space missions, the threads of family and tradition (enhanced by technology) still bind people together.

  • Apple: “Nian” (阿年)

Apple tapped Lulu Wang to remotely direct its fourth annual “shot on iPhone” Spring Festival film. “Nian” (阿年) reimagines a traditional holiday folk tale as a coming-of-age story about facing one’s fears. An inquisitive young girl sets out into the woods to find the mythical creature known as the “nian” (年, Chinese for “year”), who is said to eat children. Instead, she befriends the fearsome monster, allowing it to become a part of her family.

At 12 minutes, “Nian” is the longest of Apple’s holiday offerings to date, reveling in the lush scenery of forests and mountains. And as with previous films, the iPhone brand is mentioned only via a note in the opening credits (“Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max”), signaling to viewers the professional movie-making capabilities of the device and setting the stage to send a strong brand message. Continue to read the full article here