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By Guan Hin Tay

January 20, 2020 | 4 min read

As we enter the Year of the Rat, advertising creatives 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.

Insightful, powerful human truths make for compelling storytelling. Many families don't eat reunion dinners with their loved ones anymore, and those that do might be physically there but are mentally in a world of their own, scrolling through their mobile phones. It's not surprising that brother and sisters end up like strangers, and cousins end up not recognizing each other's names.

Some view Chinese New Year (CNY) family gatherings as a waste of time, and would rather travel overseas for a holiday. I have encountered my close ones calling at that very afternoon they were supposed to have CNY dinner, to cancel.

That's why I love this Petronas 'Nobody's Child' commercial done in 2008. It comes with the message of cherishing your family during CNY. From earlier years, Petronas' investment in its festive campaigns touched the hearts of many Malaysians.

"Nobody's Child" is about Tan Tiam Hock, a nerdy seven years old boy who cannot draw a family reunion dinner. He remains smiley despite being scolded by his teacher. We soon realize why he doesn't draw anything. When school ends, the boy is finally picked up by an Indian woman who escorts him back to an orphanage. 'Please be home for reunion dinner, if you can. Gong Xi Fa Cai', reads the endline.

What makes this film so powerful is a reminder of how important family is. Spending time with your loved ones is usually taken for granted, and if we are not careful, our family unit will slowly deteriorate. There is a real danger of this happening in today's social media-obsessed world. A good CNY ad doesn't just entertain. It should encourage good social values and enrich our lives. This content is very respectful of the local culture and is concerned about our Asian values and the society we live in.

The late Yasmin Ahmad, whom I had the pleasure of working with during my early years in Leo Burnett, directed this film. She has a way of creating touching human stories that bring out the tension in society using unpretentious characters we can all identify with, and Tan Tiam Hock is no exception. Her work always included a blend of humour, heart, and love that crosses various cultural barriers.

This film might be 12 years old, but the importance of family reunion still resonates with me until today. So if you are going for your reunion dinner with your extended family this CNY, count yourself blessed that you belong to an extended family that treasures you.

Tay Guan Hin, founder and global chief creative officer, TGH Collective

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

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