Pepsi’s big-budget ad for Chinese New Year taps into China’s pride about its space program. The seven-minute ad, about a group of astronauts setting off on a harrowing mission, was released soon before China made history by landing a probe on the far side of the moon.
Amid a U.S.-China trade war, it may seem like an unusual moment for an American brand to celebrate China's progress as a nation. But it’s something a few other U.S. brands have done as well, perhaps mindful of maintaining their local image at a sensitive time. This fall, a KFC ad marked 40 years of of economic reform in China, looking back at how far the country has come and wrapping up with a cheer of “Go China!”
The PepsiCo ad, by local agency Civilization, is the latest installment of an eight-year campaign for the lunar new year called “Bring Happiness Home.” In 2016, the Year of the Monkey, PepsiCo and Civilization scored a massive viral hit with an ad about an actor famous for portraying the monkey king from classic Chinese tale “Journey to the West.”
The new ad by director Peter Chan zeroes in on three astronauts and their families, who are terrified they might not come back. (Family love and togetherness is an ever-present theme in ads for the Lunar New Year.) The spot stars several high-profile actors, including Zhou Dongyu, the star of Zhang Yimou’s “Under the Hawthorn Tree,” who portrays a mother leaving her son and husband behind to travel to space. Spoiler: The mission goes well--and the families back home celebrate with Pepsi and a feast. (The astronauts have to make do with freeze-dried food in pouches.)
In a news release, Civilization describes the ad as “PepsiCo’s nod towards a Chinese nation that is coming into its own again after 40 years of unprecedented growth that has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty.”