Welcome to my latest directorial effort for PepsiCo’s 2016 Chinese New Year campaign, “Bring Happiness Home: The Monkey King Family”. It is an honour to helm this film that is planted at the confluence of three cultural icons: the protagonist of “Journey to the West”, the family who has portrayed him for four generations, and a global brand like Pepsi Cola. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Danielle Jin, CMO of PepsiCo beverages, and her brand team, my business partner Alex Xie and our intrepid Team PepsiCo at CIVILIZATION Shanghai, scriptwriter Miya Wang, and producer extraordinaire Didi Xu.
2016 is the Year of the Monkey. So there will no doubt be a bevy of marketing campaigns showcasing the Monkey King or “Journey to the West”. How can PepsiCo’s “Bring Happiness Home” celebrate the Monkey King, this mythological simian symbol of irreverence and fun (personality traits rarely found in the heroes of traditional Chinese literature), in a very PepsiCo manner? Believe it or not, it was easy. Because the core values of Pepsi Cola, youth and irreverence, are the very qualities the Monkey King naturally embodies. I hope you enjoy the film.
For those not living in China, what is PepsiCo’s “Bring Happiness Home”? It is an entertainment platform created in 2012 by, back then, PepsiCo CMO Richard Lee and his team, together with BBDO Shanghai and acclaimed commercials director David Tsui. In the ensuing years, CIVILIZATION Shanghai has played an ever increasing role in developing and evolving this platform, which ropes in multiple PepsiCo brands to pool their marketing resources together, with the aim of rising above the blaring voices of hundreds of thousands of brands in the nationwide marketing bazaar that is the Chinese New Year season.
Our small contribution for “Bring Happiness Home” 2013 was a behind-the-scenes documentary centred on the theme of “Who is family to you?”. Its authentic depiction of PepsiCo’s celebrities revealing stories from their true lives resonated with the zeitgeist, which saw consumers who thirsted for celebrities they could relate to on a more human level rather than just venerate from a distance. This film eventually snowballed into a music video collaboration with China’s most popular TV show at that time, “China Voice”. While our film was produced on-the-fly as a tiny part of a much larger campaign, the content we created made a splash among consumers far bigger than its role in the marketing plan. This played a part in shaping CIVILIZATION Shanghai’s earliest belief, to surround a key idea with fascinating content rather than leverage, and be constricted by, paid media channels.
CIVILIZATION Shanghai was appointed co-lead agency (along with DDB Shanghai) for “Bring Happiness Home 2014”. This time, we collaborated with the creators of 爱情公寓, then China’s most successful web-based serial comedy (it launched the careers of a slew of young Chinese celebrities). We co-created multiple episodes that brought together an ensemble cast of both A-list celebrities and up-and-coming stars from China’s broad spectrum of entertainment platforms that have sprouted up on China’s exponentially expanding web landscape. With the Long Tail of infinite content available on the Internet broadcasted on millions of fragmented media channels, CIVILIZATION Shanghai, through campaigns like “Bring Happiness Home”, is now positioned to curate, collaborate, co-create and coordinate brand content with all the incredible talent and platforms available out there in the wilderness of the worldwide web. As an important aside, as part of PepsiCo’s CSR commitment, we also tied up with the largest e-commerce platform, Alibaba’s Tmall, to encourage every consumer to add a tiny donation when making payment for a purchase, which went to creating care packages for underprivileged families. The Tmall site was used as the broadcast media and, in a marketing first, Alibaba opened up its Alipay system to collaborate with PepsiCo and in facilitating donations.
For CIVILIZATION Shanghai, Chinese New Year 2015 was an experiment like no other. The main communication push for Bring Happiness Home was to return the creative reins of PepsiCo brands to their consumers. Through a collaboration with MeiPai, China’s dominant social video mobile platform, consumers were encouraged to upload 10-second videos of their journeys home for Chinese New Year, the largest annual human migration. The most-viewed videos were then edited together to create China’s first crowd-sourced web movie.
With “Bring Happiness Home: The Monkey King Family” becoming the most-shared and talked-about video within days of its launch, as well as receiving widespread media coverage from mainstream news media, what’s next for “Bring Happiness Home”? Well, in the words of the the theme song of the 1986 Chinese television series of “Journey to the West”, 敢问路在何方？路，在脚下。 (Dare you ask what road lies ahead? The road; it’s just beneath your feet.)