McDonalds, Pepsi & Coca-Cola Celebrate Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Advertisements

In a recent TED Talk titled “Understanding The Rise Of China“, the speaker (and author of “When China Rules The World”) Martin Jacques, stated that the main reason for the West’s failure to understand China is because we insist on trying to get our heads around the Middle Kingdom “by simply drawing on Western experience, looking at it through Western eyes using Western concepts“.

What is possibly more worrying for the Western world is that China understands far more about the West, than the Western world knows about China.

To that end, here is a possibly mind-blowing fact for the typical Westerner – in China, Christmas Day is not a National Holiday (shock, horror!). That’s right when nearly every Western organisation closes for the day, the Chinese are still working.

chinese new year 2011

So what is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar? It’s the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, which this year kicks-off Thursday 3rd February 2011.

2011 is the Year of the Rabbit and to welcome in the new lunar year China, and its Asian-Pacific neighbours, have a party. Majestic lion Dances, red lanterns lining the streets, the giving of red envelopes, and fireworks going off all over the place make it a truly wonderful time for the Chinese population.

Alas a holiday, wouldn’t be a holiday without an element of commercialisation. Both Western and domestic brands respectively have been getting in on the action. Below, are just a handful of organisations who have created ad campaigns to welcome in the Chinese New Year (and of course try and make some big sales):


Pepsi & Lays

Lays 2011

PepsiCo has teamed up two of its brands, Pepsi and Lays, to produce two interlinked commercials. Both feature Chinese celebrities with Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) and Ethan Ruan (阮经天) in the Pepsi ad. and Lee Hom Wang (王力宏) and Angela Cheung in the Lays commercial. Popstar Angelababy (杨颖) appears in both.



Coca Cola CNY 11

Coca-Cola’s TV ad features Ariel Lin (林依晨) and Wu Zun (吴尊):


Minute Maid

Minute Maid Commercial

Coca-Cola’s sub-brand, “Pulpy” (Minute Maid) fruit juice is extremely popular in the Mainland, and they’ve hired Eason Chan (陈奕迅) to feature in their CNY commercial.



McDonalds CNY 2011 campaign

McDonald’s ad features a cute five year-old girl copying her mom in preparing Lai See packets, but instead uses a similar looking red McDonald’s French Fries box to pass her blessing on to a younger friend.



Haier - Happy New Year, Earth 2011

A different approach comes from Haier, which has devised a CNY campaign called “Happy New Year, Earth” whereby the organisation has attempted to align itself with environmental initiatives. Check out the campaign website here:


Numerous other organisations have created campaigns for Chinese New Year and already it seems they are working, as Chinese retail sales have reportedly jumped. It’s just a shame that like Christmas the traditional holiday has become so commercialised.

Something fun to finish check out G2 Advertising Studio‘s CNY online game, where you can find out what kind of Rabbit you are.

G2 Bunny Game

For all those celebrating…新年快乐! – Xīnnián kuàilè!

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  • raab

    Nice post. But especially poignant when written by someone with a Western name, this article has pretty terrible editing.

  • justintime

    HELLO- take a look at the corporate names – McDonalds, Pepsi – All western companies! You idiot.

    • Leon

      I didn’t know Haier was a Western company. Where are they from if not China?

  • Leon

    It always annoys me when Westerners are criticised for not understanding China. My standard line these days is that Chinese people don’t understand China, so why should anyone else be able to understand them?

    The article makes the point that Chinese New Year has lion dances – well, not here in north east China where I am. We all eat dumplings 饺子 which my southern Chinese friends are shocked to find out and think that’s not a CNY tradition at all.

    And that’s just talking about the obvious stuff…

    • Leon, I completely agree with your comments. I urge you to watch the video on TED Talks by Martin Jacques to see where the article is coming from.

      My favourite quote from an expat Westerner who has lived in China for most of his life:

      After living in China for 1 year, I understood a little about the country. 10 years in China, I had a reasonable understanding. Now after 30 years living in China – I don’t understand anything about China“.

      • Leon

        I’ve already seen the Martin Jacques talk… he makes some good points that I agree with, although I often went down a different path than him to reach the same conclusion. There was something that really irritated me about his talk, but I’d have to watch it again before making a clear criticism.

        You probably know, but your expat friend has borrowed this quote from somewhere I’ve also forgotten. And he is spot on, about most areas of knowledge. A little knowledge is always dangerous…

        Thanks for your intelligent responses across the forums.

    • simon

      Leon, thanks for proving that Westerners don’t understand anything about China.

      • Leon

        Actually, I’m trying to make a much more subtle point.

        First, what does it mean to understand a country? From the Martin Jacques TED talk, you would think it only means grasping it’s political motives and being able to predict how their government will act. China is not a particularly politically transparent country, which I would suggest is the main barrier to successful predictions, but then again I’m not at all sure journalists are that great at predicting what many countries will do anyway. Time Magazine made Hitler man of the year before he started a world war.

        There are other ways to understand a country, such as through marketing and advertising as ChinaSmack is trying to do here. Can there be a grand unified theory? I don’t think so. In my opinion there can only ever be momentary glimpses of clarity.

        Which leads me to my second point, is it even possible to understand a whole country? I would say no. Most people don’t understand their own country (which arguably is harder to do). This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I’ve lived in a handful of countries, and whilst I can relate my experience of living there, I wouldn’t pretend to understand any of them.

  • Wang Lei

    The last game with the rabbit is not very interesting, it’s self centered and do not bring anything to the user who visit the website. If you dig a bit more you could have find some more interesting/creative examples of web campaign.

    • David

      I disagree – I think sometimes it’s ok to do campaigns just for fun’s sake. I found it pretty entertaining and of course people create the chance to promote themselves through their own creative output. If the content is fun then I don’t really mind.

      Actually Saatchi and Saatchi in China did something very similar…

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