Chinese New Year ads: why Petronas reigns supreme

As we enter the Year of the Rat, advertising creatives from across Asia offer their favourite Chinese New Year campaigns from over the years as we celebrate the best work from the festive period and hear their views on what is best in class.

Without a doubt, my favourite Chinese New Year (CNY) commercial of all time would be the Petronas 2006: My Son. It doesn't try too hard — it's a simple story of what really happens during the CNY period and you'll resonate with it simply because it's true. I'm always a fan of occasion-based commercials that don't feel or look like one, but has a strong enough message that tells the context in the most unassuming way.

The story is about an older generation of grannies talking about how great and successful their children are doing in their careers. As they tell their stories, there is one granny that's just listening innocently. When it came to her turn to tell her story, she tells them that her son is coming to pick her up and she's "annoyed" because he always takes her everywhere. The other grannies observe in envy and the line appears "Love of the family is life's greatest blessing". The other important element in the commercial was the character profiling.

As a viewer in an Asian context, you could immediately relate to the characters as your own grandparents and even ask yourself, am I guilty of that too? Chasing success over family time? Spending time on things that don't matter as much? Petronas wasn't selling petrol in the spot, they were selling emotions, and emotions build belief, and belief builds loyalty, that would eventually win the hearts of consumers. In recent years, it's like how people wait for John Lewis to release their Christmas commercials in the UK, Petronas has owned it in Malaysia (and I dare say Singapore) more than a decade ago.

While everyone is chasing on trying new mediums and eager to explore every new format/technology, we often forget that as human beings, compelling stories continue to touch the human heart, and that can bring in powerful and memorable messages to our consumers. Emotions run high during this period because it's about the importance of family and time spent with them. That's why something personal, honest and simple is always the most powerful. Even 14 years on.

Aaron Koh, co-founder and chief creative officer, GOVT

Check out the latest holiday ads here, and keep an eye on The Drum's ongoing Chinese New Year coverage.

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