Regional CNY roundup: Brands usher in an Ox-picious new year

The pandemic might show no signs of abating but brands are not letting it dampen the festive spirit. Major themes surrounding this year's festive films included staying positive amidst the pandemic and lockdown, putting a twist to traditional Chinese myths, giving back to the community, courage, and reunion. Some brands also spotlighted the lion dance in their executions, using AR for example to bring the traditional Chinese dance to life.

Meanwhile on the investment front, Franklin Templeton predicted that the outlook for the world economy is likely to remain volatile until the spread of COVID-19 is reduced. That said, it continues to see opportunities in China and other emerging markets, mostly in Asia. The company expects these markets to rebound much more strongly from the economic weakness of 2020 than some of their developed market counterparts.

According to Hong Kong-based feng shui master Thierry Chow, the ox is a hardworking zodiac sign that represents movements. Hence, Chow hopes that the world will get moving again in the second half of 2021 instead of remaining static like most of 2020, CNN reported. Here's a roundup of the Chinese New Year films and executions in Singapore and Malaysia.

AIA Malaysia

AIA Malaysia's Chinese New Year film titled "Saving Chinese New Yay" centres around the Ong family's grandmother, who is disappointed that she will be unable to see her family for reunion dinner this year. In an inspired twist, the Ong grandchildren use their wisdom, wit, and high-speed network connections to execute a remote masterplan, helping their beloved Ah Ma and saving Chinese New Year. The film was done in collaboration with Reprise Digital, directed by Tan Ce Ding, and produced by Khai Soon from production house Evil Genius. It will run for three weeks across YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

The film was inspired by the fact that most families will be hosting this year’s annual CNY traditions through video calls and WhatsApp greetings. Though this is a big disappointment for those who would usually visit their hometowns, the team hoped this humourous look into the remote interactions families take will help lift the spirits of all those celebrating.

Last year’s "The Ong-ly Way to Prosper" featured the Ong grandchildren interacting with their grandfather on a mission to identify Chinese proverbs to help preserve their family wealth. The film garnered close to 1.5 million views across YouTube and Facebook.

Aloha Dental

While Chinese New Year goodies might be delicious, Aloha Dental reminds consumers to take care of their teeth while they indulge in festive goodies. "Wishing everyone a healthy new year and to huat 'ya'," it said.

Celcom Axiata

Celcom Axiata's festive short film "The Story of our Strength" reflects on the moments of hardships and struggles from the past. Done in collaboration with M&C Saatchi, the seasonal festive video draws parallels to the current restrictions Malaysians are living with today and serves as an important reminder that the strength and ability to overcome such circumstances are found among themselves.

At the same time, the telco also brought together individuals for a virtual potluck event from 4 to 6 February, showcasing the spirit of togetherness and unity among Malaysians though connectivity. Celcom’s Chinese New Year Grand Union virtual potluck aimed to use technology to recreate the festivities and joys of the Lunar New Year while reiterating the strength of unity.


Despite the pandemic, Digi reminds Malaysians that the festive spirit is alive and well, and an unfamiliar celebration can be made more meaningful with a little more love and kindness in our hearts. Inspired by a true story, “From The Heart” tells a simple tale of Tan’s small acts of kindness that comes back full circle when he least expects it. On his annual delivery of fish as a Chinese New Year gift to his friends, he receives an unexpected phone call on his way home. Upon arrival he is surprised when the small family invites him to join their simple reunion dinner. A heartwarming moment reveals the inspiration behind his unassuming acts, and the kindness that is returned to him at a difficult time in his life. The video was done in collaboration with Naga DDB Tribal.

Domino's Pizza Singapore and Malaysia

To give back to the community it serves, Domino’s Pizza Singapore partnered Domino’s Pizza Malaysia to bring cheer to families separated across the border. Via a social media contest, 10 lucky winners were given a special Lunar New Year treat sent to their loved ones in Malaysia. Even though physical reunions are not possible, this initiative provides the chance for families to catch up while sharing the same meal.

At the same time, the pizza chain also conceptualised a fun way to lo-hei (which loosely translates to tossing up good fortune) with family members. The initiative was done in partnership with Socialyse.

Gamuda Land

Gamuda Land has taken a novel approach for its 2021 Chinese New Year commercial. In line with its business philosophy of “Sincere, Responsible, Original”, the short film titled “Rejoice in Harmony (e-Moo-ji)” tells the story of Mei Ling and how she helped her family overcome a bad business year while growing closer in the process. In the three-and-a-half-minute spot, Mei Ling reminds her family to be honest with each other and work together with an open heart. All this while displaying their emotions by wearing emoji “heads”!

The film pieced together footage captured by the actors with their smartphones at home and was edited with pictures and illustrations for an inventive video collage. According to Gamuda Land, this method was chosen not only for the unique mixed-media experience but also for the safety of everyone involved.

Hong Leong Bank Malaysia

Hong Leong Bank Malaysia presents “Nian: The Untold Story”, the flagship film for its 2021 Chinese New Year campaign “Renew Together, Prosper Together,” which aims to continue supporting Malaysians renew, refresh and rebuild stronger in 2021 and beyond.

Told from a heartwarming conversation between ah boy and his beloved popo (grandmother), the film brings to life a creative re-telling of the age-old legend of the Nian monster, a mythical beast that preys on crops and destroys villages during the winter time. Mirroring today’s socially-distanced family reunions, ah boy shares the story of the Nian monster with his grandmother over a video call on Chinese New Year Day after his origami gets ruined during playtime. Surprisingly, the grandmother had an interesting addition to the story that ah boy did not see coming - inspiring the boy to create a new origami with his family cheering him on.

Done in collaboration with Naga DDB Tribal, the film aims to show consumers that it pays to come together and plan ahead, to defeat the common enemy before rebuilding and renewing lives in times of unprecedented adversity.

IPC Shopping Centre

In line with the Year of the Ox, IPC Shopping Centre spotlighted the Ox in its festive film. Done in collaboration with Your Maker and Minerva Productions, the ox was portrayed to have lost his job as a gym instructor and has since given up on everything, including himself. The ox also had no plans of ever leaving his home until the end of 2021. However, IPC Shopping Centre, along with help from a familiar face from last year's Chinese New Year film, refused to give up on the stubborn ox. 

Together, they take Ox through a journey of rediscovering his passion for making healthy better for others. The film aims to act as a piece in IPC’s efforts to help visitors channel their inner ox and be a fitter version of themselves, despite all the challenges they’ve been through. The initial idea was to have the film invite Malaysians to visit IPC to experience a one-of-a-kind on-ground interactive fitness activation. However, things did not go as planned due to the pandemic so IPC came up with a new plan.

Kinder Joy

Ready to add extra Joy to the Lunar New Year? Get crafty and bond with your children through Kinder Joy's easy-to-follow lantern crafting guide

KFC Singapore

KFC Singapore's Chinese New Year film retells those crucial, final moments of the zodiac race with a surprising twist: it’s not the rat, or the ox that wins it, but KFC’s new Goldspice chicken that lights up the sky in a golden bolt to past the finish line and into a bucket of mouthwatering KFC. As consumers are familiar with the story of the zodiac race, KFC decided to give the ending a little twist and crown a new winner. According to KFC, the film is narrated by a hungry, distracted father who is just raring to tuck into his bucket of KFC Goldspice, as his son listens on intently.

Manulife Singapore

The month of February marks a festive one, with both Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day painting the town red. The team at Manulife Singapore wanted to get in on the celebrations with something fun for the crowd, and the trending period dramas came as timely and tongue-in-cheek inspiration. It also thought about what families liked to do when they gathered together, and karaoke came up as one of the top past-times.

Combining the two, the concept of a karaoke-cum-period-drama music video was brought to life by Tribal Worldwide Singapore, complete with the classic “bouncing ball” markers that are so unique to sing-alongs. The film's aim is purely for brand engagement and wants to place Manulife in the heart of family moments and generate positive recall amongst social fans, customers and even our staff and their loved ones.

Manulife tapped Singapore singer-songwriter Tay Kexin for its film as it found her tone of voice suitable for the project, with  just the right balance of energy and clarity that is classic to Chinese New Year tunes. The film runs on Facebook and Instagram.


True family prosperity takes on a different meaning in Maxis' festive film "Little Lion". A seven-year-old boy, aspiring to be a lion dancer in his family’s famous lion dance troupe, is frustrated when everyone in the family is more occupied with daily chores instead of training in a challenging pandemic environment. But as the young boy discovers, wealth and fame are not everything – most importantly, the family stays healthy, together.

Maxis is inviting families in Malaysia to be active and healthier together on social media, through a series of fun CNY activities, inspired by the movements of lion dancing. Local influencers, Shaine, Audrey Ooi, Jestinna Kuan, Jorise Lee and Joe Chang have kickstarted the contest by showing off five movements inspired by lion dancing for the public on social media.

MILO Singapore

MILO Singapore designed an AR filter on Instagram and Facebook that allows fans to bring the raucous cheer of the Lunar New Year season right into their homes. By accessing the camera effect filters on MILO Singapore’s Facebook or Instagram Filters, fans simply need to hover the screen over the limited edition lion and God of Wealth carton designs to trigger a dance effect. Upon doing so, the lion dance comes to life, right in their living rooms.


Munchy’s festive Chinese New Year music video titled "Jia Mun Mun" features a a catchy tune with Munchy’s wishing everyone more "Mun" (abundance) for the upcoming New Year. It wanted to release a music video to enliven the Chinese New Year mood and got creative with stock images since the brand was not allowed to carry out a sophisticated production during the Movement Control Order. The campaign runs through the Chinese New Year period, and features a limited edition Chinese New Year Munchy’s gift pack and collectible red packets. The music video runs on Facebook and YouTube in English and Bahasa Melayu.

Besides the "Jia Mun Mun" video, the campaign is amplified through TikTok activation featuring influencers, Gaston and Jeii, and a personalised TikTok message from the Munchy’s executive committee.

NTUC FairPrice

While lo-hei might be quieter this year, that does not mean it will be any less meaningful. NTUC FairPrice created the #nohei: an ASMR video to show how consumers can #nohei this year. 


Panadol's Chinese New Year commercial titled #TimeForJoyNotPain stays true to the brand's purpose of freeing people from pain so that their human spirit can shine because the biggest blessing during the Chinese New Year is to share the joy with their families. Done in collaboration with Saatchi & Saatchi, the two-minute short film depicts a story of two brothers who went through great lengths to keep the fondest tradition of Chinese New Year alive - grandmother's love letters.

Despite the pain and challenges, both brothers did not give up and made laborious attempts to mold their grandmother's signature "love letter" pastries for the whole family to enjoy on reunion day. In the midst of it all, they were still able to find a reason to have joy.

The film will run on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, digital, and Chinese TV networks. As part of its integrated campaign, Panadol will launch a contest on its Facebook and Instagram during Chinese New Year, inviting netizens to share their favourite Chinese New Year moments and win prizes.

Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Pavilion Kuala Lumpur is ushering in the Year of the Ox with a 3D charging golden bull show on its screen at Bukit Bintang. Did you manage to catch it?


PETRONAS' festive film titled "Yi Qi" is set in the mythical Malaysian village of “Kampung Baru Dancing Lion”, a land inhabited by lions who flourish and dance to a constant beat of drums. Though the drumbeats cease, the lions eventually find new purpose to lift their spirits and the courage to keep dancing again.

Done in collaboration with Ensemble Worldwide, the film starts with fanfare, showing the vibrant daily rhythms of the lions, moving to the tempo of a familiar beat. But then, an unexpected turn of events silences the drums. The film shows the lions mourn the loss of their rhythm, as they struggle to accept the silence. Eventually, inspired by the beat of their daily lives, they embrace their new normal, to rise together and dance once again.

The PETRONAS festive films theme of 2021 extends the theme of "Our Unique Family" from 2020, for PETRONAS to continue to bring and spread joy to all Malaysians. The film runs on YouTube and Facebook and Real Time Studios, Lorrypop Studio and Post 2 Post were also involved in the production.

Prudential Malaysia

What is the source of our happiness? This Chinese New Year, Prudential grapples with one of life’s biggest questions in a newly released short film titled “The Reunion''. Together with Naga DDB Tribal, the brand explores a unique perspective on happiness inspired by interviews with survivors of critical illness. Driven by music composed by singer-songwriter, Colbie Ong, the short film explores these themes through the story of a stroke survivor rediscovering herself and her happiness.

The festive film runs on YouTube and Facebook. According to Naga DDB Tribal, a second chance at life offered survivors of critical illness clarity on what matters most, which allowed them to reunite with who they once were or even the person they were meant to be. This theme of reunion with one’s self echoed the culture of Chinese New Year reunions and was used as inspiration for the film.

RHB Bank

Titled "Love Carries On", RHB Bank’s Chinese New Year film, which was created by FCB Malaysia, tells the true story of Ngu Ee Kiong, a father from Sibu, Sarawak who went through great lengths to keep his daughter, Ngu Nyok Ping’s dreams alive. The film centres around Mr Ngu’s lifetime of selfless dedication towards his daughter, who lost her mobility to spinal muscular atrophy at a young age. When Nyok Ping faced difficulties travelling to school due to her disability, coupled with the poor road conditions, Mr Ngu took the responsibility on his shoulders and carried her to school every single day, so that she could continue receiving the education she needed.

Despite their journey together was paved with rough paths and a life-changing disease that threatened to derail a young Nyok Ping’s future, Mr Ngu’s incredible actions of love paid off, as Nyok Ping obtained her master’s degree from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak  in 2016. Today, she dedicates her life to helping fellow disabled members of her community. While an obstacle might seem too big to overcome or a dream too far to reach, RHB Bank wants consumers to know that with the unconditional support and love from those around us, we are never truly alone in our journeys. This message formed the bedrock of the film and is especially relevant in these challenging and uncertain times. It also encapsulates what RHB's brand promise of "Together we progress" means. The film currently runs across RHB's social and digital channels. 

Samsung Malaysia

The lion dance industry is one that carries double the burden during the pandemic, as it is not only a means to secure the livelihood of a community, but also to preserve generations of tradition. Done in conjunction with Aspect Ratio, "The Last Dance" is its third festive film in collaboration with Samsung. The team aimed to instill hope this Chinese New Year by depicting the possibility of overcoming such an obstacle with the right use of technology.

TikTok Malaysia

TikTok is bringing families together online with two initiatives – #MoneyMoneyHome and #ChineseFood - done in collaboration with Media Prima Omnia. The #MoneyMoneyHome challenge allow users to control "Money the Magic Sifu" to gather as many gold coins as possible within the song duration. Until 20 February, users can upload their videos to be in the running for a variety of prizes. Meanwhile, #ChinseFood allows users to share their favourite traditional snacks and festive recipes with the world.

Watsons Malaysia

Chinese New Year has always been about celebrating with loved ones in each other's homes. But with pandemic restrictions persisting indefinitely, 2021 is looking to be a quiet year for consumers. With this in mind, Watsons Malaysia and Naga DDB Tribal produced a story with the theme of “过靓年,最留恋” (Watsons #HappyBeautifulYear campaign). The film is a reminder that the ups and downs of life are made better when consumers go through them together.

The film revolves around a famous singing duo reconciling over a misunderstanding from the past. According to Watsons Malaysia, the intention was to remind everyone that we can always go through the hard times better when we are together. The creative team then worked with production house Graph Studio to gain a deeper understanding of what kind of music genre or content that is relevant to audiences nowadays. Graph Studio was also involved in the production of the film. 

Watsons collaborated with a popular singing duo among the Chinese community, Summer Grace Sisters, composer Ang Chee Chiang, and Watsons celebrities and friends such as Danny Ahboy, HanXiiaoAii, Soimjenn, LizzChloe, Jinnyboy, Ayda Jebat and Amber Chia.


What if the God of Prosperity did exist and walked amongst us in this day and age to check if we have been naughty or nice? If you are Chinese, you would want to make sure that you tick all the boxes so that the God of Prosperity will bless you with all the huat (prosperity). Yoodo, aims to highlight Chinese culture and tradition in a fun and engaging manner. 

In celebrating the Lunar New Year, Yoodo said Chinese see the importance of following the traditions to invite the God of Prosperity. Its latest film focuses on traditions such as not sweeping the floor, as one may sweep away the wealth, or not washing one's hair as you may wash off your fortune. Yoodo puts a comedic spin on all of these and coupled it with a heartfelt message, that above all the traditions and superstitions, nothing else is more prosperous than having your family.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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