Last year I wrote about the popularity of Peppa Pig and why the government was banning its cartoons (read here: https://goo.gl/k6QsqG). But this new lunar year, Peppa has become the unofficial mascot of the Year of the Pig, cementing its global popularity and sealing its return to favor in China.
The character now adorns everything from children toys to adult clothing to furniture, while a Peppa Pig theme park opened in Shanghai last year with another set to open in Beijing. The character even makes its big screen debut this year with “Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year,” which was released in mainland cinemas a week or so ago.
A heart-warming short-movie advert for an upcoming film starring Peppa Pig, co-produced by China Telecom, has taken the country’s social media by storm with its bittersweet story about family bonds. The 5-minute trailer shows Peppa’s status as a pop culture phenomenon, gaining 835 million views in the first week it was published online (and another 1.5 billion views of the the hashtag #WhatisPeppa on the microblogging site Sina Weibo).
The short story begins with a man named Li Yubao living in a mountain village asking his grandson on the phone what he wanted for the Lunar New Year. He just hears the word “Peppa” because of a poor mobile signal and embarks on a journey to find out what it is. The man finally makes a metal model of Peppa using his imagination, based on a description from one of the villagers who had worked as a nanny in Beijing.
The video strikes a chord when Li, eagerly anticipating seeing his son and grandson, is told they will not return home for the festival. It turns out the son has arranged a reunion at his home instead, and Li ends up spending a happy holiday with the family in the city – and eventually discovers Peppa is a cartoon figure.
The beauty of this ad is not just seeing the somewhat accidental rise of a British cartoon character in a place like China, but also both the incorporation of cultural elements (such as dragon dancing, making dumplings, or family values like reunion, harmony and love), and the representation of some cultural issues around how generational gaps, urbanization, and technology impact families.
It has nothing directly to do with the actual film plot, but is a delightful, moving tribute to grandfatherly love. And it demonstrates an innovative and effective way a foreign brand can introduce itself to a Chinese audience.