Many ads are family-oriented, showcasing that no matter how important work and money are in our daily life, familial relationships and traditions will always prevail
by HARIZAH KAMEL/ pic credit: YouTube
CHINESE New Year (CNY) is upon us and like with all festive seasons in Malaysia, video commercials are among those undertaking that hype up the festive mood and bring more meaning to the celebrations.
Malaysians of all races partake in watching the (advertisements) ads and more local companies are off to the race in producing unique ads that not only represent their brand, but also create a sense of relevancy with the audience.
Some of us might remember the beginning of this phenomenon — it all started with the late Yasmin Ahmad’s cinema-quality TV commercials for Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas).
After her death, many tried to emulate her style of production and over the years, they have not only perfected, but made the trend better.
This year, we welcome the Year of the Rat. In Chinese culture, the rat symbolises intelligence, strong vitality, wealth and excess. A big part of the celebration is the family reunion dinner on CNY’s eve.
So, it is no surprise that many of the ads are family-oriented, showcasing that no matter how important work and money are in our daily life, familial relationships and traditions will always prevail.
Here is a look at some of this year’s CNY ads that pulled at our heartstrings and shared all over social media.
TNB — #RealityNotVirtual
Unarguably the most talked about, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) made quite an impression with their CNY ad. After it was released online on Jan 17, it has received close to five million views on YouTube.
The story focuses on Bryan, a millennial who is not planning to go back to his family’s home for the celebration. While at work, he receives a care package from his mother and so begins a series of hilarious chaos in the entire office.
The main theme here is technology. While we often talk about how technology is steering people further from reality, TNB shows us how it can bring people together and even evoke strong sentiments, particularly for our family.
In the past, those who could not make it back to their hometown for the holidays would often feel excluded, lonely and sad but thanks to technology, we can now connect with our loved ones with just a click, no matter the distance.
It is an old tale made new with the usage of technology. In Bryan’s case, a virtual reality headset. Once he wore it, he was transported into a virtual world where all his family members were with him, celebra- ting CNY joyously. The most important figure, of course, was his mother.
However, it is just a simulation while in the real world, Bryan is talking to a wet mop, eating paper, hijacking a meeting and destroying the office’s decorations. It was unfortunate, but the situation was comical. In the end, after awkwardly hugging his boss whom he thought was his mother, Bryan gets to go home for the real thing.
Petronas — Bao Bei
Petronas proves once again to be a master storyteller with Bao Bei, a play of words that could mean either blanket or baby. Released online on Jan 17, the ad is underway to reach the one million view mark.
Petronas’ ads are always different than others and that is because of the minuscule details it puts into the story. For instance, the ad is spoken entirely in the Hokkien Chinese dialect, famously spoken in Penang.
The story begins with the grandmother pulling out various old clothes of different family members, cutting the fabric and sewing it together. The clothes do all the talking, representing each family member who owned them.
It turns out that the grandmother is sewing a blanket — from literal translation called the “hundred household blanket” — for the newest member of the family. The blanket is given to the newborn baby on its 100th day as blessings from its family.
The theme here is staying true to our family tradition which will be passed down from generation to generation. The blanket represents family, in a sense that the warmth of a family is what nurtures, protects and shapes us into becoming who we are as a person.
The message is in the image and the ad is just under three minutes with the tagline “A piece of you. A piece of me. We bring joy to the family”.
Grab — HUATever You Want, Grab Got!
Grab takes the crown for giving the most entertaining and fresh CNY ad of the year, garnering an impressive 2.2 million views on YouTube.
The story is about a family who, on the verge of CNY, has not gotten anything prepared. The mother, named Mother of Endless Chores, gives out simple tasks for the rest of the family to complete like cleaning the house and buying food.
Reminiscing the spirit of old martial art movies, the family practically perform tai chi when they communicate with each other which is extremely engrossing to watch. Viewers will not skip a scene even for a second.
The ad puts a cheeky spin on the “hero’s journey”, the hero being the youngest son who was put to the test to complete all the tasks that his father, brother and sister bolted from.
Luckily for him, a wise old man appears to his aid like any other hero in a story. In his case, it was the family’s old gardener who teaches him the art of tai chi and to simply order help from the Grab app.
The story is packed with action, which makes it stand out from the other ads. In the end, CNY is saved thanks to the “hero” who made it all possible by just using Grab’s services.
Watsons — Malaysia’s Happy Beautiful Year!
True to the many characteristics of the rat, Watsons produced an ad that oozes excessiveness. Its YouTube views accounted for 8.2 million and growing.
The story shows the challenges of the age gap between the millennials and the much older generation which is represented by the aunts, uncles, parents and the grandparents of the world.
The main characters are the Trendy family, known for putting their dramatic flair in everything they do, including their colourful outfits and flawless make-up. The clear divide between the generations intensifies during the reunion and a verbal battle ensues.
Draped in Chinese opera costumes, the old guard sang all the millennials’ wrongdoings namely not wearing red, not bringing a gift for them and taking too long to set a wedding date. In other words, they are not following traditions and the codes of conduct that have been written on the wall.
The ad makes it look harmless and funny but in reality, these are real issues that most people are facing from their families. It concludes with a happy ending, of course, with the solutions being understanding to each other and bonding over similarities that keep us together.
Much like the concept of dualism in yin and yang, first written in ancient Chinese philosophy, opposite forces are interconnected and interdependent to bring order to the world.
While the two generations will always bicker and clash from time to time, they still need each other and will eventually make up in the end, as any family would.
Whatever the season and regardless of our racial backgrounds, Malaysians look forward to cherishing the hard work and dedication put into these festive ads. They are great tools to unite us and celebrate our differences instead of tearing us apart.